FOCUS is an acronym for a 5-part process that works like an action funnel to convert choices and actions into results.
It starts at the top of the funnel where we observe and monitor. The key action that takes place at the top of the funnel is Filtering your thoughts. As you observe your automatic thoughts and reactions, you will become aware of a wide range of beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes that vary in how well they translate into productive energy and positive results. Filtering your thoughts involves categorizing them and diverting them away from the action funnel or letting them pass through to the next level. The point of this action is to learn to be intentional with how you think about yourself and your situation. We fight enough negativity as it is on a daily basis. We can choose what we absorb and allow to flow through us.
The next level of the action funnel takes us a step closer to getting results from our choices and actions. At this point, we move from observing and categorizing to Owning the controllables. By controllables, I am referring to your knowledge, strengths, skills, and abilities as well as the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that you allowed through the top of the funnel. Everything else at this stage of the process is just noise. Noise interferes with or blocks the signal on your ship’s radio, and should be tuned out, if it somehow slips through the top of the funnel. If we expend energy trying to control anything beyond our reach, then we poke holes in our funnel at this level. Holes are a drain on our energy and resources.
Once we filter out unwanted and unproductive elements, and own what we can control, our next action is Concentrating on the next step to move you forward. Oceans are crossed and mountains are climbed one section at a time. When the going is rough or when you’re stuck, the focus of your effort will shorten to the smallest action you can take to keep moving. Like a sailor, you sometimes have to shorten your sails to keep from blowing over or becoming overwhelmed by the situation. Like the weather, storms will pass and conditions will become more favorable on the other side. Remember to plan in 3D by Defining, Dividing, and Doing It one step at a time.
Understanding the consequences of your actions goes hand-in-hand with owning your controllables, and Understandingis the next level of the action funnel. As discussed elsewhere, we have a negativity bias, and your boat will tend to shift direction in a predictable fashion if you take your hands off the steering. It’s just human nature and physics, but rather than trying to resist or deny these characteristics, you can use them to your advantage. The tool that I use at this level of the funnel is called the Outcome Account, and it compares in chart-form the positive outcomes of achieving your goal with the negative consequences of failing to reach your goal. Paradoxically, the negative forces fuel your next movements forward.
Separating, Selecting, Staying Focused
As you progress down the action funnel, the next level is Separating what’s working from what’s not working, Selecting what works, and Staying focused on it. There are a lot of interrelated actions and moving parts involved in crossing the ocean and reaching your destination. Some strategies will work better than others, while some actions could send you off in the wrong direction. In a typical sailing voyage across the ocean, it’s common to “tack” or pivot onto another course to continue on to your goal. Pivoting is not quitting, but it’s how you proactively correct for the wind, weather, and geography—aka, things beyond your control. At this level of the funnel, toss what’s not working over the side, and put it in your log book so you don’t repeat it. Again, look at the data, find a key metric, focus on what’s working, and make it a habit.
The Action Funnel Hole Makers
Your action funnel requires periodic maintenance, just like a boat needs regular repairs, to keep it working for you. There are several funnel-hole makers that you should watch for and fix before they slow you down or stop your progress. Physical holes occur when you don’t get enough quality sleep, nutrition, and exercise; and will weaken your entire platform. Trying to cross the ocean in a leaky boat will sink your plans, even if you are blessed with fair winds and following seas. Mental holes stem from frustration, doubt, and a fixed mindset; and respond well to reframing techniques we discuss elsewhere. Emotional holes are characterized by negativity, apathy, and going through the motions; and result in your not committing full effort to your goals. Miserables are other people who siphon off our energies by telling us that it can’t be done or that we should play it safe and stay in the harbor with them.