A Coaching Power Tool created by Dawn Waldron
(Professional Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
A lot of attention is paid to the things we are addicted to in life, quite rightly, because they are normally mentally, and often physically, harmful. Addictions normally have serious side-effects particularly for the people you live with. But there’s another area of compulsion that doesn’t get so much airplay: distraction. And it can have big implications for our lives.
Distraction is what most of us do all day. Looked at from a cynical angle distraction can be described as what most of us do to pass the time until we die. It is perhaps kinder to say that distraction is what we do to avoid doing what we should do (and don’t want to), or what we want to do (and believe we can’t).
Here are some examples:
- We watch television instead of doing our homework.
- We tidy the cupboard instead of making a difficult phone call.
- We buy new clothes instead of doing something creative.
- We play computer games instead of sharing with our partner.
- We keep the twitter feed open on our desktop while writing a report.
- We divert to surfing Amazon when we should be finding out about a project.
Notice how many of these distractions involve high-tech appliances: they can be major routes of distraction. But don’t be fooled, It’s just as easy to distract yourself by locking yourself away in a dead-end job instead of pursuing your potential. Alcohol can distract you from facing problems in your relationship. Even following a fanatically healthy self-improvement programme can be a distraction from getting deeply involved in the drama of your life.
Focus is the opposite of distraction. It implies devoting time and attention to one thing: a project, a relationship, a business, to the exclusion of all else. In our busy world achieving focus is a difficult challenge. In many cultures, the ability to juggle a lot of tasks all at once is considered a strength. For modern business people, it is often listed as a necessary quality. But most of us recognise that multi-tasking is only successful if you have a goal in mind. And many of us know we would be more effective if we could find the more uninterrupted time.
It can also be difficult to decide what we want to focus on. One way is to clarify what we love and move in that direction. Moving towards love inevitably moves us towards an increased sense of fulfilment. If we have a voice in our head saying that’s not possible, or practical, or available, the chances are we will choose some form of distraction to fill the gap. And that leads us away from a sense of fulfilment.
- Is your life moving in the direction of the things that you love?
- What would you focus on if you could?
- Name 3 things that you do for distraction.
- Choose one of those things and decide to change it.
Finding your Focus
When you have spent much of your life pushing your dreams back under the surface and containing your enthusiasm in a soundproof box, it can be hard to tune-in to the things you are passionate about. One way to look at it is to think about what makes you angry: the sort of things that get you shouting at the radio or raising your voice around the dinner table. These give us a clue about the things that matter to us. Reversing these wrongs, even in a small way, might be a good place to focus.
Perhaps you already know what you are passionate about. What you simply couldn’t live without in your life: music, the sea, your dog, clothes. Our passions can also give us a head start in learning where our heart lies. And that’s a good place to focus too.
Another rich area to explore is the things that come naturally to you: your talents. Most of us are surprisingly good at at least one thing: something our friends often ask us for help with, or something that we find easy that everyone else seems to struggle with. Focussing on developing these might be a good place to start.
If you can find an area that encompasses all 3 of these, you’re on to a winner.
Another good question for finding your focus is:
What do you get so excited about that it keeps you up at night, even when you know you would be more sensible to be asleep?
Fear of Focus
Even when you have discovered the thing that you want to focus on you can still be paralysed and keep on dithering in distraction. Sometimes our goals are so bright we struggle to look at them. Sometimes they are so big that we can’t take the first step. Sometimes they involve disturbing people or things that lie in our path. All of these can be an excuse for sticking with distraction. Once you have found your focus you will need a plan and a frank assessment of what’s holding you back.
Focussing on one thing inevitably involves taking your attention off others. That can be difficult for clients to negotiate.
Amanda is a PE teacher with a strong feeling that ‘there’s more to life’. She struggles to keep on top of her workload and running her home and keeping her husband and 2 children fed and cared for takes up most of her free time.
Amanda doesn’t have a lot of time for hobbies and interests but is uncomfortably aware that life seems to be passing her by. She gets involved in many projects with the local church, dabbles with playing the flute and is chairwoman of the local ramblers association. As a result, she sometimes feels overwhelmed by all the things she is paying attention to. Her life is busy, with lots of good things happening, but she still doesn’t feel fulfilled. Sometimes she thinks that she’s just impossible to please. She has considered giving up her well-paid job to pursue a different career but she doesn’t know what that would be – and she needs to maintain her level of income, if not increase it, because she loves to go shopping.
When she was little Amanda wanted to be a dancer. She was told that this was an unrealistic goal and she put her dream aside with some regret. On a bad day, when life feels too much, she sometimes thinks about her dream and wonders what it would have been like. She has decided to fit some coaching into her schedule to see if she can find a greater sense of fulfilment. One of the first things she told her coach is that she doesn’t have any spare time and struggles to find an hour a week for her coaching.
Questions for coaches
- How could focusing help Amanda to feel more fulfilled?
- How would you help Amanda to find her focus?
- How can Amanda devote any more time to anything?
- Could Amanda be using distraction to avoid focus?
Clients may use distraction in very subtle ways. It’s possible to spend many hours coaching someone while dealing only with their distractions. Distraction can be sub-conscious so coaches have to be on the lookout for signs.
- How might distraction manifest itself in your coaching sessions?
- Can one person’s distraction be another person’s focus?
- How can you help someone resolve distractions?
- How can you tell if a client decides to FOCUS on a DISTRACTION?
- Is it possible to focus on more than one thing?
Using the cultivate coaching model to achieve focus
Acknowledge that we all have a sense of purpose deep inside. Working with the client to find their unique, innate sense of that. Who they were born to be.
Once the focus is discovered, dealing with the tensions and underlying beliefs that are getting in the way of them moving forward. Instilling positive beliefs about their capabilities and potential to achieve their goal. Encouraging them to hook up with others on the same path.
When the first steps towards their focus are taken checking in with the client about their experiences. Uncovering doubts, dealing with discouragement, refining the focus and keeping distraction out of the picture.
Once the results of the focus are visible to all then the client may have to deal with the reactions of others. It can be tempting to lose focus by joining forces with a different focus, or clients may stop pedalling in order to appear modest or stay within their comfort zone or group. The focus may need to be sharpened or support systems put in place to sustain all the energy needed during this phase.
The fruits of focus are usually the achievement of a dream. Acknowledgement is critical here, celebrating achievement. It may also be necessary to help the client to focus on new things or higher goals in order to maintain their sense of fulfilment – and so the cycle begins again.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe