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Creative Career Path

Finding Focus2010.07.27

    In a world of accelerating changes, choices, and complexity, it is not surprising that people lose focus. This was predicted as early as 1970 by Alvin Toffler in his bestseller Future Shock, which he defined as, the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.


    The future that Toffler predicted may not have been so sensationally disorienting as he predicted. The 60s were disorienting in their own right, and you could argue that change has always been disorienting.


    However, there has been a definite trend since Toffler’s prediction toward shorter attention spans, and shorter periods of engagement in many areas of life. Look at the rapid succession of images in the media, the explosion in channels and choices for communication, and the quick-change mood that dominates our lifestyle.


    In some ways, the sheer stress and ennui of too much too fast may have actually increased the appeal of dedicated concentration on a discipline over time. The question is, how do you develop the capacity for something that you may never have been trained or encouraged to do?


    Stuck at the starting line

    You may feel that your time is already dominated by too much controlled routine, so that when you do have time, you don’t want to structure it with an additional commitment. Perhaps you’d like to start something, but are not interested in anything strongly enough to pursue it in depth. Or knowing how much is required to achieve results in a discipline, you may believe you do not have the stamina or emotional commitment to stay with it long enough. These are just three of a thousand reasons why not to start something, that people use to talk themselves out of starting.

    Tips for talking yourself into starting

    How do you get started, and develop a taste for disciplined self-improvement?

    Here are seven ways to put yourself on the path and enjoy the process.


    1. Develop pocket rituals. Find something which you can easily do regularly, something portable which provides you time to plan and reflect. Take long walks, keep a diary of ideas or sketches, or practice regular mediation. 

    2. Anchor your rituals. Find ways to anchor your repeated experiences with sound, location, actions, or words that quickly put you in the right mental and physical state for practice. This is the secret of peak performance for many musicians and professional athletes.

    3. Build up momentum. Set your hurdles low, but your expectations high. Whether going on a diet, starting an exercise program, or learning an art form, start with something that you can not only easily maintain, but leaves you wanting to do more. Once you get a taste for it, you will naturally start raising your own standards.

    4. Read for inspiration. Read books about mastering the discipline, stories of people deeply engaged in it, inspiring stories from the field. This will whet your appetite to experience the things that you are reading about.

    5. Make a public promise. When you commit or volunteer for something and make your promise public, it gives you a standard you feel motivated to maintain. It can also help to partner with someone on a project, so that you keep each other accountable.

    6. Do it anyway. The history of Art and Science is filled with individuals who persisted in the face of criticism or resistance, and achieved great things by following their passion and intuition.

    7. Learn the art of flexible focus. I have an entirely separate weekly column devoted to this topic, which you can explore at


    What are the consequences of not having a discipline for self-improvement? While you may feel freer at first, over time you will begin to feel the consequences of bad habits and unmindful living. Many people lose the plot in mid-life, because they were never in control of their own story from the start, and wake up one unhappy day as a pawn in someone else’s agenda. Without a discipline for self-improvement, you may succumb to attrition, as others rise around you who are more motivated or disciplined.


    Is time on your side? Einstein said that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. The same principle applies to the cumulative effect of good habits, productive discipline, and powerful rituals which put time on your side.


    William Reed


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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