Get What You Want By Shifting Your Focus
| “Benefit from the same strategies that high-performers around the world use to their advantage. Drive your focus towards greater awareness of the things that you care about improving. Keep track of your performance statistics in those areas.”
On more than one occasion in business classrooms at Harvard, I heard how important it is to measure the things that you want to improve. Over the years, I learned that the same is true not only for elite athletes like LeBron James but for elite students as well. Why? Well, what you measure, grows. And what you focus on in life, expands.
If you want to learn how to get what you want in life, you don’t have to leave it up to luck or anything else. Because you can choose what you focus on, you can choose what will improve and what will expand in your life.
So how do you do this? Listen in to hear the strategy, as well as:
- What do the top elite performers care about the most (and why you should too)\
- Why do professional athletes keep track of their performance statistics
- Lessons I learned in business management class at Harvard
- How shifting your focus can help deepen your relationships
- What we teach at the Ivy League Challenge to help students succeed
And so much more.
Too many people are overwhelmed, stressed out, and frustrated about college admissions prep. I created this podcast to help you build a standout college profile and boost your confidence. Enjoy!
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Welcome back to season two of the Ivy League Prep Academy Podcast. Equipping you to successfully pursue the college of your dreams. We believe everyone deserves to reach their full potential, and the admissions process shouldn't hold you back.
I recently came across a partial list of some of the exercises and health statistics that LeBron James keeps track of. If you don't know who LeBron James is, he is in the competition for perhaps best basketball player of all time. And there are different opinions about where he belongs on that list.
But regardless of where your opinions lie, I think everyone can agree that he is a phenomenal athlete. He's certainly one of the best athletes in the world today, even though he should be, according to his age, way past his prime. And even at 35 years old, last year, he won his most recent NBA championship.
Now, if I were to show you this partial list of all of the statistics that LeBron James keeps track of everything from how many incline dumbbell bench press sets he does to back squats to leg presses to jumping lunges to box jumps, weighted jumps. His time doing yoga or pliometrics or spin class. He keeps track of a tremendous amount of statistics all around his performance.
And I don't know this I haven't spoken to him, and I wasn't able to get this information from the source where I saw this partial list. But I'll bet that LeBron James cares just as much or perhaps even more about these workout statistics as he does his statistics in actual games. Now, that might sound crazy, but I really think it's true.
And the reason is elite performers care a lot about their practice sessions, and they have very specific exercises that are built on strategies to allow them to perform at the highest levels possible. And that's true whether we're talking about academics or athletics or music or really any other endeavor. So why do professional athletes keep track of so many statistics? And why do elite performers in every field do the same? Well, because they understand this really important principle that what you focus on expands.
When I studied business management at Harvard, I learned in many of my classes how effective managers keep track of employee performance. But I also heard the warning several times that you need to be careful of what you track. And the reason is, whatever you focus on, whatever you monitor, and whatever statistics you keep track of, those are the things that are going to improve.
So if you focus on the wrong metrics, then you're going to get more of the wrong metrics. It is very important then to focus on the correct things. And so when we were studying management and leadership and how to perform at a higher level in business, we learned all about how so many businesses make the fatal mistake of measuring the wrong things.
They look at how many hours someone has worked which is not important when what you're trying to accomplish has nothing to do with how many hours people have worked, for example. So in business class, we learned that you want to measure whatever you want to grow. But I want to warn you that consistency is critical here.
You have to measure consistently the things that you want to grow, and it has to be a consistent effort over time if you want to see the returns. It's very much like pumping water out of an actual well. I don't know if any of you listening have ever had the opportunity to do this.
If you do sometime, then you'll experience it firsthand. But if you do see an old dried up well where there's a hand pump and you can put a bucket underneath the faucet, you have to pump that hand pump. Pump the well over and over and over and over and over again for what seems to be an eternity before the first couple of drops begin to come out.
And once a few drops have come out, you start to think, oh, this well must be dry. There's nothing in there. There's only a few drops.
But you have to keep going. And you go and you go and you go until suddenly the water spews from the faucet. And once there's a nice flow of water, all you have to do is pump periodically.
It's really quite simple to keep that flow going. But getting it going takes a lot of effort. And that's how it is when you shift your focus onto something new that is really important for you.
I'll give you an example that maybe you've witnessed or experienced yourself. About two months before my wife's birthday, I had this idea that I would write down one thing that I was grateful for or that I appreciated about her in a little journal. And then on her birthday, I would give her the journal.
And so each day I took a few minutes to think about something that I really appreciated about her, something that I was grateful for. And every day I focused on this, and every day I wrote it down. And guess what happened over the course of just a few weeks.
Actually, it didn't take the entire two months during that time where I was intentionally focused on things that I appreciated about my wife, things that I was grateful for, I fell deeply in love with her. Now, of course, I was already in love with her. That's why I had the idea.
And I really wanted to make her happy. That's why I wanted to do it. But I wasn't prepared for the change.
In my perspective, I started to see on a deeper and deeper and deeper level how much I cared about her. And I realized that just taking a few minutes each day to focus on what I liked about her helped me to see more and more of the things that I really liked and unintentionally. I would encourage some of those things by mentioning how much I appreciated it or by smiling or some other thing that was sometimes not even conscious or intentional.
And guess what happened? My wife picked up on that too, and she started to do a lot of the things that I appreciated more just because she appreciated being appreciated. All right, now guess what? This little trick works going in the opposite direction as well. If you ever wanted to get over someone, say you had a terrible breakup or something happened where you just want to get over someone, find one thing that you think is unattractive about them and just focus on it.
Hyper focus on that one thing, and then find another and another and focus on the things that you don't like about that person. In no time, you'll be over them. But guess what? It works with anything else.
Not just with love, not just professional athletes, not just business. It works with your life. It works with your studies.
It works with your success and your performance. And this is why there is so much advice out there to start a gratitude journal. Because what you focus on will expand in your life.
You'll see it around you more often, and you'll take action to create more things that make you grateful. This is why the daily study planner that I provide for participants of the Ivy League Challenge asks them to rate their focus, their effort, and their effectiveness. Every day, I train my students to take just a couple minutes focusing on the things that will give them the greatest returns.
Each day, as participants in the Ivy League Challenge rate their focus, their effort, and their effectiveness, they bring their attention back to those areas, and they reflect on how they did that day. After a week or two of doing this, throughout the day, they begin to catch themselves doing things that might be evidence of decreased focus or decreased effort or decreased effectiveness. And they start to catch themselves, and they start to make different choices intentionally because they know they're going to rate themselves.
They know they're going to think about it and do an inventory. What they focus on expands. So as they rate their focus, their effort, and their effectiveness, guess what happens? Each of those three areas dramatically improves if they're consistent over time.
Remember, you have to keep pumping the well until water starts to flow. Until it flows, you're not going to see those returns. This is also why the daily study planner that I provide for my students asks students to list big wins and sources of gratitude.
All of that is because what we focus on will improve. So this idea that what we focus on will improve, is that magical in some way? How does it work? If you talk to Neuroscientists, they would argue that it has something to do with a reticular activating system, a part of your brain. The thing is, there are all around you at any given moment there are millions of different stimuli competing for your attention.
If you think about it, everything from digestion that's happening inside of your body or blood flow or lung capacity, right? Your breathing and things like that, all the way to the feeling of clothing against your skin or muscles that need to move in order for you to act or to do something. All the way to the temperature or sounds and sights. There are millions and millions of stimuli and you cannot consciously focus on all of those things.
The bits of information that your conscious mind can process at any given time is tiny. It's like ten or 20 bits of information. And meanwhile, there are millions of bits of information all occurring around you at any given time.
So how do you decide which of these millions of stimuli to focus on? Well, it comes down to the things that you believe about yourself. And a system called the Reticular activating System filters the information and pulls up all those things that you believe are important to you. And so, as you consistently focus on one or two things, your subconscious mind, through the reticular activating system will flag the stimuli that allow you to do a better job producing those one or two things that you're focusing on.
Is it magic? I don't know. But I think most of biology is pretty magical. Regardless of how it happens.
This is a hack that you can begin taking advantage of today. Take advantage of the same strategies that professional athletes and NASA scientists and high performers around the world in business and music and art and education and every other field already use to their advantage. Draw your focus to the things that you care about improving about yourself and begin finding a way to keep statistics around your performance in those areas.
By the way, if it would be helpful, I've decided to offer the Daily planner to anyone who listens to my podcast and would like to download it. So if that's you, if you'd like to take advantage and use my system that I give to my students to help them perform at extremely high levels, you're welcome to download it for free. There's a link that takes you to a website where you can download it and take advantage of that.
Starting today, just remember that what you focus on expands. So write down the things that you want to see expanding in your life. Find a way to measure your performance in those areas, even if it is rating things like your focus, your effort, your effectiveness, your kindness.
And if you want to use this hack to improve your relationships, think about it. If you are struggling, not just romantically, but if you really have a hard time with one of your teachers or even a parent and everything they do annoys you and it's hard for you to appreciate what they're doing. Try my hack just once a day for the next two months.
Write down one thing that you appreciate about the subject that you're studying that's annoying you, about the skills that you can develop if you were to learn this subject well, or about the teacher himself, or herself, or about your parent, or whoever it is that you'd like to stop feeling annoyed by. I promise you this is a hack that's going to work in so many areas of your life. Just take advantage.
Begin today. Go ahead and download the daily planner. Start taking advantage of those ideas and start keeping a gratitude journal or an appreciation journal about the things that you want to see improve in life.
You got this.