- THE MAGAZINE
Over the last two months I shared the first two levels of “The 5 Levels of Being Phenomenal.” We’ve covered Level 1, “Self Awareness,” and Level 2, “Willingness to Change.”
Let’s now move to Level 3 – “Controlled Attention.”
A few years ago, one of my friends introduced me to Dr. David Wolf, who is the head of the spacewalk program at NASA. He trains astronauts to work on the space station. He has been on four shuttle missions and is a brilliant man. My friend was writing a book about success words and asked Dr. Wolf what his most important word for success would be.
After thinking about it for a moment, he said “perspicacious.”
My friend and I looked at each other thinking the same thing, “I have NO idea what that word means!” It means to have “acute mental vision or discernment.” It has to do with staying focused in the midst of many distractions. Imagine all that could go wrong while spacewalking. The 2013 movie Gravity depicted the worst case scenario. Perhaps it’s not very realistic, but you get the picture.
Level 3 of being phenomenally successful is “Controlled Attention.” Controlled attention is the capacity to choose what you pay attention to and what you ignore.
It is your ability to concentrate.
Transforming a new idea into a habit requires the power of focus. It is at this level where you’ll be tried the most. At this point, you’ll be tested to see whether you have truly made the decision to change or not.
Many people attempt this level without realizing how difficult it will be to see the new idea or habit through. We have a moment of inspiration and dive in before considering what is required to implement the new idea. This is where your comfort zone is really challenged.
You may have experienced this illustration before: Stretch your arms out wide. Now bring your hands in to a clap. Cross your thumbs. If your right thumb is over your left thumb, then change will come very natural for you. If your left thumb is over your right thumb, you don’t have a chance!
Just kidding! There’s no truth to that, but here’s the real exercise…
If your right thumb was over your left, reverse it. Put your left thumb over your right. If your left thumb was originally over your right, reverse it. Feels weird doesn’t it? And this feels natural to others! The point is this: the only reason it feels uncomfortable is not because it’s wrong - it’s only because you have a habit of doing it the other way!
While in Cambridge, one of my coaching clients, a dental implant specialist, drove us around. He was sharing that, although he has lived in England for 15 years, it still feels weird driving on the left side of the road. But I have to tell you that he got us to every destination safely and easily! You see, even though it still runs against his lifetime of conditioning, he can still be a “successful” driver.
As you move through this time of controlled attention, you must keep your dream in mind. When you remember why you are doing what you are doing, you’ll have more inspiration and commitment to stay the course.
All Growth Happens Outside the Comfort Zone
Controlled attention is much like exercising will power. It’s kind of like breaking an addiction. Addicts continue to go back to the behavior they despise. Habits that are connected to strong emotional bonds can easily become addictions. That’s why it is so important to understand who you were created to be, to commit to that and to stay aware of your daily thoughts, feelings and habits.
It is also vital to have the burning desire that drives you. You will not work through this level if you aren’t going for something that is truly meaningful. If it’s just a wish, it won’t happen. If the passion isn’t there, you won’t have the determination to see it through.
A BIG Question
Do you have the desire to have a better life? Do you have the desire for success? Do you have the desire to make a difference in other’s lives? Napoleon Hill said in Think and Grow Rich (a study of over 500 of the most successful people in America at the time) that you must have a “definiteness of purpose” – a “burning desire” to be successful.
Zig Ziglar said desire is the secret ingredient to success. Where does desire come from? A vision. John Maxwell says “a dream is an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will and emotion, empowering you to do everything you can to achieve it.”
Do you have a compelling dream?
Let me pause to share the difference between success and significance. Success is reaching your goals and becoming the person you were created to be. Significance is making a difference in the lives of others.
Perhaps once you reach success, you’ll begin to pursue significance. The wonderful thing is that you can be significant (and make a difference in other’s lives) without being “successful.” But I have to wonder: If you weren’t broke and in debt, would you be able to help more people? If you were a stronger person spiritually, would you be able to help more people? If you have physical limitations because you don’t take care of yourself, will that limit your ability to help others in the long run?
If you don’t feed your mind and grow to the next level, won’t that limit your ability to make a difference? (By the way, congratulations for reading this – it shows that you are investing in yourself).
I have a plaque in my home study that says, “Success is making a difference in the lives of others. Happiness is watching them grow because of it.” The reason I’m writing this is because it makes me happy to see people grow. What gets me up in the morning is to see people reach their goals.
The 4 Stages of Competence
1. Unconscious Incompetence: We are unaware of our incompetence.
2. Conscious Incompetence: We become aware of our incompetence.
3. Conscious Competence: We are aware of our competence.
4. Unconscious Competence: We become unaware of our competence.
Several years ago I began playing basketball with some friends. I was terrible. Playing sports is a great lesson on awareness. I didn’t even realize many of the things I was doing wrong. For example, my fellow players pointed out that I had my head down when I dribbled the ball, therefore I wasn’t aware of where my teammates were on the court and what the defense was doing.
I never played basketball at school like my teammates did. They were so gracious to me, allowing me to continue to play even though I constantly made mistakes. As I began to realize how woefully incompetent I was, I was certainly willing to change and it took a tremendous amount of focus to get better. I was willing to do the work because I had a great desire to play and to get better.
As I became “consciously incompetent,” I began to focus attention on the various skills I needed to develop. I began to get better in several areas and moved into “conscious competence” in a few areas, like shooting from the outside, by practicing heavily and often. Now that I have practiced the skill many years, there are days where it seems that things happen almost automatically.
Michael Jordan probably operated in unconscious competence much of the time. It took many years of practice and experience to get there. I heard Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon speak once and he said the reason Michael was so good was because he spent time in the gym every day practicing the fundamentals… like layups.
Michael Jordan practicing layups? Yep.
You have to practice the simple steps of stopping to recognize your negative self talk. You’ve got to practice reminding yourself who you are every day. You’ve got to practice by looking at your dreams and goals every day. It doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t come easily.
But the payoff is that as you begin to reach small goals (like layups), you’ll then begin hitting the bigger goals, like the jump shot and the three-pointers. I’ve won a number of basketball games now as a result of simply learning and practicing. I’m sure you have areas in your life where you’ve done the same. I want to tell you that the process of reaching goals and changing your behavior is exactly the same process.
The NBA Finals or the Super Bowl is not won on game day. That dream is won by achieving a long string of small goals along the way. The late great basketball coach John Wooden said the game is won or lost in practice. Zig Ziglar said, “You were born to win, but to be the winner you were born to be, you have to plan to win and prepare to win.”
Believing that you were born to win is the start. It tells you that you can. Regular planning helps you establish the vision in your mind that inspires you. Preparing is practicing - it’s training. If you train as hard as you fight, you’ll win more often.
As you move through this time of controlled attention, keep your dream in mind. When you remember why you are doing what you are doing, you’ll have more inspiration and commitment to stay the course.
The Power of the Time Capsule
One of the tools that will help you stay focused is a planner. The planner is used to record your dreams and goals, and to stay focused on taking the action that will get you to your goal. It’s very easy to get distracted.
To stay focused, commit to what I call “the daily time capsule.” Many years ago, I began to take a minimum of an hour a day to work on my projects. This time was early in the morning when everyone else was asleep. During this “capsule” of time, I didn’t take phone calls. I didn’t do chores around the house or get distracted with entertainment. This was the time to work on the business.
I began this procedure when I was running my cleaning business and I had to be at the shop at 7:30 a.m., which meant I had to be up at 5 a.m. to make this happen. I’m an early riser, so that was okay with me. And I had big dreams, so I had the inspiration to do what needed to done. Don’t underestimate the value in being inspired about your vision. If you aren’t inspired you won’t implement! It’s that simple. Keep dreaming until you get the vision that inspires you.
When I started Phenomenal Products, the goal was to write a few manuals, which were to be my first products. In addition to working on policies and procedures for my business, I wanted to create these manuals. So, for about six weeks I got up at 4 a.m. instead of 5 a.m.
I still use that procedure today. My routine after I wake up is to get coffee, read a chapter from the Word of God, pray and then write for an hour or two. Then, I begin working on my projects. This happens 6 days a week, no matter what. I’ll spend an hour or so keeping my projects moving forward. That involves delegating by e-mail, building PowerPoints, writing scripts, ads, policies and procedures, communicating with partners, and more.
If you stay focused long enough, you’ll eventually reach Level 4, “Commitment.” We’ll talk about that in the next issue.