Are you focusing or painting yourself into a corner?

skull and crossbones by Simon StrandgaardI heard a saying once which has stuck with me for years: “Too much of anything is toxic.”

When you think about it, this is really powerful.  Whether you’re talking about food or exercise, relaxation or focused attention, too much of anything really can be counterproductive, even toxic.

Think of the outcomes you want to produce in your business.  There’s no question that having a clear picture of what you want to achieve and having the discipline to stay focused on those goals are two characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.  But what happens if you go overboard with your focus?

I can tell you from painful personal experience what happens: You get so caught up in insisting that the outcome look a particular way that you blind yourself to the fact that you can accomplish it–sometimes actually have accomplished it–even if it looks different than you’d expected.

Here’s an example on the personal front.  You become convinced that you need a new house–the old one is not big enough, not bright enough, not something enough.  You go through the hell of preparing it for market and finding a new house.  You finally get moved in and come to realize–this isn’t right, either.

Lots of focus, lots of effort, and what do you get for it?  Lots of frustration.  What happened?

My feeling is that, in many cases like this, we haven’t gotten clear on what it is the new “thing” (whatever that may be) is supposed to accomplish for us.  In the house example, maybe what you’re really looking for is a sanctuary–a place where you can feel peaceful yet energized.  You think that translates into “new house”, when in reality you might be able to create what you need by changing some aspects of the old house.

What if you re-purpose that rarely used guest bedroom, or tell the grown kids to take their childhood stuff and store it in their own homes so you have access to the room where you’ve been keeping it for them?  Perhaps you get rid of some excess furniture, put up some artwork that inspires you, and dedicate the space to quiet relaxation and renewal.  You’ve created a sanctuary that doesn’t look anything like what you originally pictured but accomplishes everything you wanted it to.

It’s the same for your business.  Are you painting yourself into a corner by insisting that “a successful business” look a particular way?  Are you denying yourself the satisfaction of accomplishing an important goal because you don’t recognize that you’ve achieved it?

Let’s say one of your primary goals involves bringing in revenues of $X each year so that you have the means to enjoy quality activities with your family; you intend to earn this through your coaching programs.  That clarity is good; it helps you know just what you need to do to earn that much.

However, what if it turns out that most of your income derives, not from individual coaching clients, but from a membership program you offer and from high-value information products?  You’re earning your goal amount and it’s financing those great family vacations, but it’s not happening the way you thought it would.  Are you going to whine about the fact that, while you achieved your desired outcome, it didn’t look the way you expected?  Or are you going to celebrate the fact that you met an important goal and are fully enjoying the benefits that income brings to your family?

Where might you be crossing the line from focus and discipline (good) to inability to recognize your accomplishments unless they show up exactly as you’d pictured them (not so good)?

 

BTW, thanks to Simon Strandgaard for posting his skull-and-crossbones image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.

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