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The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire

The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire
Focus- The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire

You had me at ‘Hello’. What a corny movie. But I was thinking about what the character in the movie Jerry McGuire is forced to do, and as a result allows him to succeed.

It was focus.

If you remember in that movie Jerry is a struggling agent for athletes and finds himself losing all his clients bar one, Cuba Gooding Jnr [the only thing holding that movie together]. So what does this force Jerry to do?

Focus all his energy into this one project; his only client. Even though there is a bit of luck involved, Jerry finds the success he was looking for in putting everything he had into one thing, professionally.

The Unstoppable Power of Focus

This reminds me of a post from Brian Kim over a year ago called The Unstoppable Power of Focus. He uses the example of Google focusing on becoming THE search engine and then later finding other avenues to conquer – advertising, email etc.

Because Google excelled on one level, they were able to step up and do something else. Brian suggests this is possibly the only way to move up. Create a solid step by focusing on succeeding at it and then building on that step.

Now let’s say you don’t focus and skip from subject to subject. It’s the same as you building half a step and destroying it. Then building another step halfway and then destroying it.

Looking back at Jerry, he had only one option and that was to make a success out of Cuba Gooding Jnr. When he did that he found clarity and could move on to the other things he felt were important – Renee Zellweger for example – and building his sporting agency.

focus target

Where To Put Your Focus

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The most obvious reason some of us lack this kind of focus is that we are trying to build different things; basically multi-tasking projects. But how do you succeed in one thing if a lot of your time is focused on various others?

The short answer is You Can’t. However, I have a quick formula that can create focus from all the projects and distractions you want to keep in your life.

Focus = Stability + Time + Motivation

Instead of going head first into your chosen task and gutting it out poor and hopeful, you can give yourself a platform to comfortably go after your real goals.

The first step is creating Stability. This is usually financial stability. Why are we talking about money? Because once you have a stable level of income of which you can live off, you can spare time; and time is crucial to focus.

Stability = Money Earned – Money Needed

If this results in a positive number, you’re good.

What I did was create a minimum budget. Admittedly it was a really rough estimate that I’ve kept in the back of my mind, but I established what I really needed to be comfortable financially. Once I know how much I need to make and how much time it takes to make it, I can see how much free time I actually have.

Try Earning a Degree in Financial Stability – [YahooFinance]

Time = 24 Hours – Hours Working

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It’s obvious but look at what time you have left after work. For many people ‘work’ isn’t what they want to focus on. You may have a dream of working on something you love, or creating that masterpiece in your spare time.

Once you have all this spare time to pursue those dreams, you can focus 100% on them for certain periods of the day. e.g: Work 8 hours, 2 hours blogging.

So there we have two very simple equations that, I think, are very important. To me there is no point in working if you can’t pursue the things you really want to do and build something else.

Work out how much you need to work and, if you like, pillage the rest. If you’re saving, budget that in there also. If you like to go out every weekend, budget that. How much must you work to get that number? How much free time are you left with?

Try the 50-30-20 Rule [StevePavlina]

Motivation

That leaves us with the final part of the formula. This is usually the trickiest part but is the real catalyst for getting focused. The question you must ask yourself is: What are you going to get out of it? and also What are you getting out of it?

The first question looks to the future, your goal when it’s finished. The second wants you to think about the immediate pleasures and gains. You should be able to give different answers for both.

For instance your goal may be to create a successful blog. You want to be able to live comfortably from the residual income of your blog. That’s the final goal. However, while building your blog, you could say that your immediate gain is learning more about a topic you love.

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Other immediate motivations may be networking with like-minded people or sharing your knowledge with others.

The thing about motivation is that it requires action. You can have a good idea of what motivates you but still not act on it. This is where you need to factor in another element. Something that will force you to act.

Motivation = Gains x Necessity

You can’t only want something, you have to need it. When you realize why you want to do something and what you are getting and are going to get out of it, you create a necessity.

Take those reasons and immediate gains and multiply them by how much you need them. If I am writing a blog and I enjoy learning more about what I’m writing about, I don’t just want to learn more – I need to learn more. It is imperative to my blog’s success that I learn as much as I can because it builds credibility and makes for better content.

Now that I have the motivation, time and stability, I can focus.

Also check out Lifehack’s motivational posts.

Back To Jerry

A personal twist on the motivational side of things: ‘Show my the money’ isn’t a big deal to me. I’m not motivated a lot by money. Generally, I will earn as much as I need and enjoy my free time.

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But let’s think back to the movie and Jerry’s nemesis: Jay Mohr. What does he do? He gloats and takes Jerry’s clients. Jerry sees him succeed. Does this motivate Jerry? It should.

Seeing someone in your field succeed in the ways you want to is motivational. You can be defeatist, if you must, but what you should really do is think, ‘It can be done!’

I have my own Jay Mohr. It’s Leo Babauta from ZenHabits.net – he’s a machine and I see his posts all over the place, including here at Lifehack. This is a great motivator for me.

Not only do I see competition and inspiration, but I see that you can get a lot of work out into the public and build a name. It’s that ‘just Google me’ kind of mentality. I want Craig Childs followers! Yes, I can be that vain.

Focus

To truly succeed in anything, you need to focus on it. Focus on your goals and what you need to achieve them. What do you need to do so you have time to pursue those goals? What can you do so that you stay motivated?

These are personal questions that can’t really be generalized for everyone; but hopefully thinking about how to free up your time and focus on what you really want will put you in the right direction.

P.S. Sorry to make everyone think of Tom Cruise.

More by this author

Craig Childs

Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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