If you want to achieve in life, whether in your career or business, or your personal life and hobbies, you need to overcome the three biggest achievement killers: distraction (i.e. lack of attention); MISinterpretation; and MIScommunication.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
This is the most important aspect of our consciousness. In the past the capacity to focus was a given, but with the explosion of distractions around us from advertising to emails, from social media to news, giving attention to something has become a virtue.
Lack of accomplishment is not attention deficiency, but attention ambushed and misled. As the mind gets used to being distracted so often and with such compelling content it looks to feed this need and takes us away from focusing on our goals.
How does one regain attention? Mindfulness is one way. It’s a type of meditation, a focus on being in the present and bringing full attention to the object. Mindfulness means calling attention to our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and movements. The aim is to be engrossed, be it enjoying walking in the park, sharing a chat with a friend, painting, or having a cup of tea. Mindfulness is about putting your attention towards that which is intended instead of being led by distraction.
Practicing Mindfulness brings more awareness to one’s breath and we can use this to relax tense muscles or focus on a situation that requires attention. Breathing can also be used to help deal with pain, anger or the stress of daily life.
By being mindful and putting our attention on the goal we want to achieve, we will remove distractions and will therefore be more likely to reach our target.
Whenever we experience a sensory stimulus, we interpret it, give it meaning, and behave accordingly.
Distress and trauma, for example, are not products of what has actually happened, but rather how we interpret it. Someone can lose an arm in a Tsunami and say, ‘Oh god I lost my arm, my life is not worth living’. Another person can say ‘So what, I still have another arm, let me see what I can do with this life’.
A change in interpretation can alter your life dramatically. During the Covid Lockdown, you have a choice to be upset or feel depressed or you can make the most of this time to catch up on your hobbies, pick up a new skill, work on your physical and mental fitness, telephone friends for long chats. The choice is on the individual.
Interpretation is therefore ‘communication to the self’. If our communication is positive we are more likely to be motivated to achieve, to be willing to try again when we fail. Negative interpretation is a killer of success, so change the way you look at things – you’ll be more likely to succeed.
While attention and interpretation are intricate aspects of the self, one of the aspects of what makes us human is the ability to communicate with each other. Communication has two aspects: a. Communication to the self (our own inner voice, our interpretation) and b. Communication with others.
Lack of good, clear, engaging communication is one of the killers of achievement. So, it’s essential we learn good communication skills.
We’ve covered internal communication, now let’s look at external.
For example, when communicating with an audience, large or small, there are three key elements to master:
- Managing your state
- Connecting with your audience
- Creating change
- Managing your state:
You can use your breathing to help manage your emotional state. Breathe slowly and deeply to calm yourself. Once relaxed, speak normally. Pause to breathe if you feel your stress rising. Pausing is also important to add punctuation to your speech and give the audience a chance to digest the contents.
- Connect with Audience:
Give your audience the information they need. If you are an expert in subject, then demonstrate this through the information you share. Speak with confidence, but don’t treat your audience as idiots (i.e. be confident, not arrogant). Making eye contact is also important. And smile.
- Create Change
Help your audience visualize the future. Help them see how things can be different. Help show them ‘how’ they can change. Many of us have desires but fail to act, so show them how to act, how to take the first step. Help them feel strong and positive, so they can make a decision. People in a low state don’t make decisions! The essence of good external communicator is to effect a change in the audience, moving them to where you want them to be.
By learning to focus your attention and remove distractions, by changing your interpretation, and by bringing others along with you through engaging communication, you will be far more likely to succeed and achieve your goals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Seema Menon, is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org