Focus on What You Want

Focus on What You Want“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” said the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. What we experience in any given moment depends on where we choose to focus our attention.

Are you focused on what you want? Or on what you don’t want?

“Your life doesn’t just ‘happen,’” explained Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you.”

Mike Dooley, author of Leveraging the Universe: 7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic, insists that positive thoughts are at least 10,000 times more powerful than negative thoughts. When you focus attention on what you want and why you want it—whether you yearn for deep relationships with others, career success, or time to pursue a hobby or passion—remarkable things occur in your life.

Doors open to creative ideas, ways to reach your aspirations become clear, and you make decisions aligned with your goals. You don’t waste time, energy, or money. You deliberately choose words and actions that align with your core values. You become inspired and inspire others.

When you focus attention on money you don’t have, opportunities you lost, people who behaved unkindly towards you, or sacrifices you felt forced to make, you become prone to anger, resentment, fear, self-doubt, worry, and anxiety. Negative thinking consumes precious time and energy; you become emotionally cemented in survival thinking. You feel “stuck.” Uninspired and unmotivated.

It is difficult to see the entire picture of an optical illusion if you focus attention on one small part of the image. Similarly, when you choose negative thoughts about unpleasant events or become preoccupied with our fears, you fail to see opportunities. Negative thinking snowballs; more of the same creates more of the same. And many agree the act of doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, is a definition of insanity.

When you consciously choose thoughts centered in what we want, you experience gratitude and excitement. Rather than fussing about what you don’t want, imagine new possibilities. You are motivated to act in ways that move you closer to what you want to experience.

Twenty years ago, I passionately wanted to write and inspire others as a speaker and writer. But, I did not believe I had the resources or time to pursue my dream. As the years slipped by, I convinced myself I could not pursue work I loved. After I left a position in K-12 schools, a friend asked me, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

"Focus on What You Want" with these tips to get clear about your direction.You are blessed with specific talents, gifts, skills, and dreams for a reason. If you want to experience greater happiness, focus on what you want and why you want it. Try these tips to move forward:

Define your dream. What would you like to do and where would you like to be in 3-5 years? Discover your dream by describing it in writing. The act of writing your dream sharpens your passion with razor-sharp clarity. How do you want to be remembered? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to make a difference in the world?

• Begin a gratitude journal. When you feel uncomfortable thoughts creeping into your consciousness, recall at least five things for which you feel grateful. Gratitude fills us with joy and shifts our focus from what we do not have to appreciation for all of the gifts in our lives. Try these suggestions from How to Feel Gratitude (Even When You Don’t Want To).

Create a vision board. A vision board is a personal display of pictures and phrases of ideas, experiences, and desires you wish to experience. When you surround yourself with inspiring words and images by creating a vision board, you welcome new ideas and exciting possibilities into your life.

Create affirmations.  Put the positive in your affirmation by focusing deliberate intention on desired outcomes. Affirmations are always stated in present tense; they are personal and specific. A constructive affirmation such as “Lucrative opportunities always come my way” invites prosperity and celebrates abundance.

Ask “What is the lesson?”  I used to wonder, “Why is this happening to me?” when faced with unfortunate circumstances in the past. When I ask myself, “What can I learn from this experience?” I feel empowered.

Remember you’re not alone. Surround yourself with people who love and care about you. You have within you what it takes to figure out how to get up when you fall down

Moving forward sometimes entails letting go. Closed doors are often entries to new experiences. Read these tips from What You Must Let Go to Move Forward.

• Breathe. When uncomfortable situations arise, take a deep breath. You need not respond immediately. Take your time to act with purpose and in ways that align with your core values.

Do something you love every day. You may not have the resources to quit your job or abandon responsibilities to pursue your passion. Focus on the time you have; not the time you do not have within your day. 

Record “great ideas” in a notebook. Keep a notebook near your bed or in your purse. Wonderful opportunities or new ways of doing things often unexpectedly arrive to us in random thoughts. Reread your great ideas; re-imagine them with creative details.

Network with others. Find a group with members who share your professional or goal-related interests. Many groups and organizations have well-organized and detailed directories that promote networking events and attract new members. Local Chamber of Commerce groups, libraries, local community centers, and on-line networking groups provide information and resources that connect like-minded individuals to inspire and motivate one another.

If Alice, in Lewis Carroll’s tale, had trusted her own inner compass and listened to her instincts, she would not have felt desperately lost and dependent upon the Cheshire Cat (or anyone else) for directions. Get clear about what you want to do and why you want to do it. Trust your instincts. Stand tall with confidence. When you focus on what you want and celebrate the blessings in your life, you will find it possible to make much more progress than you ever imagined.

How will you focus on what you want today?


Get clear about your direction. Create Personal Vision and Mission Statements.

Not sure about what you want to do next? Find motivation and check out What to Do Next When You Don’t Know What to Do.

Get creative! Use these tips to Create an Awesome Vision Board.

Use these free printable planning tools from my goal-setting book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide (also available as an eBook).

16 Responses to Focus on What You Want
  1. What a great post! Really useful ideas – thanks!

  2. Love this post, especially asking “What can I learn from this experience?” Even the most negative experiences contain something of value. It may not be obvious but it’s worth seeking.

    • Thank you, Christy. I find that all kinds of lovely things happen when I change my questions … which, in turn, shifts my focus which, in turn, shifts my perspective and experience. I’m grateful for your nice words.

  3. Thanks for this article, Dr. Julie. You know I’m your no. 1 fan, right? 🙂

  4. Terrific question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Have been working on this one for a while…

  5. Great post Dr. J. I love your action steps.

  6. So many great ideas. We may not all need not do them all but 2 or 3 even will help get things rolling in a more focused way. I love the asking of “what is the lesson” when things present themselves to me in a manner I may not have expected. Its so helpful to re-frame. This post was so full of good thoughts and ideas for action. I LOVE it. I am sharing and book marking it!

    • Thank you, Kate, for your delightful response! A writer’s hugest compliment comes from someone (like you!) who says “I am sharing it and bookmarking it!” ((blush!)) Have a wonderful day!

  7. Awesome tips! It is indeed important to be able to define your dream. What has been the greatest dream that you have ever achieved in your life?

    • What a great question, Lorii! I believe my great dream is the one I’m living now. I’m so happy I, as Brene Brown suggested, “dared greatly,” jumped in, and took action to transform my dream of being a professional speaker and writer into a plan of action. Many of the tools I developed flowed from workshops I directed as well as my own experiences to take my aspirations from “dream” to tangible goals that found their place in my daily schedule. Thank you for asking, Lorii!

  8. Your whole article is extremely insightful, Julie, but this paragraph especially resonates with me at the moment… I sponsored a Toastmasters club for 17 months but it recently folded.

    I used to wonder, “Why is this happening to me?” when faced with unfortunate circumstances in the past. When I ask myself, “What can I learn from this experience?” I feel empowered.

    • I agree that your question, “What can I learn from this experience?”, is very empowering. Rather than being victimized by a situation, we stand strong, face it, and allow us to move to the next level.

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