Sometimes You Just Need to Focus

Written by on December 19, 2016 in Self-Awareness, Sense of Purpose

The Power of Focus


Regardless of your personal viewpoint or history with regard to the practice of goal setting, there is one truth that is undeniable, and that is we accomplish more when we focus our attention and efforts.

The only way to discover our true potential is to clear out the clutter and focus on what matters.

Why We Need Be Intentional About Creating Focus

Focus. It’s important, it works, and it’s not easy.

We try to do too much, become distracted by the things (and people) yelling the loudest for our attention, and then find ourselves at the end of the day wondering why we’ve made so little progress.

Our goals are often based on the things we (or others) believe we should do, or that sound good but have no real meaning. Or we rebel and set no goals at all, choosing instead to live by default, responding to who and whatever the winds of fate happen to send our way.

Even when we do decide to pursue goals that we truly care about we’re so busy trying to keep up with everything else in our life that we fail to take the time to create a realistic plan to achieve them, so at the first sign of a problem we give up.

It’s not that we don’t have the ability to achieve these things; it’s that we fail to focus our attention.

One way to change that is to align your efforts to improve a particular area of your life. This approach enables you to build momentum gradually and strategically over time, providing the sense of control and balance that we all long for.

For many people, the One Word Resolution concept appears to provide the perfect solution.

The One Word Revolution

The One Word Resolution has been around for awhile now and, if the buzz associated with picking that one perfect word is any indication, it continues to grow more popular every year.

The concept is easy enough, pick one word to use as your guide or intention for a particular area of your life you desire to improve. As the title implies, more often than not this concept is used when preparing to head into a New Year, but realistically it can be used anytime you desire to create meaningful change or improve your life in some way.

As with any goal setting method, the One Word Resolution has garnered its share of inspiring success stories but, just like its traditional counterpart, many “Words” are left to gather dust as the year progresses.

Then there’s the issue of pinning down one word. Some people seem to be able to effortlessly pick their word out of thin air and they know intuitively it’s just the right word for them. Other people, well, not so much.

It may seem pretty simple going in, but for many picking the right word becomes an overwhelming challenge, one that is often made harder than it needs to be.

I was first introduced to this strategy 3 years ago by an associate, who at that point had already changed her word for the New Year twice. The first time was because she learned her friend had picked the same word, the second was because after living with the word for a few days she felt it just didn’t really resonate with who she was.

She finally settled on the word Approachable because she decided maybe she needed to work on relationships. She never did and I forgot about the One Word Resolution until the next year when she called me to see if I’d picked out a word for the year.

My friend’s experience is a perfect example of where most go wrong with this concept by either applying all of their attention and energy toward picking a “feel good” word, or picking one out for no other reason that they see it in an article or discussion on social media and decide to jump on the proverbial bandwagon.

Either way, there is little or no thought given to what they’re actually going to do with that word.

The reality is that the real power behind this approach isn’t the “word” at all, but rather how you choose to translate the energy behind what that word means to you.

The real value of setting goals is not the recognition or reward; it’s the person we become by finding the discipline, courage, and commitment to achieve them. ~Author Unknown

Now, if you are someone who is attracted to this strategy because you prefer not to set goals, let me provide you with a quick reality check.

Whether you plan to use a word or theme to create BIG changes in your life or to simply become more mindful about the people and abundance that surrounds you, achieving your desired results will require you to become intentional about the choices you make.

You don’t have to call them goals, you can refer to the process as intentions, rituals, practice or whatever you want, but the bottom line is that to make the behaviors associated with your word a part of your life will require you to take focused action of some kind, otherwise there really is no point.

Sometimes You Just Need to Focus

I believe the greatest strength of the One Word strategy is the idea of focused attention. There is a sense of inner peace and comfort that comes from having a meaningful foundation to anchor you against the busyness of everyday living as well as a guidepost for actions and decisions.

However, I approach this concept a little differently … big surprise, huh? 🙂

Seriously, my approach is based on setting a theme as your foundation. So rather than going right to picking out words, there is a process of establishing a starting point based on the reality of your life as it is now that helps you to determine in a meaningful way where you’d like to focus your attention. From this foundation (your anchor), you then select a theme that is clearly aligned with your priorities.

I also use an associated word or phrase, which I treat as a trigger to refocus attention, much the same way we use triggers when we’re working to set or break a habit.

I’ve used this strategy for the past 2 years, it’s surprisingly easy to implement, and I’ve achieved more goals and created more meaningful change in my life than in the previous ten years, and it all has to do with the power of focus.

Your theme serves as a lighthouse beacon always showing you the way home no matter how dark or stormy the weather. ~Marquita Herald

Think about a typical day in your life. Most of us are kept pretty busy trying to balance overloaded schedules, demanding relationships and the general noise of everyday living. This means that often your reactions and decisions will default to what is comfortable and natural to you.

So if you’re hoping to create some type of meaningful change in your life, have a desire to achieve particular goals, or just want to make sure you stay focused on the people and things that matter most to you, the easier you make it for yourself to make decisions that support your intentions the more likely you are to stay on track to create a life you love.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.


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  1. I hear you Ikechi, and for the record, I have never set a New Year’s Resolution. I do set goals based on thorough planning, but at the same time I’ve found going with a theme really helps to create focus. Thanks for sharing!

  2. ikechi

    Hi Marquita

    What a thought provoking post. I was thinking about new year resolutions while I was reading the post but you take resolutions to a new level. I have never been a fan of resolutions but reading your post , I see the reason now.

    You are sure right that there is a better way to be focused. Thanks for sharing. Take Care
    ikechi recently posted…The 10 Most Popular Posts That Rocked in 2016My Profile

  3. Hi Lynee, it’s a free book for subscribers of Emotionally Resilient Living. So, if you like what you read here you might consider subscribing and then you’ll receive the eBook. Just FYI – it will only be available until Jan 15.

  4. Lynee says:

    Hi Marquita!

    How can I get hold of the book,Focus?

    Thank you for always keeping me on track!

    Kind regards


  5. Vatsala Shukla

    My word for 2016 was Phoenix, Marquita, and it helped me keep going when the energies of the Leap Year made me wonder what was going on. I selected the word during a challenge hosted by Susannah Conway which encompassed my learning from 2015 and where I was planning to go.

    It’s a great technique to bring our attention on what really matters.

    Merry Christmas.
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…How Strong is Your Self Esteem Bucket?My Profile

  6. Erica says:

    I’ve never done a 1 word resolution. The word that really screamed at me while I was reading this was compassion.I think it is easy to judge others quickly. And I think it is easier to judge yourself by a standard you would never expect of others. And all of this can derail your focus and your intentions. And that is why I love the power in setting the goal of compassion for myself.
    Erica recently posted…Essential Oils To Help You Stay CalmMy Profile

  7. Yes, now that you mention it I have seen the word Intention used Millen. I like it! 🙂

  8. Thank you for your kind words, and by all means, borrow away!

  9. Suzie Cheel

    The only way to discover our true potential is to clear out the clutter and focus on what matters.

    yes this spoke to me and what i will be doing this week to really focus on 2017 I still have to choose my word- simplicity is coming up for me- it was going to be focus 🙂 thank you for a wonderful year of inspiration and beautiful writing- wishing you an super successful 2017 xxx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Live Your Best Year Yet: Listen To The Whispers of Your HeartMy Profile

  10. Millen

    I love this topic, Marquita! ‘Focus. It’s important, it works, and it’s not easy.” So true. And just like you, I have my own spin on ‘ONE WORD RESOLUTION’ (surprise, surprise 🙂 . I prefer ONE WORD INTENTION. Focusing on your concisely expressed intention and aligning your time, efforts and resources while keeping it in focus is one of the ‘tools’ I use to course-correct every time I go thru a detour. It’s like a mental GPS for short and long term goals. Thank you for bringing this topic to our attention!

  11. lenie

    Marquita, I won’t wish you luck because I know you will succeed just because of who you are.
    May I borrow your mantra, it’s a dandy.
    lenie recently posted…Tis the Season for…CHARITY SCAMSMy Profile

  12. Beautifully said Marvin, and welcome! You are so very right, personal growth is hard work, but then growth of any kind is hard work. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. 🙂

  13. Glad you enjoyed the post Phoenicia. Just to be clear, the “One Word” isn’t about defining your year, it’s about creating focus. It basically serves as an anchor for decision making and the way in which you use your time and resources. From there people approach the concept in different ways. Some just go with the word as a reminder during the year. Personally, I advocate using the word as a trigger that is connected to highest priorities and goals for the year. But of course, that’s more work. 🙂

  14. So glad you liked it Sushmita! Thanks for stopping by and I wish you an enjoyable holiday season. 🙂

  15. Oh, conquer is a great word Rose Mary! You might try to create a powerful visual to go with it that you can easily connect to or even a mantra. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you over on FB. 🙂

  16. Beautifully said William! Thanks for stopping by and sharing. 🙂

  17. Strong is a powerful word Donna and I have no doubt you will make the most of your efforts. I know you have a lot going on in your personal and professional life so I hope you’ll treat yourself with loving kindness along the way. Warmest wishes for the holiday season my friend.

  18. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us Priya! I am so happy you are here and grateful that you’ve chosen to follow along on this journey with me. I have no doubt whatever you ultimately select for your goals and focus for the coming year you will achieve your desired outcome. Warmest wishes for the holiday season!

  19. Brave is a great word Dave, for me, it’s right up there with courage and tenacity. Ah, I do love words. You’re far too talented not to achieve your dreams Dave and you know I’ll be among your many fans cheering you on! Wishing you and your awesome family a happy, healthy New Year. 🙂

  20. Sounds like a good plan Lenie! I’m experimenting this year by using 3 words associated with my personal theme. This is the way Pro Blogger Chris Brogan approaches the system and I thought I’d give it a try except that I’m adding the element of turning my words into a mantra. So my words are Focus, Believe, and Freedom and the mantra is, Focus on the desired outcome, Believe I will succeed, and embrace the Freedom that comes with owning my life. Wish me luck. 🙂

  21. Good post. Focus, focus, focus. Don’t take your eye off the ball. Goals and finding out where you want to go are important in focusing forward but I have found that ruthless awareness of what is holding you back – your own weaknesses, faults, and propensities – needs to be ascertained and dealt with. Scripture says, “Let us lay aside every weight and sin which so easily besets us and run the race that is set before us —-.” To really, truly, and honestly embrace the “weights and sins,” whatever they may be, is really hard work and requires courage. I sat down and listed my faults and it was hard to do without an element of blaming thrown it…our excuse. Personal growth is hard work.
    Marvin Dittfurth recently posted…The Birthday Grip on LifeMy Profile

  22. Phoenicia

    Focussing can be a struggle when there are many distractions – for me anyway. Having set goals keeps you on the straight and narrow. It is easy to be lurred by what others are doing or as you correctly stated, by what others think you should be doing.

    Having one key word to define my year is something I have never considered. At church, we have a theme for the year and a focus for each month. Our weekly teachings and worship sessions reflect this theme.

    I am guaranteed to learn at least one thing on reading your articles. Thank you for sharing.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Think and shop smart this Christmas!My Profile

  23. Sushmita

    Perfect post, Marquita!
    Especially when you want to gain back your focus to work and achieve your goals in the coming year.
    Sushmita recently posted…Sharing the Lessons, I learned in the past few years!My Profile

  24. This is perfect to read when I fully intend to devote more focus to the goals I want to achieve next year. Again, you zap me right when I need to hear it. Conquer is the word I used for last year and I want to repeat it this year. It’s an important word for me on a couple of issues. So conquer it is. Now, how to focus on that.

    Thanks for the special download and Happy early Holidays. Catch you on FB for now!
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Book review – Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life HurtsMy Profile

  25. William Rusho

    It is important to have focus and goals, they work together. Having a goal, without focus upon means you will never reach it. Focusing without a goal, means you are determined, but no where to go.
    William Rusho recently posted…The Christmas TruceMy Profile

  26. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    I haven’t heard of one word strategy, but it makes so much sense now.

    Words are a funny thing and can encompass so many variations in meaning. But taking it down to one single word is an amazing thing.

    I read this hours before I commented because I was thinking of that one word. See…you are helping me with each and every article you write…really.

    So I came up with the word strong. There are so many things happening in my personal life right now, I need to be strong. I need to be able to build some boundaries.. and so on.

    Thank you so much for this Marquita…I feel better already.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…Beyond The E-Myth – Michael E. GerberMy Profile

  27. Being able to better my spiritual practice along with growing my business is the goal I have in mind.Dont have a name for the goal to achieve as of yet but am using a tracker to work on it…For me, the purpose of life is to be one with God from the spiritual perspective , but simply put it just means seeing God within us and in the world around us and not identifying ourselves with the five senses…meaning becoming emotionally resilient.

    I am very thankful to u for sharing great resources through your website and looking forward to following you. 🙂 in the upcoming year…
    Priya Prabhu recently posted…Doing spiritual practice in the current eraMy Profile

  28. Dave

    I think we’ve chatted about something like this before, Marty – the “artificiality” of a New Year’s resolution. Every day, every moment is an opportunity for a fresh start, but it is convenient to have the beginning of a new year serve as a trigger for change and new beginnings.

    I bring this up because I really am embracing what you offer in this article, so much so that I’m not even waiting for Jan 1 to begin implementing it 😉 With the distraction of holidays, this is the perfect time to grease the skids and focus intently. I have two weeks off from work over the holidays and have set aside time each morning (before anyone else awakes) to really focus on what I want to accomplish that day as well as how it relates to what I want to accomplish in the longer term.

    If I had to choose one word for the year, it would be “brave”. I see a fair amount of rejection in my near future. But, I see it as a positive thing, ironically, because it means I am sending my book out to potential publishers and short stories out to literary magazines. I know it’s going to require some thick skin, bravery, and you know what word is coming, right? Resilience 🙂

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, my friend, and look forward to sharing our mutual stories and insights in 2017 and far beyond! Best wishes and Merry Christmas 🙂
    Dave recently posted…Snail TrailMy Profile

  29. lenie

    Marquita, this is another excellent ‘make me think’ post, perfect for this time of year when we start thinking about the New Year and what we can do better. I think my word will actually be focus . I have several plans for moving ahead but if I try to implement all at once I’ll lose track so I intend to focus on one at a time.
    Have a wonderful holiday and all the very best in 2017.
    lenie recently posted…Tis the Season for…CHARITY SCAMSMy Profile

  30. Sounds like it was a great retreat Rosary, and you’ve brought up a good point about the power of repetition. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation!

  31. Glad you enjoyed the post Mark. I have a feeling that anyone who’s tempted to come up with sweeping goals at this point in the year would do it with or without the influence of this post. 🙂 Seriously, so many people set SO many goals without taking the time to connect them to their personal foundation. All we can do – you and I and others in this business of “helping” people can do, is offer guidance based on proven techniques and then stand back. Some will hear, others maybe not now but another time. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season my friend, and looking forward to an ever better New Year!

  32. Health is always a good focus Jeannette, now you just need to put some muscle in the form of strategic action behind that good intention. Wishing you a happy, healthy, holiday and New Year!

  33. Rosary says:

    I went to a retreat a few years back that incorporated this One Word strategy, although we had to think of 3 words to describe who we are and who we want to be instead of just 1 word. To this day, I still remember what those 3 words are and because we had to repeat it so much during the retreat, it’s become almost ingrained. I think focusing is something that everyone finds difficult. I know I have trouble with sticking to one thing and always end up taking in too much and multitasking, it’s definitely something I’m gonna be working on for 2017. Thanks for sharing this post and happy holidays!
    Rosary recently posted…post-CELTA thoughtsMy Profile

  34. Mark

    What a fantastic concept M!

    And I certainly have never ever heard it quite put into the context you’ve shared here.

    But even so, I can readily see how the right combination of mindful purpose, and extremely focused energy levels, can certainly lead to some meaningful results.

    And i love your thought, where you pointed out, some people simply choose, and or get so caught up emotionally, they whined up, living life by default!

    That is such a powerful and truly enlightening passage!

    Even though reading such a well written and extremely informative post, this close to New Years, can and might lead to some overly ambitious setting of goals and or “one word” choosing!LOL!

    I definitely think it was more than worth being exposed to!Thanks! And let’s make 2017 and beyond, all it can and should be!

    For ourselves and others! I’ve really enjoyed and gained a ton this year, being exposed to your thoughts!Continued success!
    Mark recently posted…How Strategic Blogging Has A Lot In Common With Offline Power Marketing!Part TwoMy Profile

  35. Marquita — I’ve didn’t know about the One Word strategy but it’s a good idea. I know mine because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for the past few months. My one word is “health.” In order to maintain my health — and for my age I’m very healthy — but I know that I need to exercise more and lose weight. Not a diet but just eat more responsibly. Living in Florida, it’s so easy to just hop in my car, whereas in NY I walked everywhere. So I think I’ve picked the right word for me.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…You Decide When it’s Good EnoughMy Profile

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