FOCUS: The Third Trait of Mental Toughness

“Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror.”  - Colin Powell

Growing up I was often told to keep my eye on the prize. I heard it from my parents, my scoutmaster, coaches, while in the military and in business. But, it wasn't until much later in my life did I really understand how important this simple phrase was to my success. As I matured and began to pay closer attention to successful people I realized that successful people maintain an unrelenting focus on what matters in life regardless of the distractions going on around them. I learned that they focused on their successes rather than their failures. I learned that successful people are keenly focused on the next steps needed to realize their goals rather than wasting time on the many distractions life throws at them. Successful people have an ability to consistently be proactive in their pursuit of success regardless of life’s distractions.


On a scale of 1 to 10 where do you rank your ability to stay focused? Focus is your ability to stay homed in on what’s important while blocking out everything else. Focus is necessary if you want to develop mental toughness that enables you to achieve your goals. It is a trait that is important if you want to stay on track when undertaking any challenge.

When developing your mental toughness remember that a great deal of it comes down to your ability to establish effective personal habits such as focus. One way to improve your ability to focus is by setting your sights on achieving small victories. When I made the decision to lose weight I didn't start out by deciding I was going lose 68 pounds in 6 months. I just set my focus on losing a pound or two a day. I didn't set out vowing I would eat right for the next 6 months, rather I set my target to eat right and exercise one day at a time. By doing this, I could focus on losing a pound or two one day at a time. I didn't let myself get distracted by what seemed an impossible task over an impossible amount of time. I figured at the end of the first day that if I could focus on doing what I needed to do that day I could do it again the next day. I created new eating habits and I was motivated at beating myself each day, day by day. If you can do it the first day, you can do the second day, and the third day and so on.

A coach that I coached with once asked me “How do you eat an elephant?” At the time, I told him I had no idea. He laughed and told me, “you eat an elephant one bite at a time!” In other words, to succeed all we really needed to do to win was to focus on the task at hand, nothing else, and over time we would succeed. I cannot tell you how many times this simple question proved its worth to me. To win those small victories establish a daily schedule for yourself where you take specific actions in a measurable way. Once you develop your routine, stick to it so you can begin winning small victories every day. When you focus on your behavior, the results will follow.

Here’s an easy way to remember what you need to stay focused:

F is for Find – identify what you need to improve on to be successful.

O is for Organize – organize an action plan that helps you improve upon what you identified as needing improvement to achieve success.

C is for Collect – you need to research and collect the data you need to move forward with your action plan.

U is for Understanding – you need to understand all the variables and potential risks involved in making your improvements.

S is for Start – you need to execute your action plan as you have laid it out. The only way you focus is to start.

Focus is another key in developing your mental toughness. In my next blog, I will discuss composure and why it is another important trait you need when developing your mental toughness. You can listen to the audio version of this post at Jeff Heiser Radio Podcast 97.