I’ve been thinking about 2019 and how I’d like to live in a more intentional manner. In years past, I’ve created a list of goals for the approaching year, but this year I’ve decided to take another route.
The focusing question revisited
As I left on my continuing journey, he kindly gave me his copy of Gary Keller’s and Jay Papasan’s book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. In it, they write about what they call the focusing question.
Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.”
The Focusing Question is that uncommon approach. In a world of no instructions, it becomes the simple formula for finding exceptional answers that lead to extraordinary results.”
The Focusing Question: What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it makes everything else easier or unnecessary?
Did you catch its brilliance?
The focusing question can lead you not only to answer big-picture questions (Where am I going? What target should I aim for?), but also small focus ones as well (What must I do right now to stay on the path toward the big picture?).
What this has to do with a New Year’s resolution
My single New Year’s resolution is to be mindful at all times. That’s a tall order and an ambitious goal. But like the focusing question, it focuses not only on being continually mindful (big picture resolution) but also on individual activities like eating mindfully, planning mindfully, and paying full attention while listening to another (smaller picture applications) that will help me stay on the path to being continually mindful.
Here are some examples of how I see the focusing question playing out in my life in 2019 to help me stay on the path toward continual mindfulness:
- Eating mindfully – I bought a set of about 12 chopsticks about a year ago to use when I have Asian food. I’m no expert in their use but I get by and it just seems wrong to eat Japanese, Thai, or Chinese food with a fork. I’ve noticed that using chopsticks forces me to concentrate on my eating and, as a result, I enjoy the meal much more.
- In 2019, I’m going to eat each meal using chopsticks so I can be mindful while eating. It means having a pair at the office, and in my backpack, but that’s where the 12-pack comes in handy.
- Working out mindfully – When I go to the gym, I usually wear my AirPods and listen to music because I don’t always like the music chosen by the 24 Hour Fitness staff.
- In 2019, I resolve to choose my music more carefully, perhaps a light classical or another instrumental playlist so as not to distract myself from the workout itself.
- Doing one thing at a time, completely and in a deliberate manner – I can hurry through tasks (especially cleaning) just to get them done and cross them off my daily MITs, but that isn’t taking the time to do them completely and in a deliberate manner.
- In 2019 I resolve to approach each activity (cleaning, cooking, writing, planning, etc.) in a deliberate manner, taking time to do it completely without hurrying unnecessarily. This one will definitely take some practice.
- Developing a few rituals – in my book, The Practical Buddhist, I write about my personal disdain for mindless rituals and ceremonies including elaborate religious ceremonies and the whole Santa Claus charade. But in this context, I’m speaking of rituals such as washing my meal dishes immediately after eating and not just putting them in the sink for later; I’m also thinking of carefully considering what tasks are most relevant for the day and making sure my MITs reflect this so as to decrease the chance I’ll have to migrate them to the following day in the Zen-Journal.
- In 2019 I resolve to create a few rituals/practices that promote continual mindful awareness such as, a morning ritual that helps me prepare for a day of mindful awareness; a noontime practice that helps me review the day’s progress and pause for some stillness; an evening practice that prepares me for rest and renewal.
How this can change the rest of your life
Ask yourself these questions, and be really honest with your answers:
- Do I always listen with rapt attention or does my mind wander in boring conversations?
- Do I hurry through my cleaning to get it out of the way or do I clean with focus and a deliberate slowness?
- Do I hurry through reading to the kids from their books or do I place myself within the story and really make it enjoyable for all?
I wish you a very productive 2019
As we near the end of the year, I hope you’re also thinking about goals and resolutions. Maybe instead of multiple goals for 2019, you’ll also focus on one big picture goal and see how the focusing question can help you stay on the path toward meeting it.
If you do, ask yourself this question every day and create a plan in the Day-At-A-Time Work Area inside your ZenJo to answer it:
What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”