If you want to accomplish your goals, it has to be constant. You have to put yourself first, even when it involves saying no to others.
At a high level, focusing on yourself is about paying attention: What do you truly want? What’s standing between you and your best, happiest, goal-conquering self?
Focusing on Yourself Isn’t Selfish
Just like everyone else on this planet, you deserve to get what you want out of life. That doesn’t mean you’re a selfish person; it simply means you’re the one who has to work for it.
Say your goal in life is to be an amazing parent. To do that, you can’t take care of your kids 24/7. Although you’re going to have to clean up after them sometimes, you can’t support them without a stable career. You can’t teach them to manage their mental health if you don’t take care of your own.
Before you can give others your best, you have to sort out your own priorities. And again, it has to be constant: Your goals might change, and that’s OK. What isn’t OK is focusing on others at the expense of yourself.
How to Focus on Yourself And Get What You Want in Life
Achieving your goals has to be a lifelong endeavor. That’s why it’s so important to start today. Use these strategies to go after your goals and get your life moving in the best direction possible.
1. Spell out Your Dreams
Get a college education. Land a job that makes a lot of money. Reach that next rung of your career.
The traditional vision of success appeals to a lot of people, but it may not be right for you. Ask yourself: What does the life I actually want look like?
It’s up to you to create a vision for your life. You don’t need to know all the details, but you should be able to paint the broad strokes.
Say you know that you enjoy history and writing. The key stages of your life vision might include:
- Work for a state historical society.
- Become a freelance writer.
- Write a historical fiction novel.
- Win the Booker Prize for Fiction.
- Become the modern Leo Tolstoy.
Or, let’s say you are working in healthcare, and while you don’t want a complete career change, you do want to pivot the direction you are headed. You can start looking into online programs that would allow you to earn certifications without having to go back to school to earn another degree.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” dream. All that matters is one thing: that you’re willing to work for it.
2. Practice Constantly
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the thing, and you will have the power.” That “thing” is whatever your goals require of you.
One way or another, you have to put in the work. Writing skills don’t build themselves. Strong families aren’t forged by an absent parent.
The good news is, you don’t have to do it all today. Break your goals into small, manageable pieces.
If reading a craft book is what’s stopping you from taking the leap to be a freelance writer, start by reading just 10 pages per day. Over a month, that’s 300 pages—a full-size book. How does learning the business of freelance writing in just a month sound?
Small steps add up. Take one or two each day, and you’ll make more progress toward your goals than you thought possible.
3. Face Your Triggers
You’ve been told to avoid your triggers, but when it comes to focusing on yourself, that isn’t the best advice.
How can you grow as a person if you run away from every trial? If you truly want to focus on yourself, you have to face your triggers.
Say your heart is set on holding public office. If you want to accomplish your goal, you’re going to do things that might scare you, including:
- Speaking in public
- Saying no to people
- Taking personal attacks in stride
- Working with people who you disagree with
Remember, you grow most when you’re challenged. Focusing on yourself means putting yourself in tough situations.
4. Tap Into Your Sixth Sense
Focusing on yourself isn’t a science. Finding your path requires you to get in touch with your intuition.
When you’re intuitive, you can sniff out a bad relationship before getting too close. According to best-selling author Malcom Gladwell, you can evaluate people with about 70% accuracy((Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Was Malcolm Gladwell right? Can you trust your intuition?)) in a mere five minutes.
How is that possible? Because past experience is powerful. Intuition is another word for using your experience to see beneath the surface of a situation. To focus on yourself, you have to trust yourself.
With that said, intuition isn’t infallible. Don’t let it stop you from seeing what’s right in front of you. For example:
- Your intuition is heavily influenced by your biases. If you find someone attractive, you may be more likely to glass over their bad characteristics.
- If you’re in a bad mood, you may be overly pessimistic. Take another look at the situation once you’re feeling better.
- Hearsay isn’t a good base for intuition. Don’t read too much into what others tell you.
The bottom line? Be aware of your gut feelings, but don’t let them drive the car.
5. Switch It up
Focusing on yourself isn’t the same as being single-minded. If you want to achieve your goals, you need new experiences to help you climb higher.
Every so often, try something new. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to do it again; what’s important is that you learned something about yourself.
Not sure where to start? Try one of the following:
- Go ziplining
- Learn a foreign language
- Dye your hair
- Travel to another country
- Fix an unfamiliar car or home problem yourself
- Invert your schedule
Experimentation helps you build skills and deepen your sense of self. Both of those things are critical if you want to reach your goals.
6. Put Your Health First
What better way to focus on yourself than to prioritize your health? When you feel better, you’ll get more done than you would working yourself into the ground.
You can get a long way by taking a “mother’s advice” approach to your health. That means:
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
- Exercise for 30 minutes at least three times per week.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Spend less time on social media.
- Meditate for 10 minutes per day.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Take breaks often.
- Ask for help when you need it.
If you struggle with maintaining healthy habits like consistent exercise, then try to make it more fun. For example, I’ve started taking electric bikes that have pedal assist and an accelerator out with friends.
7. Start a Side Project
Side gigs allow you to call the shots. It’s a lot easier to focus on yourself and achieve your goals when you’re in it for yourself.
Side projects teach you to love work again. The key is to choose projects that are aligned with your life goals. For instance:
- If you want to become an acclaimed artist: Moonlight as a graphic designer.
- If you want to become a professional driver: Be an Uber driver in a big city.
- If you want to become a veterinarian: Volunteer for the Humane Society.
- If you want to become a famous musician: Join a local band.
Although it’s nice to earn some extra income via a side gig, that shouldn’t be your goal. If it is, look for a different job. The point of side projects is self-exploration.
With that said, side gigs can help you further your main gig. Engaging in one shows potential employers that you’re willing to go the extra mile. Unlike many nine-to-fives, they let you build a portfolio of work that reflects your true interests.
8. Work Backward
When you’re old and gray, what kind of life will you wish you’d lived? Taking an end-of-the-road perspective can help you see blind spots in your plans.
For example, it may be a dream of yours to live in a dozen different countries. If you achieve that, however, will it bother you to feel like you never really put down roots anywhere? If you also want to be a parent, will you be able to do both while giving your kids a stable upbringing?
Working backward is how you play devil’s advocate with yourself. Make sure your life goals don’t require you to make an unacceptable trade-off along the way.
The Bottom Line
What legacy would you like to leave? Are you willing to put in the work and accept the consequences? Make a change today, and you’ll have taken the first and most important step to achieving your life goals.