Focus on the Finish Line, Not Your Obstacles

Michael Phelps focus on the finish line
(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Where is your focus?

In this recent picture of Michael Phelps going for his 21st gold medal, rival Chad Le Clos switches his focus if only for a second and it was caught on camera. He looks on as Phelps is about to achieve exactly what he set out to do when he came out of retirement after the 2012 London games – win the 200m Butterfly at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

If you watched the race, I’m sure you’d agree it was nothing short of amazing.

Granted, we may not all be the next Michael Phelps, but there are some definite takeaways we can learn from successful people like him and others, who seem to always achieve their goals with such style and grace.

They are laser focused.

Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” Have you ever noticed? Where our focus lies determines how much attention we pay to life’s inevitable distractions. 

Focus has become a buzzword these days. In business, sports, and especially in my world of middle school education, having a focus – a purpose, – is key to success.

In school, when students lose their focus, it’s harder to get them back on task, the class noise level elevates, and engagement drops. Students who lose focus (adults, too!) are more likely to give up when faced with challenges. To help with this, we teach kids strategies to help them attend to detail, stay on task, and hopefully reach success.

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I lose my focus all the time! It can derail my progress big time. Just as kids need assistance with this, I use strategies to help me stay on top of my game, too. That way, I have more success holding my distractions at bay (it’s mostly effective, but hey, I’m a work in progress). :)

Whatever strategies you use when you know you need to get serious about your goals, following a few simple principles will help lead you to a gold medal finish of your own:

1. Avoid comparison

I’d be willing to bet Michael Phelps doesn’t spend his quiet time stressing out about media coverage of his opponents. Instead, he focuses on his training, his nutrition, and whatever else it will take to get him to his goal.

He puts in the work, and has no need to compare himself to anyone but the guy in the mirror.

When you are trying to reach a specific goal like losing 50 pounds, 20 pounds, or even the last 5, focus less on the “perfect” people populating your Instagram feed, and more on YOU and what you will do to reach your own finish line. Stick to the plan and avoid comparing yourself to others. You don’t really know what went into their journey anyway. You will get there, if you focus on yours.

Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else. ~Galatians 6:4 TLB

2. Focus on the vision

At school, our principal reminds us that our vision shapes our practice and that our practice shapes outcomes. Having a vision of success that is 100% clearly defined in your mind can help start a chain reaction of positive results. A vision tells you where you are headed and what a picture of success will look like once you get there.

If you’ve never written out a personal vision statement, especially in relation to a specific goal, try it. You might see it helps you stay on the path to finally seeing success. Some people create vision boards, other people keep a journal, or put up a note on their bathroom mirror. Whatever form it takes, a clear vision will keep you centered and moving forward with something to aim at.

Create your vision, and keep your eyes fixed on it until all obstacles become irrelevant.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. ~ Proverbs 4:25 NIT

3. Finish your race

It takes an elite athlete hours and hours of practice, and much self-discipline, to gain the knowledge and skills needed to excel in his or her sport. It also takes determination and perseverance to overcome the mental and physical obstacles they face throughout the journey.

For us, it is no different. In our work, our relationships, and in our spiritual walk we may face uphill battles and enemies in different forms. Adversity will happen. When it does we can either give in and give up, or we can press on. Continue to pursue and accomplish your vision by remaining in the game even when (especially when) hardship comes.

The only way to reach victory is to press on and finish the race.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:14 NIV

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ~2 Timothy 4:7 ESV

Diana NyadHave you stopped to ask yourself what you are focused on?

Do you compare yourself with others so much that you let it derail you from your own goals?

Do you have a vision for what your finish line looks like, and are you willing to press on and do the work to get there?

If you are struggling to reach your goals with fitness, or kicking bad eating habits, get more information on one of our monthly Fitness Challenges here. 

To your success and beyond!

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