What you focus on expands, power of focus

About a decade ago, a colleague said something to me that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.

What you focus on expands.

Those five words have changed so much for me in the last decade.

I think maxim is true, whether you want it to be or not:

If you focus on the negative, guess what you end up seeing? More negative.

If you focus on the faults in people, guess what you see? Their faults.

Focus on someone’s strengths and guess what you see? Their strengths.

Second, I believe focus also has power to change your future. Let me give you a few practical examples.

Facebook Engagement. Last month, a few of us decided to focus on the Facebook page of Connexus Church, the church I lead. We had built it a few years ago but truthfully it had been in cruise control for too long. We made a few simple tweaks, began adjusting a few things every day, posting more frequently and referencing it more. We saw a 10 fold spike in traffic in two weeks. All we did was give it a little bit of focus every day. People are engaged, interacting more and the number of likes even grew by 20% in a month.

Weekend Services. After two years of focusing on the financial future of our church (which led to over doubling the amount of money we have available for our future), I decided to refocus our efforts on our weekend services. This one’s a little more ‘organic’ to measure because we never stopped running them and I think our team has always done a great job with them. But I believed if they got more of my focus and our focus they could become even better. I want them to generate that spark that makes them truly irresistible to unchurched and churched people alike. After a month of focus on that, we’ve seen attendance grow, engagement increase, seen a few ‘wow’ moments and have heard more buzz than we’ve heard in a while. This will be a major focus for me in 2013.

This blog. I blog in my spare time — it’s my hobby. And after blogging off and on for five years, in October last year I made a commitment to blogging 2-3 times a week indefinitely moving forward. To keep me motivated, I set a goal: to triple traffic in the next 12 months.  In my mind, that was a huge goal. I had no idea how to accomplish it. I started writing regularly and upgraded a few features on the blog.  I thought it would take a year to see that growth. To my surprise, blog traffic grew by over 400% between October and December alone. Guess what? I’ve picked a new goal for this year.

All I did in all three cases was choose a focus. When a person focuses on something, it tends to expand.

Before you think this is just a self-help or power of positive thinking spiel, it’s something close to God’s heart too.

Jesus told us to seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness. He reminded us to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength. Paul urged us to ‘think on such things’.

Some of you may need to start with a shift in your overall focus:

From you to Christ.

From dwelling on the negative to focusing on the positive.

From suspicion to trust.

From bitterness to forgiveness.

From fear to courage.

What you focus on expands, so you choose. It will make a difference.

Now, a final word for leaders.

And as a leader, you need to choose a focus and get moving. I believe if a leader focuses on 2-5 goals in a given year, he or she can make incredible progress. And what you focus on can change the future of your organization.

What would give the greatest benefit to your organization and life if you focused on it? Here’s a list to get you thinking:

Becoming a stronger communicator

Nurturing the health of your team

Developing leaders

Reaching people far from God (because you say it but you don’t do it)

A tactical goal like your web presence, social media strategy or engagement of guests in the foyer on Sundays

Better work-life balance

I have a few overarching goals for the year and keep my overall focus on them. I have some ministry goals, spiritual goals, family goals and personal goals and each will receive dedicated focus this year.

And every few months I’ll shift my focus to accomplish a tactical goal and get some stuck things moving, launch new initiatives or help something that’s just good become (hopefully) great.

You’re the leader. And what you focus on expands.

What are you learning about focus? How has focus (or the lack of it) impacted you?

7 Comments

  1. Opata Olende on January 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    What are you thoughts on the amount of things you can focus on at one time?

    I make a yearly plan and follow Jim Collins’ guideline of 3 priorities (because if you have more than 3, they’re not priorities).

    Thoughts?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 24, 2013 at 8:39 am

      Opata..thanks a great question. I know some people would really restrict focus, but I’m best when I have multiple things to tackle. Some years I’ve chosen one over all focus for the year, but then drilled down. Last year, I picked 18 goals and accomplished all but 3. This year, I have two overarching goals and some sub-goals I’ve picked for particular seasons. That you focus and what you focus on are key to making progress I think. Other thoughts?

  2. The Saturday Assortment | More Grace on January 19, 2013 at 10:52 am

    […] The Power of Focus Most People Miss: “About a decade ago, a colleague said something to me that I haven’t been able to get our of my head. ‘What you focus on expands.‘” […]

  3. Jim & Ellen Pullen on January 19, 2013 at 1:54 am

    You are a seriously gifted writer. Nearly every blog post would make a super book. My husband and I adore your material. After we finish Andy Stanley”s book, Deep and Wide and John Maxwell”s”, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth….you”re next.
    😀 WooHoo!

    Thanks bunches,
    Jim & Ellen Pullen
    Atlanta, Georgia

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      That’s so very kind of you Jim and Ellen. Thank you.

  4. Daniel Decker on January 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Love it.

  5. Brent Dumler on January 18, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Great insights on this post! I too have been learning about focus. I blogged recently about having One Word of focus for the entire year http://wp.me/p1Et3O-9v and how it can be applied to all areas of life and leadership. Without focus we lose sight of what we should be looking at!

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