The One Thing

How frequently are you on information overload? Between family, kids, work, the phone, e-mail, social media, television and other input, most individuals receive more information than their brain is able to process. Who can focus in the midst of a tornado? Often plagued with distractions from every direction, it can be a struggle to narrow down the field and focus on one thing at a time. Between balancing work and family, one thing has become evident in recent years; humans are still human and cannot possibly focus on and excel in every one of life’s demands all at once. And, attempting to do so often results in lower quality work, less quality time for relationships and high levels of stress. The combination of these elements is a recipe for disaster and very frequently represents a huge source of frustration and poor health in many individuals. Finding a way to balance the extensive daily input is essential to obtaining total wellness.

Gary Keller, board chairman and co-founder of Keller Williams Realty Inc., took notice of these demands and co-wrote the book The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, along with Jay Papasan. Together, they created a book that helps individuals learn how to gain exemplary results in all areas of life by being able to eliminate distractions and focusing on the one challenge preventing goal achievement. By ignoring everything that could be done and instead focusing on what should be done you can greatly narrow your focus. A small approach means narrowing your focus down as much as possibly so that, when you get down to it, you’re working on just one thing.

Weeding out all of the distractions and identifying a narrow focus is the first step in reaching goals. The American Psychological Association has found multiple research studies to support the same concept; focusing on multiple tasks at once is remarkably inefficient. The human brain simply isn’t designed to work in such a way.

One of the key concepts from Keller’s book surrounds the concept of dominos. Everyone has played with dominos as a child, setting them up and then knocking the first one in the sequence to watch all the rest topple over. Well, the same concept can be applied to success. When one positive “domino” start’s rolling, the others will begin to topple over. Working towards success is all about getting that first domino rolling. And that first smaller domino has the capability to knock over much larger dominos. Success starts small and builds. It is a sequential process.

Equality and the 80/20 Rule

Keller identifies equality as a lie. Not everything is equally important. Success doesn’t come to the person who marks off the most items on their to-do list. Keller actually suggests that those who achieve, do so working from a success list, not a to-do list. The success list is prioritized by importance and is worked purposely, one item at a time.

The 80/20 Principle coined by Vilfredo Pareto over a century ago dictates that the lesser percentage of effort (20%) leads to the majority of results (80%). In summary, the majority of your goals are achieved by the minority of your effort. Remarkably, results of often created by fewer actions than anticipated.

This concept can also be applied to an individual’s intelligence. An individual’s IQ represents just 20% of their successes, while their EQ represents 80% of successes. The Intelligence Quotient, also known as the IQ, has historically been utilized as a key tool in measuring academic intelligence. While the IQ can be useful in some instances, it is hardly a predictor of an individual’s success in life. Contrarily, most life successes can be seen as a result of emotional intelligence, or EQ. Emotional intelligence represents an individual’s ability to understand his/her emotions as well as the feelings and emotions of others. Managing emotions positively can help to alleviate stress, improve relationships, and can positively impact behaviors and decision making.

There are several key components of EQ that are the prime indicators of an individual’s success. The five components of EQ are as follows: 1. Knowing your emotions 2. Managing your emotions 3. Recognizing emotions in others 4. Managing relationships 5. Motivating ourselves to achieve goals.

Knowing your personal emotions is incredibly valuable in preparing for success. Self-awareness provides you with the opportunity to recognize when you’re not feeling emotionally balanced. Managing your emotions is another key element. How do you deal with sadness, grief or happiness? Are you able to employ coping mechanisms to manage these feelings? Managing emotions and using them effectively is a predictor of success and total wellness.

How about dealing with the emotions of other people? Are you someone who avoids dealing with another person’s emotions? There are a lot of people who feel uncomfortable when encountered with feelings from other people. It’s important to recognize, however, that being empathetic to the feelings of others greatly impacts the ability to communicate and interact with them effectively.

Recognizing and managing your own feelings and being sensitive to the feelings of other people sets you up for success in relationships. Self-awareness and empathy towards to feelings of others are both essential elements within a healthy relationship.

Emotional intelligence supports the ability to attain goals. You can use your self-awareness and understanding of your feelings to implement positive life changes and to fuel personal growth.

Too Much is Too Much

“Biting off more than you can chew” is an age-old phrase that describes when an individual takes on more than they can handle. Everyone has been in this position at least a time or two. Whether it’s taking on one too many projects at work or trying to be involved in every one of your child’s school committees; it’s easy to stretch yourself too thin. Not only is it easy, it’s really detrimental to your mental health. An extremely important element to achieving mental wellness, focus and success is recognizing when too much is too much. No person is superhuman. Everyone has limitations. Taking on more than can be reasonably handled leads to burn out, stress, fatigue and ultimately failure.

Multi-tasking is coined as an activity where an individual does multiple tasks at once. It used to be that multi-tasking was believed to be efficient and effective. However, this isn’t so. While people may be able to walk and talk, their ability to focus attentively on more than two things at one time is very limited. The human attention actually bounces from one thing to the other. Rather than give one task your entire attention, you’re already thinking about bouncing back to the next task. This is wildly inefficient. On the most important tasks, it only makes sense to focus whole-heartedly. To be most efficient and most effective, it’s essential to focus on one task at a time.

Paying attention to what’s on your plate is essential to leading a well-balanced life and one of the keys to wellness. Trying to do too much is stressful and results in the inability to give any one task your 100%. Walking and talking should be the only multi-tasking you do on a regular basis. When it comes to the important tasks; focus on one thing at a time. Don’t Facebook while on a business call or answer e-mails while spending time with your family. Provide each aspect of your life with the time and attention it deserves. Doing this will make you more focused, more attentive and ultimately more effective.

Finding Focus, Living with Purpose

The ultimate goal of Keller’s book is to help individuals narrow down their focus to become more effective, and efficient individuals. Sometimes, however, identifying the “One Thing” can be pretty challenging. Keller devised the concept of the focusing question. “What is the ONE thing I can do to ______?” Filling in the blank here can help you gain focus in nearly every area of your life; spiritual, physical, relationally, professionally and even financially. Asking this question changes your mind set to focus on one thing to implement or change in order to make progress in that area. Rather than attempting to change everything, you just start with one. One is manageable and achievable. Once one domino tips over, the others can start to follow.

Once focus is found, living with purpose is the next step. Purpose is the foundation of personal strength. It fuels perseverance and produces extraordinary results. By identifying a purpose, you gain an understanding of why you’re working towards something. You gain motivation and inspiration. Your purpose is what drives you, excites you and keeps you going in a forward direction. As time progresses, purpose can change. That’s ok as long as you find focus and live your life purposefully.

Christopher Burton, MD
Christopher Burton, MD

Christopher Burton, MD is a physician, speaker, coach and author, practicing in Pensacola, FL. He specializes in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, which focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions - particularly those of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems - that may produce temporary or permanent impairment of function. Dr. Burton also provides one-on-one Health & Wellness Coaching for select clients who want to improve their life significantly. In addition to his practice and coaching, he actively lectures on health, nutrition and exercise for healthcare groups, colleges, and businesses, and travels internationally teaching on various topics including the treatment and rehabilitation of athletes.