On Focus and Belief

In 2021 Phil Mickelson became the oldest golfer to win a major tournament. Afterwards, sitting next to the PGA Championship trophy, when asked how he was able to pull off such an inspiring victory, the 50 year old said he always believed he could win another major, but the focus hadn’t been there.

That’s a pretty significant tell, for a professional athlete in a sport that requires intense focus and mental toughness, to admit that his focus wasn’t strong enough. That’s like Hulk Hogan saying he just wasn’t intense enough in the wrestling ring or Warren Buffet admitting he just didn’t understand the numbers as well as he would like.

Does Phil Mickelson have intense focus? Of course he does. Why then, has he clearly pointed to this answer over and over again when reporters have asked him about his next major victory and championship? Because focus requires an extremely long timeline. By definition, you can’t focus here, there and everywhere. You can’t hop around, switching from strategy to strategy at the drop of a hat. Focus doesn’t work that way. Phil knows this and he’s reminding himself to maintain his focus and embrace the discipline required in order to perform at the highest level.

If you want to achieve something big in your life or in your business, you must be focused on that one thing for at least 3-5 years. It’s how you become a professional. Maybe, if you never eat or slept you could have rushed through university and accumulated all the knowledge to pass your written exams in 1 or 2 years, but to be a great optometrist and be able to improve the life of a patient or client, you have to be focused and practice for a long time.

The minimum of 4 years it takes to become an optometrist are all about focus. It’s the addition and the subtraction, the accumulation of knowledge and the whittling away of imperfect skills and mindsets, that bring you closer to peak performance. Why then do so many optometrists and other professionals try something new in their practice and find it difficult to stay the course for an entire quarter or 6 months, let alone years?

Distraction is one reason. An abundance of options is another reason. You could easily waste the next six months just playing around with the latest features of your practice management software or getting all excited about the latest lens measurement device from your lens supplier. Both of which may be great by the way, but if you don’t have enough new clients or your average dispense value is too low or if your customer experience is below par and you haven’t made one of those three things your #1 goal to improve and measure do you really need more widgets or do you need more focus? Food for thought.

If you want to increase your average dispense value by £100 or £200 or 2X the revenue of your practice, set a goal, write it down, share it with your team, believe it will happen and then focus on it like it’s the most important thing in the world for the next 3-5 years. Phil Mickelson spent 7-8 years chasing his most recent major championship. These are athletes at the top of their game and they still need to maintain focus for years and years and years.

Do you and I really think we can focus on something for only 6-12 months and then toss it aside if we haven’t achieved the goal? I don’t think so. High performance demands intense focus for a long period of time, regardless of how long you’ve been doing this.