Focusing Your Mind On The Difficult

focus your mind

Competitively, that which is easy gets you very little. If it is easy, anyone can do it, so it is of low value. Tying your shoes in a special way will get you no recognition from anyone except maybe a kindergartener. Doing a couple of simple math problems to review for a placement test won’t help you much. The point of tests and the free market is to separate those that go a bit further.

Average Difficulty Actions Lead To Adequate Gains

Doing items at a medium level of difficulty will get you somewhat valuable gains. Running 3 miles to train for a half-marathon will keep you on pace, and will take a good amount of your energy. This will be worth it to you, but it won’t amaze anyone else. While average types of actions don’t necessarily hurt you in any way, sticking at the median level leaves you unable to build up real momentum. Awards, support, and recognition don’t tend to arrive for those who are sticking to doing the average. It isn’t that others don’t want to acknowledge your work, but that someone else’s work shines brighter than yours, moving yours into the invisible category. On the other hand, it is good to keep some of your regular habits in this category.

Keep Your Actions In The Difficult Category

Doing things in a new way, or in a substantially better way, is what remains in the difficult category. Breaking through the competition means you have to outdo them in your thoughts, efforts, or attempts. Standing out as remarkable requires at least one extra step beyond where others are going. If you are delivering a PowerPoint presentation just like 15 other people, and have colored slides like everyone else, it might have taken you a little more effort, but others will not heavily notice you until you add in another layer of difficulty, like organizing your slides so they unfold in reverse, or something similar that is innovative. Anyone could be this remarkable, but it takes a bit more thought, and some fearlessness, to not quit during the process out of concern for looking out-of-place.

You do get back what you put out, but in the realm of competition, you have to put out more value than, or out-learn, your competitors to stand out in recognition or place. To get into this small set of successful people, you must have your focus on your actions. Your focus is not well spent on doing more of the regular, which will keep you where you are, as opposed to where your desired destination is.

Example #1: Writing For A Newspaper

If you are writing a column for a newspaper, average content will look okay, and fit on the page next to the other articles, which will make it just fine to skip over it. If your material and presentation is enough to suit description as “up to par”, but is not any more absorbing than that, it will just be read on some passes based on its presence, but it won’t get any eyes directed to it. If you want your creation to get people directed toward it, you have to put yourself in their shoes and see that they are looking for the big hit. They would rather have you go crazy with a concept, and make your point in an outlandish way, than have you cower back in fear, and write it in a way where the main concept is so watered down that it become generic and unfocused.

Example #2: Academic Classes

If you look back at classes you have taken in the past, some of the ones you will remember the most are the ones that were the hardest at that time. While you may have struggled heavily during them, you now look back at those classes as the ones that really built you up as a person. These classes would not have been as valuable for you had the teachers and/or people who set the curriculum planned it out that way. Their focus on packing the difficult into the standard class structure left a solid impression in your mind, and you can do the same for others by keeping a focus on the difficult tasks which are at your grasp.

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Hiking up the trail2

The photo shown above is of my friend and I hiking up a mountain trail, taken at about three  hours of the way up the mountain. It was more difficult than a regular trail run, but was certainly worth it.

What are you currently doing that you would classify as difficult? How do you focus your mind and actions on doing the difficult? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Photo by jin.thai

23 thoughts on “Focusing Your Mind On The Difficult”

  1. Thanks Armen. I agree that focusing your mind on the difficult can help you grow more as a person. If we always focus our mind on the easy, well will always try to look for the easiest way out and when something difficult comes along our path, we won’t be prepared for it.

    1. @Tristan Lee, Sure thing there. I agree with that about not being prepared for the hard if we have always been focusing on that which is not hard. Also, we end up scared of the hard when we avoid it for too long. Being scared causes us unnecessary weakness. It isn’t worth it going down that path.

  2. Being a quadruple minority, I value the importance of keeping actions in the difficult category. It makes victory much more worthwhile and being recognized for it. A couple of the things I’m working on is my blog. Due to the fact that I’m geared towards such a niche market, it makes things difficult as I’m faced with a lot of negative stereotypes which are not true. Another thing I’m working on accomplishing is losing 70lbs the old fashion way (diet and exercise). I find these tasks as difficult, and so does a lot of people. The goal is to remain focused and take small steps, putting one foot in front of the other until I reach my destination. Thanks!

    1. @Patrice, This is what I like to hear. Someone who talks the way you are talking also accomplishes at that level. Stereotypes that aren’t true provide us with a challenge, and the impetus to battle that challenge.

      On that note about losing weight, I am sure many diet and weight-loss companies would love people to think that correcting diet and exercise habits is the old-fashioned way to do things, so that those corrections are avoided, and “helpful items” are purchased. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Hey Armen, nice piece! I’m thinking: combining focusing your mind on the difficult with working on something you have natural skills for, this should create not just good, but extraordinary results. No that I think about it, some psychologists say this is the combination that generates the state of FLOW. And when you’re in flow, you… flow :)


    1. @Ideas With A Kick, Thanks for that. That’s a good point. I don’t know if I stressed enough about doing something that you have natural skills for when you do something difficult, but that makes more sense than taking on some huge undertaking in a field you have little interested in. It might be doable, but the amount of extra energy it would take is ridiculous. Good call about the flow.

  4. Hi Armen, Useful post. There is always growth when we stress the system. If we stay within the known, the status quo, things will only stay the same. We have to move out of our comfort zones if we want things to be different. Thanks for reminding me!

    1. @Gail @ A Flourishing Life, Thanks there. That’s true. Some of us stress the system more than others, and so we get more out of it. It does take a solid foundation and enough energy to do it though. I could tell some folks to go for the hard thing, but they would say no, as their focus is on something simple for the time being.

    1. @Positively Present, Thanks for that Dani. I agree with it being hard to focus on those items. I usually only focus on the difficult material when I set everything else aside, otherwise I don’t stick to it. Difficult material is like a constant test.

    1. @Karlil, This is true. Difficult items require us to say “no” to other people and priorities. I usually don’t want to say “no” to those people and things. I do well when I remember that mid or low-value items are negligible in comparison with high-value items.

  5. Hi, Armen –

    This is a well-written post!

    I agree that putting more effort into valuable pursuits is a great way to have a solid impact on the world around us. I find it useful to make sure I’m putting the most time and energy into the pursuits that are most important to me and let the less important stuff be “good enough”.

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

    1. @Marie, That’s a valid point about leaving material as “good enough” if it isn’t one of the important things. This is something great to add to the article. If you are doing something that isn’t one of the “hard” things in your set of items you are doing, leave it finished once it is “good enough”. Anything else is a waste of the time you have for the difficult things. There’s no need to grammar check a friendly or low-relevance e-mail when you’ve got a creative project you have to go back to.

  6. Hi Armen,
    I liked the picture you submitted of the mountainside on your post, so that I could have a visual.
    The struggle to achieve is always worth the results in the end.
    Patience can be a demise.
    We have to remind ourselves of the Endurance we need to complete a very difficult task – like that of an endurance runner. Runners have to focus and remind himself/herself of upcoming stumbling blocks, corners, and ,most importantly, the feeling of satisfaction they get from the accomplishment (warm and fuzzy butterflies).

    This struggle can be like that of your treacherous hike, around rocks, falling rocks and roots.
    I am wondering if you yelled out, when you reached the top.

    1. @Estelle Burton, Thanks about that. I sure wanted to show me doing something which is more difficult than the regular runs that I do. That hike used up basically all of the energy my friends and I had that day. I didn’t yell out at the top, because that day we made it about 92% of the way to the top and it was soon to get dark, so we rushed back down. I did swing from a tree near the top though.

      Patience sure is a demise. I have so many quotes that come to mind related to this like “Just do it”, “If not now, when”, “Action today is always better than action tomorrow”, and so on.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Hi Armen .. stretching yourself is so important – to grow, to learn new things, to develop new skills .. always go for the thing that frightens you as it will be easier next time. Saying “I can’t” doesn’t help anyone – brings the negative in, makes everyone’s life difficult and generally is irritating to others, and yourself. Just do – give it a go and ask if necessary ..

    Good points – thanks – Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

    1. @Hilary, I’m on the same page as you there. It’s sort of weird because before I do anything that frightens me, I hesitate from doing it, and then after I have done it, I’m always glad I did it as soon as I did, regardless of if it came out good or bad.

      I sure have learned to use the right language in most respects, like not saying “I can’t”, or not saying “if” instead of “when”. Those little things are big things.

      Good to hear from you.

  8. It is definitely worth the effort to rise above what comes easily. I like the saying that ‘if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keeping getting what you’ve always gotten.’ I, for one, would like to keep doing more and getting more!

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