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Holiday Homework

July 10, 2016

This last week I know some students were very overjoyed because they were going to have an extended weekend (at least for those who haven’t closed school yet). They are probably going to go back to school on Monday after closing school for a week. Now if their school is like mine was, then they must have gone home with “holiday homework” from their teachers to keep them busy during the short break. Woe unto those who will not have done their homework (that is if their teachers are as strict as mine were). Going back to school without completed homework was akin to a cardinal sin punishable by death. In this case death would be to the nerves on your behind or on your hand, depending on where the teacher felt like beating you on that day.

I don’t know why we used to wait until the last minute to do our homework, and so on the last day we would almost spend a whole 24 hours (day and night) to complete all the work we had been given, just to make sure we escaped the definite punishment that was bound to come our way if found out that we hadn’t done our homework. Imagine how easy it would have been if all we had done was substantial bits of our homework for each day of the holiday, until we finished it. But no; we just had to wait until the last day then we would get busy trying to finish in one-day, work that was supposed to have been done within one week! I don’t know whether this was lack of wisdom, or whether is was laziness, or it was lack of proper planning, or just plain procrastination. Whatever it was though, it did cost us a lot on the last day of the holiday.

Now that I think back to those days, I remember that as a result of doing all that work on the last day, we always found ourselves in a hurry and in most cases we didn’t have time to go through the work we had done to ensure there were no mistakes. As a result, we always found ourselves having made mistakes that could have been easily avoided had we done the homework when we had enough time. Secondly, the work submitted was never the best because it was always done in a hurry. Needless to say, the teachers were always disappointed because they knew we could have done better than we had. In short, I can say we lacked commitment and right focus in what we were doing. Our focus was on the “holiday enjoyment” and not on education.

Commitment and focus are two key ingredients that work together to ensure that one achieves their dreams.

Commitment is the state of being bound, emotionally, intellectually, or both, to a particular person or course of action. Commitment starts with a choice (ideally thoughtfully made and aligned with virtuous purpose) and is sustained by focus, dedication and perseverance. Commitment is active – it is expressed and realized in our thoughts and actions. It is a giving of ourselves, sometimes at high personal cost or risk, to a person or purpose that we find worthy of that gift. Like other forms of giving, commitment can produce some of life's greatest satisfactions.

On the other hand, Focus is the thinking skill that allows people to begin a task without procrastination and then maintain their attention and effort until the task is complete. Focus helps people pay attention in the midst of distractions and setbacks and to sustain the effort and energy needed to reach a goal.

The example I have given above of the school homework is a good example of lack of commitment and focus. Unfortunately a lot of people go through life without commitment and focus. If you recall, last week I went through one of the reasons why most people break their New Year resolutions before the first month of the year is even halfway. I said that lack of S.M.A.R.T. resolutions (also known as goals for the year) is one of the major reasons. I also said that S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for five very important characteristics that every resolution or goal should have, i.e. it should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reachable and Timebound. I also remember I had asked you to revisit your resolutions and ensure they have met the SMART requirements.  For those who missed the article, you can find it on my blog.

The only way commitment and focus can work is if there are SMART goals to work with.  Once you have those SMART goals in place, you have to give yourself to ensuring your goals are met; that is commitment. Similarly, you have to make sure that you are not distracted by the noise that is surrounding you that might cause you to lose sight of your dream; that is focus. You have to have deadly commitment and laser-sharp focus in order to ensure you achieve your goals.

Why is it important to be committed and focused on your goals? It is important because there are times when you will pass through tough times, times when you will want to give up but when you are committed, you will do whatever you have to do even if it means you’ll crawl while doing it. I don’t know who said this but there’s a very valid quote that clearly illustrates what I just said. It says, There’s a difference between INTEREST and COMMITMENT. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it is convenient. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses or reasons for not doing it; only results”.

How true this quote is. The only way you will ever achieve your goals is by staying the course and being committed and focused on it no matter what happens along the way.  When you are committed and focused, the total sum of all your actions eventually pays off in the end. It doesn’t matter how small your actions look but if you are consistent and committed to doing them in a regular and timely manner, eventually you will get the desired results.

I remember a short story I once read about a man who was breaking a wall using a harmer. Every day he would wake up and go hit the wall with the harmer on one specific area without giving up. People were just looking at him and wondering whether he was mentally unstable. Days went by and after many days, finally he was able to break that specific area of the wall and a hole emerged. But that is not all that happened. As he was busy hitting the wall, his arms became stronger and stronger and by the time he finally got the hole through the wall, he had developed a very nice physique.

Question is, did the hole happen because of that last blow that sent the bricks flying? No. The hole happened because of a series of consistent blows focused around that one area by a person who was committed to hitting the area no matter how moody he had woken up.  When you focus on your dream and then you are committed to achieving it, no obstacle will stand in your way because you will not allow yourself to lose focus. Like Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are the things you see when you shift your eyes from your goals”. You also become strong and confident as your overcome obstacles, just like the man became strong as he was hitting the wall.

You want to achieve your goals? Then keep your eyes focused on them.  You want to achieve your goals quickly? Then be committed to do those single actions you need to do daily and eventually you will “break a hole in your wall”.

Now you know what causes 80% of those who do not achieve their resolutions not to achieve them; lack of commitment and focus. You also know the worst kept secret about what makes the 8% achieve their resolutions; a deep commitment to their dream as well as a laser-sharp focus on their dreams. So which group do you belong to, the 80% or the 8%? Only you can answer that one.

As you make a decision to commit yourself afresh to pursuing your resolutions as agreed last week, here’s something to encourage you, “If you have a strong commitment to your goals and dreams, if you wake up everyday with a passion to do your job, everything is possible.”

Is it possible for someone to move from one category to another, e.g. from the 80% category to the 8% category, and vice versa? This is the question we shall be answering next week.

Like Vince Lombardi said, “Most people fail, not because of lack of a desire, but because of lack of commitment”. Stay committed and focused on your SMART resolutions and you will not disappoint you.

 

PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 10th July, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".

 

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