High-stakes decision like a mid-career change deserve ample time and attention. A change like this involves a lot of introspection that can be both uncomfortable and mentally and emotionally exhausting.
Exhaustion alone invites distraction. A drained brain is a scattered brain. The more distracted we are the harder it is to stay on track. Losing focus is easy, getting it back is the hard part.
Understand that the transition period of a mid-career change will not last forever. Integrate the shift into your daily functions and make concentrating on it a priority.
Include dedicated time in your agenda for the work a major life change like this requires to make good decisions.
If you feel overwhelmed along the way, and you will, just focus on the next step. To do otherwise creates stress which is a large-scale focus killer.
There are two ways the brain chooses what to focus on.
Top-down is a voluntary focus. It’s goal oriented and subject to seeing the bigger picture. Top-down focus uses past experience to figure things out. But don’t let the past dictate the future too much or it will limit your imagination.
Bottom-up is a stimulus driven focus. Think bright, shiny objects, popping email alerts. We give our attention to anything and everything when we engage in this kind of base line focus.
Attention is energy. What gets our energy grows.
When you’re going through a career change you want to grow the best possible results.
Some practical things you can do to harness your attention include working with your brain’s natural schedule. When do you have the most energy for handling tough cognitive loads? Research shows for most people it is late morning, after 10 a.m.
Take breaks. Ninety minutes stints are about the most the brain can handle before its efforts become counterproductive.
Don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking is just plain bad for focus.
Meditate. Even one minute of meditation a day can help. Mindful meditation can improve your attention span incomparably.
Notice your environment. Our external environment is often reflective of our internal environment. Reduce the visual noise and your mind will be able to focus better.
In the end, the single most important thing you can do to stay focused, motivated, and on track during a mid-career change is to stay connected to your “why.”
Why do you really want to make this change? Why is it important to you? When you make a change like this in your life, your brain will feel uncomfortable and resist because it’s trying to protect you from perceived danger. By keeping your “why” close at hand, you’re more likely to remain motivated to make the transition.
Use your “why” to propel you to new and meaningful opportunities.