38 Inspiring Quotes On Focused Living (Commentary)

Young archer training with the  bow

1) “A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.” – Anonymous

Brilliant. I have nothing to add.

2)”When there’s so much left to do, why spend your time focusing on things you’ve already done, counting trophies or telling stories about the good old days?” – Dave Grohl

Nostalgia is a cruel feeling, isn’t it? It can make you feel so happy, and at the same time produce a burning desire to be in that situation again, which creates a sense of dissatisfaction with the present. But life is about trying to make your best memories obsolete. What if you could never look back because your present and near-future were so enthralling?

No matter what you’ve done, you can do something better today.

3) “Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

Plan A - Plan B - Plan CThis is one of those quotes that could change someone’s life. Have you ever caught yourself recycling a problem in your head, dwelling on how you didn’t want it to be there? Focusing on problems is like dumping your energy into a black hole or reading demovitational posters for the advice, not the humor.

When your focus is on solutions, you’ll put some of those pesky problems behind you and improve your life.

4) “What do I mean by concentration? I mean focusing totally on the business at hand and commanding your body to do exactly what you want it to do.” – Arnold Palmer

I love this – “commanding your body to do exactly what you want it to do.” It can be helpful to view your body as a separate entity from your mind. Why do you think that is? When you mentally separate your body from your mind, how you feel becomes less important. If your body is tired, you can still force “it” to do push-ups because you know what’s best.

5) “To be the best, you need to spend hours and hours and hours running, hitting the speed bag, lifting weights and focusing on training.” – Sugar Ray Leonard

Marathon, black silhouettes of runners on the sunset

Simplicity is beautiful. One of the boxing greats tells it frankly – to be the best (in any endeavor), you’ve got to put in many hours of training. Who out there is putting in more work than you to live their dream? I don’t really believe in being a workaholic except if your “work” is more like “play” to you. Then, I say dive in head first and invest some serious hours in your work. I imagine Sugar Ray Leonard loved to box (and win), which enabled him to outwork his opponents outside of fight night.

6) “Focusing isn’t just an optical activity, it is also a mental one.” – Bridget Riley

How important it is to focus with your whole being!

Have you ever been reading a book only to realize that you didn’t absorb the last three pages? It’s possible to see and be present in one area, with your mind being somewhere else. Tip: Lead with your mind, and your eyes will follow.

7) “You don’t get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results.” – Mike Hawkins

Vitamin and Fitness diet, green grassPicture the person on the scale, hoping to see another tenth of a pound lost. What are they doing wrong? I’ll tell you what – they should be doing squats on the scale! You don’t need a scale to lose weight, you need a lifestyle which causes weight loss.

Results are shiny. Actions that give results are…work. It’s like those women who cake their faces with ancient mud and cucumbers – they first get really ugly to later have beautiful skin. Get ugly and aggressive with the actions that provide results, and the results will find YOU.

8) “Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve.” – William Peterson

Like many of these gems, don’t let the simplicity of this quote cause you to bypass the message. This makes me think of Jason Lezak’s relay leg in the 2008 Olympics. As a competitive swimmer of 12 years, I can tell you what Lezak did against one of the fastest swimmers in the world here was impossible, ridiculous, fairy-tale-like. When you see Lezak’s finish in this race, you’ll see his burning desire to win, and I doubt he had an iota of energy left. He broke the world record for the fastest relay split in history.

I tear up every time I see this clip. Feats like this are inspiring for us to see because it symbolizes what we could possibly do if we gave life our all, if we left no trace of effort behind. To add to the drama, before this race, France said they were going to “smash” the United States in this event, and they were heavily favored to win. Well, then this happened…

Bonus fun exercise: play the video starting at 3:48, and imagine that the commentator is talking about you, as you’ve just accomplished the big dream you’ve been focusing on for so long. Inspiring.

9) “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” – Bruce Lee

A human’s Initial reaction to “increase vs decrease” typically finds increasing to be more favorable – more money, more power, more energy, etc. But when it comes to focused living, it is far better to have fewer things, so that you can increase your impact and concentration of brain power, energy, money, and results.

10) “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

martial arts master

I’d fear Bruce Lee, who had probably practiced a few different kicks 20,000 times each. This pairs nicely with his previous quote – hack away at the unessential and practice what matters 10,000 times!

11) “I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.” – Zig Ziglar

This is so important. Focused living maximizes your potential, while distracted living hides it. I’d be bold enough to say that your ability to focus matters more than your ability in general. If you really believe that you have something special to offer the world, and I hope you do, then you need to pay close attention to these words. It won’t matter if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target.

12) “My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.” – Bill Gates

Life is a numbers game. You can’t possibly become the greatest in 20 different areas of discipline. Like Bill Gates, you’ll get the best return and the most satisfaction from picking a limited number of areas to focus on.

13) “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell placed first on the US Patent Office’s list of USA’s greatest inventors in 1936. In this quote, he’s telling us how he did it – by maintaining a single focal point and concentrating his mental power upon it, like a magnifying glass concentrates the energy of the sun. If you want to have a serious impact in any area of your life, don’t dabble, be the most intentional person you know, and refuse the enticing shine of distractions.

14) “Concentration can be cultivated. One can learn to exercise willpower, discipline one’s body and train one’s mind.” – Anil Ambani

I’m living proof of this. I went to the gym six times this week. There was a time in my life when going to the gym one time felt like a great accomplishment. Anil says to discipline the body and train the mind, but what he didn’t share is that it all starts with the mind.

When your mind orders your body to take an action, and it does so repeatedly, the initial resistance you feel will fade. It starts with the decision to start small, and just like with weights, gradually increasing the demand you place on yourself, being careful not to overexert your willpower.

Training your mind to focus is the single best personal development investment in the world.

15) “Do it! People who succeed don’t just sit and think about what they want to do. They take meaningful, purposeful, directional action consistently and persistently. Every step they take puts them toward the outcome they’re looking for.” – Dr.Phil

lady

I don’t watch Dr. Phil’s show, but this is insightful. Dr. Phil says “every step they take,” indicating that the biggest goals and dreams are still made of doable steps. Second, he says successful people take action “consistently and persistently,” which are two secret weapons of life. Persistence carries you through difficult days, allowing you to stay consistent, which builds good habits as the foundation of your life. And of course, focus is the star of the quote. “They take meaningful, purposeful, directional action” is a descriptive way of saying “they focus.”

16) “People who consistently win have a clear and thoughtful strategy. They know what they need to do and when they need to do it. They write it down so they stay on course, and avoid any alternative that does not get them closer to the finish line.” – Dr. Phil

Write. It. Down. Better advice is rarely given than to write down your intentions. The second part of the quote especially strikes me – avoiding alternatives that don’t bring you closer.Alternative options can rival your focal point in appeal, which is how people are so often sidetracked. But as Dr. Phil says, the consistent winners avoid those alternatives and carry out their plans. This is true focus, and it is challenging to do. You’re not having to just turn away from meaningless distractions, but other, real opportunities.

17) “Instead of focusing on that circumstances that you cannot change – focus strongly and powerfully on the circumstances that you can.” – Joy Page

The first step to focusing on what you can change is defining it. What EXACTLY can you do to change your circumstances? Get specific, focus on it, and you’ll get results.

18)”Your current conditions do not reflect your ultimate potential, but rather the size and quality of goals upon which you currently are focusing.” – Tony Robbins

Tony’s quote is deeply insightful. Have you considered that your current place in life is directly the result of the size and quality of the goals you’ve been focused on? If you haven’t set specific goals, your goal could be something unstated like – “do a decent job at work, try to watch less TV, and get to the gym every once in a while.” Obviously, that isn’t going to get you very far because it’s vague and unchallenging. It’s the opposite of what you need to grow into a better person and life.

19) “The secret to success is focusing on what will work, and seeing it through.” – Max Markson

Life doesn’t always have to be complicated. What has worked for you before? Commit yourself to do it again, and you’ll probably get the same great results.

20) “Do whatever you do intensely.” – Robert Henri

This is a statement to live by, and it is the definition of focusing. The way to NOT do this is to own and use a smart phone in the way most people do. It interrupts you at any possible time, begging you to step out of your current activity, and instead of doing one thing well, your attention divides and your effectiveness is diluted.

21) “I finally learned to live in the present and focus only on what I want rather than what I don’t want.” – Darren L. Johnson

Focus on what you want, and you’ll get more ideas for it and take more action towards it. Focus on what you don’t want, and well…you’re truly wasting your time!

22) “I think fantasies are for the birds. Anything I wanted to do, I did. If there’s something I want, nothing stops me.” – Calvin Klein

“…nothing stops me.” I think of Tracy McGrady in a game vs. the Spurs. His team was down 10 points with just over a minute left. In 99% of basketball games, that means it’s over. But in this game, it became clear to everyone there that he was focused and not willing to be stopped. It’s inspiring, of course, but it also shows what people are capable of if they believe in themselves and focus. McGrady scored a jaw-dropping 13 points in 35 seconds!

23) “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle Onassis

If you’re in a tough place, improve your situation by gathering all of your remaining energy and enthusiasm and focusing it on the steps that will you bring light back into your life.

24) “It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.” – William Arthur Ward

Focus is useless or harmful if you direct it towards the wrong place. Focus on what brings happiness and your desired results, and you’ll have them.

25) “One of the keys to thinking big is total focus. I think of it almost as a controlled neurosis, which is a quality I’ve noticed in many highly successful entrepreneurs.” – Donald Trump

Neurosis generally means anxiety, insecurities, and other mild psychological issues. What this quote means to me is to transform your insecurities and problems into a form of energy that you can control and focus, and then do something great with it. I think it’s a brilliant way to explain a fairly complex process. Well done, Mr. Trump.

26) “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” – Denis Waitley

This is difficult to do. Along with some of the other quotes here, there is a theme of being answers-focused, and there’s good reason for that. Answers are what move our lives forward. Focusing is using your full strength, so to focus on answers is to give everything you’ve got to find and implement answers… and that brings results.

27) “School, I never truly got the knack of. I could never focus on things I didn’t want to learn.” – Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio is an incredible actor. I’ve been amazed at his skill of becoming another person on the screen. But he didn’t do well in school. So what? There are so many strange careers out there, that to focus on something that does not interest you is bonkers. Heck, why would you focus on anything that doesn’t interest you? It will be more difficult and less rewarding if you do. We tend to focus on areas of non-interest when we care too much about what others think of us.

28) “The more a person feels skilled, the more her moods will improve; while the more challenges that are present, the more her attention will become focused and concentrated.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

In the second part of this quote, Mihaly attaches challenge to focus together; this is a true connection. When I first played Mario on NES, I would stick out my tongue and move it around wildly. It looked ridiculous. And because I was doing it inadvertently, it was clear to everyone around me that I was so focused on the challenging game, that I stopped paying attention to what I was doing outside of it. And my favorite class in college was the one that challenged me the most. The caveat to this comes from the previous quote, and that is that the greatest challenge can’t bring you to focus if it is not interesting to you.

29) “For a person to become deeply involved in any activity it is essential that he knows precisely what tasks he must accomplish, moment by moment.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

The best part of this is the last three words: “moment by moment.” The very moment that you don’t have a clear objective, you have lost focus. Every time, no exceptions. You cannot focus on nothing because focusing is pointed, intentional behavior. Those who get bored are people who have failed to give themselves a focal point.

30) “To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail.” – Giorgio Armani

bladegrassThe difference is in the details.

In writing, for example, there are numerous small decisions of wording to make, and bringing an article from good to great requires these small adjustments to make your message clearer and more interesting. The small adjustments require a lot of time – sometimes more time than it took to write the article in the first place. Most writers won’t refine the smallest details, which is why the people who do tend to stand out.

In whatever you’re doing, focus on the details – the extra smile, the shadow detail of the vase in your painting, the precise flow and syntax of your writing, the additional push-up – to make it exceptional.

31) “To me, living in the present means being aware of your conscious choice to focus on the past, present or future – it is not necessarily having to focus on the present.” – Bo Bennett

The heart of this quote is in conscious decision-making, which is at the heart of focusing. Bo defines living in the present as making a conscious decision of what to focus on, even if it is in the past. It’s similar to how I define wasting time as not doing something with intention. If you’re going to sit on your butt and watch TV all day, that’s fine, but do it INTENTIONALLY. Don’t do it because it’s your default decision or you’re bored.

Read about how to become more decisive here.

32) “We each focus on what we’re going to buy, but that’s an incorrect focus. Focus instead on why you want to spend the money on this or that. What feeling in you does it satisfy?” – Suze Orman

Suze’s quote reiterates the importance of focusing your mind on the right questions. It also asks the best one word question in the world – why? Get into the habit of asking “why” and your life will align better with your values. Why focus? Why buy that? Why subscribe to Deep Existence?

33) “When exercising, be sure to focus your attention on what you are doing.” – Lee Haney

I did, Lee! Today at the gym, I focused on the movements and muscles involved in each exercise. I found that by focusing on what I was doing, my technique improved, my muscles were targeted more, and I’ll be quite sore tomorrow. Exercise is uncomfortable effort, so yeah, distracting yourself is appealing. But keep in mind that your results directly reflect the work you put in, no more and no less. You’re not going to trick your muscles into growing or toning by doing 10 kind-of reps! Focus on targeting the right muscle group for the exercise with good form, and you’ll minimize your risk of injury while maximizing results.

34) “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” – Zen Proverb

STOP MULTI-TASKING. Don’t look to society’s multi-tasking ways to model your life after. Studies show that our brains aren’t built to multi-task (and aren’t good at it), and that living distracted makes you sad. If you want to be happy and the best person you can be, focus on doing one thing at a time. Your smart phone is vibrating in fear right now, because it is the distraction tool of choice of the 21st century.

35) “When you do not know how to focus your thoughts effectively, they can become scattered, miscellaneous, and fixated on “stuff”-negative notions, toxic relationships, and situations from the past.” – Darren L. Johnson

An underrated benefit of the focus skill is the ability to block out undesired thoughts by zooming in on desired ones. You can imagine the positive impact that replacing negative thoughts with positive ones could have on your life. Tibetan monks are the happiest people on earth according to tests that placed their happiness at four standard deviations more than the mean (four standard deviations is waaaay out there!). They are so happy because they meditate (i.e. focus) on compassion and kindness for several hours every day. You don’t have to meditate several hours a day though – even spending a few minutes every day to reflect on what you’re thankful for can make a big difference.

36) “Whenever your mind is totally absorbed in whatever activities you are performing, your mind will remain calm and content.” – Chin-Ning Chu

Focusing has emotional benefits. If you’re looking to live a more relaxed life, learning how to focus will keep your mind in the present moment, and away from the worries of yesterday and tomorrow.

37) “You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” – Steve Case

When focus and positive thinking combine, watch out world. At any given moment, you can dwell on things you can’t or haven’t done, or you can imagine all of the things that you might be capable of pulling off. Depending on what you choose, you’ll be on the road to doing something great or being mediocre. Give yourself a chance to do something great by focusing on what you can do.

38) “Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.” – John Carmack

Focusing is picking one thing to do, but that’s not actually the most critical decision. To focus, you must decide not to do everything else, which includes a lot of things you want to do. It is the most important lesson for focusing, because when you can say no to very enticing options in favor of the BEST option, you become a master of life.

Focusing sacrifices a lot of very good options and ideas for the very best one, and that trade is always worth it. If you don’t know which option is the best, read this article. You don’t really need to find the very best activity to do well and be happy. It’s more important to pick one of a few good options and focus on it.

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About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Harrison Li

Awesome quotes here! Thanks for sharing and compiling, my favorite one is the 10,000 kicks. Practice really means everything! I want to share some from Dr.Seuss:

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” (my wallpaper)
Keep up the good work 🙂
Harrison

Stephen Guise

The 10,000 kicks quote is very good. Bruce Lee is who I look to for kicking advice, and his advice on life is equally excellent.

Youer than you. Haha. Nice Seuss. I like…

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.”

Thanks for sharing those Harrison!

IanFJ

I have to disagree with quote #3, since demotivational posters, especially the ones from Despair.com, are definitely funny. Sometimes it is good to have a laugh; yet, wallowing in self-pity is certainly no good for anyone.

Stephen Guise

Oh, sorry, I didn’t write that clearly. I think they’re very funny, which is why I said ones “that aren’t even funny.” I don’t know if non-funny ones exist though. 🙂

I can see that there are two ways to read it that are completely different! I’ll fix it. Thanks Ian.

EDIT: I changed it to….”Focusing on problems is like dumping your energy into a black hole or reading demovitational posters for the advice, not the humor.”

Lea

I absolutely love the first quote! It’s so true, and really doesn’t need any explanation.

~Lea

Stephen Guise

I had a very tough time coming up with anything to say below it. It’s just so direct and brilliant that there was nothing to add. Actually, I’m going to change what’s there to reflect that. Thanks Lea. 🙂

Aruna Venkataraman

Hi Stephen,

I couldn’t understand the first quote. “A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.”

How can a person without aim ever hit?

Regards,
Aruna

Stephen Guise

Hi Aruna,

You said, “how can a person without aim ever hit?” That’s exactly right and the point of the quote. it’s a play on words. It’s saying that if you aim at nothing, you will “hit” nothing. So nothing is the target, and you “hit it.” Another way of saying it is that if you don’t have any target and fire a shot, you won’t hit anything important.

I don’t know if that helped or made it more confusing, but the message is that it’s important to have a target. 🙂

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