Focus on your passion, not your emotions, if you want to succeed

‘Clear thinking is one of the most important skills we have at our disposal to be successful’

Valerie Pierce: “Passionate people focus on getting their projects done. When we are emotional we tend to focus on our ability to do the project – focusing on our ego, and not on the project itself”

Valerie Pierce: “Passionate people focus on getting their projects done. When we are emotional we tend to focus on our ability to do the project – focusing on our ego, and not on the project itself”


I was four and a half years old when I learned to focus in the dark without being afraid – focus fights your fears.

I was six, almost seven years old, when I learned how exciting it felt to focus on challenging myself to succeed – focus is fun.

I was eight years old when my mother, who showed me these lessons, died – and it was at eight years of age that I realised, with the wonderful support of a strong and loving father, I could carry these lessons with me for the rest of my life – focus is forever.

My life’s focus and work has been in creating skills and techniques that develop personal qualities for success, through the art of clear thinking. Because as you can see from the above examples, good thinking can overcome your fears, it is fun, it is forever, and it is there for everyone – old and young. Most importantly it can be found all around us in the simple wisdom of our everyday life and experience.

I believe clear thinking is one of the most important skills we have at our disposal to be successful – for without it we tend to get irritated or annoyed with ourselves. For example, have you ever had that horrible experience of knowing after the event, what you should have said during the event when you tried to achieve a goal or to get what you wanted? This is called “staircase wit” – the great ability we all have to know more about what we should have said and done, after our business meetings or discussions, when it is far too late. That is because our ability to think clearly, in the moment, when we most needed to, eluded us. There are reasons why this happens. There are reasons why we cannot keep our focus when it is most important and this is the reason why I have written my new book, Focus: The Art of Clear Thinking.

With a background in philosophy, both in Trinity College and at Bristol University, I studied critical thinking in all its aspects and in particular, how to ensure that we control our thinking, and not vice versa. Now, with more than 20 years’ experience of developing “clear and critical thinking” programmes for organisations throughout Ireland, Britain, Europe and the US, my wish is to bring these successful thinking tools to a wider, popular audience.

In my experience of working with business organisations, with voluntary and charity groups or with individuals working on their personal development, I am continually asked “how can we stay focused on our goals?” People tell me they are hampered by others hijacking them at meetings or, worse, their own internal thoughts are so negative, that they lose track all by themselves.

We all know we need to focus in order to achieve something special. We know it is the magic ingredient that will determine our success or failure. But the question is what is it and how do we find it? How do we get it and, most importantly, how do we maintain it? Because the sad truth is that we can lose our focus, just when we need it most.

To be focused we need to have passion, productivity and perseverance. You will find how to achieve these in my book but I would like to share one clear thinking tip with you here. It is very simple – to reach your goals, you need to understand the difference between being passionate and/or being emotional about what you want.

Knowing this difference allows you to concentrate on where you are strong, not where you are wrong.

As you use your passions to control your emotions, his is how it goes.

Clear focus is the ability to separate passion from emotion and it is crucial to achieving your goals. Passionate people focus on getting their projects done. When we are emotional we tend to focus on our ability to do the project – focusing on our ego, and not on the project itself. If you are emotional you focus too much on your ability to do the project and can become worried or doubtful about your ability to succeed.

When working on your projects, if you find your thinking is becoming confused or cluttered with irrelevant issues, ask yourself are you “passionate” or “emotional” about what you want to achieve. Ask yourself, “Is my focus on the goal I am trying to reach?” or “Am I thinking too much about myself and how difficult it is to achieve what I want?”

If you find you are concentrating too much on yourself in any situation, remember to refocus on the goal you are trying to achieve and how you are going to get there. Don’t think “will I be able to get there?” That is a given. Use all of your clear and creative thinking to find out “how do I get there” and you will secure your inner strength to succeed.

I will finish this short article with an anecdote you will find in my book. It shows great focus and determination to achieve a much needed result.

A man observed a woman in the supermarket with a three-year-old girl in her trolley basket. As they passed the confectionery aisle, the little girl asked for biscuits and her mother told her no. The little girl immediately began to whine and fuss and the mother said quietly, “Now Kate, we just have half of the aisles left to go through; don’t be upset. It won’t be long.”

Soon they came to the chocolates section and the little girl began to shout for chocolate bars, and when told she couldn’t have any, began to cry. The mother said, “There, there, Kate, don’t cry – only two more aisles to go and then we’ll be finished our shopping.”

When they got to the checkout till, the little girl immediately began to clamour for chewing gum and burst into a terrible tantrum upon discovering there’d be no gum purchased. The mother patiently said, “Kate, we’ll be through this checkout till in five minutes and then you can go home and have a nice nap.”

The man followed them to the car park outside and stopped the woman to compliment her. “I couldn’t help noticing how patient you were with little Kate,” he began. Whereupon the mother said, “I’m Kate … my little girl’s name is Millie.”

I hope you enjoyed Kate’s story, as a dose of humour is often the best medicine when trying to remain focused.

Focus: The Art of Clear Thinking is published by Mercier Press. Valerie Pierce is an executive coach, founder and director of Clear & Critical Thinking training modules and author of Quick Thinking on Your Feet. Described by The Irish Times as a modern philosopher in the marketplace. Pierce lectures at Ashridge Business School in England and has delivered courses and workshops on critical & creative thinking skills in Ireland, the UK and the US.

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