I recently read the book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, and Jay Papasan. In it, Keller shares the key principle to his success – focus on the ONE Thing. He noticed he had huge success when he narrowed his concentration to one thing.
What is the ONE Thing? He describes it as a focusing question to keep you mindful of your most leveraged priority (Pg. 112). The focusing question he asks is: What is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? (Pg. 112). This question can be applied to different areas of life: work life, spiritual life, health, relationships, etc. This question must be asked in light of what your true purpose is – and the answer you give should tie back to that purpose. He defines purpose as “what you want your life to be about more than any other [thing].” (Pg. 145)
I have begun to ask myself this question as I start my day. It helps me hone in on what is truly the most important thing I must be doing. Sometimes that may be the very thing easiest to postpone. Other times it is the phone call that must be made in which bad news must be delivered. It may even be the content development I’ve been putting off for weeks that needs to be created.
In order to actually focus on the ONE Thing you’ve determined and to be successful at it (in your work day or in your personal life), it takes practice in a few principles. Here are a few of them that resonated with me:
Willpower has its peaks and flows. Keller argues it is not that we lack willpower to get things done, instead we have limited willpower. We should use willpower when we have the greatest amount of energy to exert it. Do you have more energy to stay focused in the morning, early afternoon? Or later in the day?
Habits are formed in 66 days, not 21 days. According to research from the University College of London, it takes 66 days for a habit to become automatic or ingrained. Keller quotes F.M. Alexander, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” (Pg. 119)
Saying yes to working on your ONE Thing will mean saying no to multiple other things. The more things you do, the less successful you are at everything you try (Pg.193). Your talent and abilities are limited resources. Your time if finite. If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, then it will almost certainly become what you intended to say no to (Pg. 195).
“At any moment in time there can be only ONE Thing”, says Keller. Success comes down to this: being appropriate in the moments of your life. You become appropriate in your life by understanding what matters most. That is when everything will make the most sense. When you don’t know what matters most, anything makes sense. Try asking the focusing question each morning to gain the clarity you need for your day: What is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?