When it comes to achieving your goals a crucial distinction you can make is between “awareness” and “focus”.

These terms are subjective, and each person will have their own unique definitions, so here are my own versions.

“Awareness” is a soft appreciation of something; a general acknowledgement of existence.

“Focus” is where we concentrate our attention intensely on an aspect of experience and bring detail more into the forefront of our vision.

“Awareness” generally has a wide and soft scope, whereas “focus” has a sharp and narrow one.

These two distinctions are especially important when it comes to the process of goal setting & achievement.

When we’re looking to get more of what we want from life we inevitably set goals; we make predictions about our future and then set about making them a reality with all the vigour we can muster.

Goal-setting processes are widely publicised and are a mainstay in many a self-help book. The processes are quite straightforward and are generally all based on a simple premise: in life you get more of what you focus on.

This is generally true, but is it the full story? Is it as simple as that?

I don’t think it is, and that’s where the difference between “awareness” and “focus” comes into play.


I’m sure you’ve heard the old self-help adage:

Always keep your eye on the prize”.

It’s a commonly dished out phrase to emphasise the importance of focusing intently, and consistently, on the “end state” of your goal; creating a picture in your mind of what it will be like once it’s been actualised.

It’s a nice sound bite, but there’s a big problem with it: it’s terrible advice.

Well, not terrible, per say, more incomplete with a big flaw.

When you “always keep your eye on the prize”, you can end up becoming so pre-occupied with the “end state” of the goal that you miss many of the vital pieces, in the here-and-now, that are required to make the goal a reality.

You create a kind of tunnel vision, fixated on a future projection, that can lead you to becoming blind to the many things in the present moment that can help you get to your destination ecologically and more effortlessly.

It’s a bit like if you were to walk across a busy road. You fix your gaze on the other side intensely and never budge your gaze.

You walk over – keeping your eyes on the prize – without paying attention to the cars and trucks flying by.

Sure, you might get lucky and manage to get safely over to the other side, but your chances are greatly reduced because you aren’t paying attention to the journey. The process.

It’s a similar scenario with goal achievement. Rarely do we achieve goals in a straight line, especially the bigger, more ambitious ones. It can be like a zigzag. Messy. Random. Organic.

As well as setting intentions and fixing goals in our mind, we have to become adept at responding to what the world is offering us from moment-to-moment.

It’s not all about paying attention to the destination. Focusing on the journey is essential.

So instead of “keeping your eye on the prize” constantly, set a goal, focus on the end-state for a short while and then let it drift into your “awareness”. Let it go into the background, allowing your attention to turn back to the here-and-now.

Then concentrate as much of your “focus” on the activities and actions that have to happen to make the goal a reality.

Allow the picture of the finishing line to sit in your “awareness” but engage your “focus” on what you need to do to get there.

This distinction can make all the difference. You trust the more pre-conscious parts of yourself to guide you towards your destination, while at the same time utilising your conscious focus to experience, and deal with, the demands of the journey.

Every now and again you might want to bring the destination back into sharper focus; to review and make adjustments. But once you’ve done that it’s important to let this image transform back into a soft idea. Allow it to drift back into your “awareness” by returning to a hazy, yet inspiring, vision.

That way we become guided towards our goals as well as pushing ourselves towards them.

“Awareness” AND “Focus”: it’s the best of both worlds.

All the best,

Steven Burns


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