How To Change Focus

Changing Focus

How do you change your focus? … Change the question. It’s that simple.

Changing your focus is a skill you can use to improve your results in any situation.  Lately, I’ve found myself helping more people change their focus. 

When you’re up against a wall or life’s got you down or your facing the unexpected, you need a way to change your focus.  Asking yourself the right questions is the solution.  It works because thinking is just asking and answering questions.  If you ask yourself better questions, you get better answers.  If you want to change your focus, change the questions you ask yourself.

Why Change Focus

By changing the questions, you change your focus, which improves your results.   If you just tell yourself to focus on something else, that doesn’t work.  In fact, the more you tell yourself not to focus on something, the more you end up focusing on the wrong things.  Instead, you can put your brain into a fully resourceful state, simply by asking the right questions.  Your brain is great at solving problems, but you need to ask the right way.  You’ll also find that as you improve the questions you ask yourself, you’ll improve your energy.

How To Change Focus

Here’s some quick points to guide you:

  • Ask questions over making statements.   Don’t tell yourself what to focus on.  Ask.  For example, instead of, "don’t focus on the layoffs," ask, "what’s the next best thing I can do?"  See Don’t Tell … Ask.
  • Ask how questions over why questions.   Don’t ask "why questions."  For example, don’t ask  yourself "why am I always late?" … ask yourself, "how can I be on time from now on?"    See Choose How Questions Over Why Questions.
  • Focus on What You Want.   When you ski, the lesson is don’t look at the trees.  When you kayak, the lesson is don’t look at the rocks.  When you walk the tight rope, the lesson is don’t look down … look to where you wan to go.  It’s the same idea here.  See Solution Focused Questions.
  • Focus on the future.   The past is about blame or justification.  The present is about values.  The future is about opportunity.  For example, ask yourself, "how can I make the most of this situation?" or "what’s my next best move?"  See Shift Tense to Resolve Conflict and Step Into Your Future.
  • If it’s not working, change the questions.   Little tweaks to your questions produce amazing results.  For example, what do you want to do is an entirely different question than what do you want to accomplish.  One can get you stuck, the other can get you out.  See The Change Frame.
  • Use questions to change your emotions.  Which feels better … asking you about your worst part of your day? … or asking you about the favorite part of your day?  See Your Thoughts Create Your Feelings.

Example Questions to Change Focus

Here is a starter set of questions to help you change your focus and make the most of what you’ve got:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • What’s my next best move?
  • How can I make the most of this situation?
  • How can I solve this? If I knew how to solve this, what might I do?
  • Who can I learn from?
  • Who can I team up with?
  • What’s unique that I can bring to the table?
  • What’s the ideal solution?  What’s the minimum solution?
  • What would good look like?
  • What can I learn from this?

As you can see, simply adding a few new questions changes your game.

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Photo by margolove.


  1. “Focus on the future” is my favorite here. What happened – is in the past, you cannot return it, you cannot control it. The only thing that is under my control is my future. That is why i like it 😉

  2. “The present is about values.” That is so true. I value this blogging relationship.

    But I think about the near future and the house chores that need doing.

    So I must ask myself more questions. Like “At what time will you be finished blogging, Jannie?” I think at 2:00, yes 2:00 will be very do-able. I got caught up with a lot of my blogging buddies today and tomorrow is another day of blogging opportunity waiting to unfold. And remember, Jannie, blogging is a fluid activity that one is never actually ‘caught up’ on.”

    Piece of cake! In this particular instance, I see how that can trigger more useful outcomes than chiding the self.

  3. […] Sources of Insight has a great post on asking questions that change your focus. Excellent for figuring out the right question to ask of a process. […]

  4. Hi J.D.
    My favorit point you suggested to help focus is Focus on What You Want. I think this is important, as it helps you have a goal.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than no Action

  5. Who can I team up with? This is the question I have been thinking about all day…
    Who to help me get my singing voice back..
    Who to assist me with the business of blogging…I do not do that well
    Who to just be able to talk to…
    Who will be my friend and ask me the tough questions, listen and then let me reciprocate?

    I do so like your format and way of getting it on the blog
    Thank you

  6. Great post J.D.

    I love how you teach us to word our questions differently. By doing that we completely change our focus.

    The one question I often ask myself before attempting something new is, “what’s the worse that can happen?” Once I’ve answered that, I’m usually feeling good about moving forward.

  7. Asking “how” questions instead of “why” questions is a great technique that I don’t use often enough. I will use this technique for the rest of the week and see how I feel by Sunday. This is my pledge to the readers of this site.

    I know it will help, I just have to stick with it.

  8. JD, your first line was enough for me. “Change the question” is a great way of putting it. And you provided a great list of questions. Excellent advice!

  9. @ Alik

    Whenever I get stuck I ask myself, “what’s the way forward?” or “Next steps?” or “How to carry the good forward?”

    @ Positively Present

    Thank you. I’m a fan of sharing real examples. I think it helps the rubber meet the road.

    @ Jannie

    Sweet! — and that’s a great take on blogging … it is a fluid activity. You’re never caught up and you’re never really ahead … instead you’re making the most of moments … a moment at a time. It’s a living thing.

    @ Giovanna

    I used to get caught up on what I wanted less of, but now it’s just really about what I want more of.

    @ Patricia

    Thank you. Teaming up is the way to go. I think you’re asking the right questions, which tells me you’re on the path to the right results.

  10. @ Barbara

    Thank you. Even though I tend to be sloppy with my language (‘cuz that’s how I roll), there’s times when you need precision and accuracy. The results are amazing when you shift or rephrase how your self-talk and how you talk with others.

    What’s the worst that can happen is a perfect question. It really helps put things in perspective. Sometimes we work harder to avoid, than simply respond when it happens. The reality is you can’t control everything so it’s really the response that counts.

    @ Karl

    Sounds like the perfect pledge. Nothing beats a test-drive!

    @ Daphne

    Thank you. My former manager is an avid NLP practitioner so he continuously groomed me to ask better questions and when it’s not working, change the approach or change the question.

  11. Focusing on what I want is something I have consciously started to do only recently. I wish I’d been aware of that more when I was a teenager! 🙂

    Along with that, “what’s my next best move?” helps keep me from staying mired in what I might have done or be doing that’s not working. I find myself saying “onward” in my head and shifting the focus to what else I can do that will move me forward.

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