It almost goes without saying that the ability to focus is important – almost. Without being able to focus on a goal, you’ll most likely never reach it. Successful people often have laser-like focus on their goals and let nothing take their eyes off their prize. However, at least according to some people, it is possible to be too focused. How can that be?

According to an article by Paul B. Brown, author of the new book Entrepreneurship for the Rest of Us, the problem with carrying too much focus is that it can lead to a couple of interrelated problems:

  • Wearing blinders – When you over-focus on a single goal, it may blind you to the possibility of potentially better opportunities.
  • Narrow path – Assuming the path you’ve chosen is the best, may limit your ability to see another, better, road toward your goal.

In other words, your preconceived notion of what success will look like in any given situation can blind you to other options and possibilities for a successful outcome. A simple example might be the manufacturer who is so intent on bringing his own “cutting edge” product to market that he does not notice a competitor who has surpassed the technology in question. As soon as the competition hits the marketplace with their new product, our laser focused manufacturer is under water and sinking fast.

Broaden your focus and definition of success

For me though, there is another aspect to being over focused on success; and that is the dearth of effort that you allow to yourself in other, equally important areas of your life. In the example above, besides being bested by his competition, our manufacturer had little time for friends and family as he focused exclusively on bringing his product to market. Many of us in executive positions have had this experience, where the demands of career have had a negative effect on our personal lives.

In business, scarcity thinking and being high-jacked by fear causes us to over-focus and make sub-par decisions. Our focus may have gotten us to this point because we were driven, feared failure, are ambitious, or just have good concentration skills, but at some point our focus could be our undoing.

Positive Psychology guru Barbara Fredrickson has accumulated tons of great research that shows how positivity “broadens and builds” one’s perspective. Broadening means having the ability to see other options, to see ironies and paradox, and to be more creative in finding alternatives and solutions. As a leader, how can you create a positive environment in order to reap the benefits that come from a broader perspective?

As Brown concludes in his article, the solution to over-focusing is to broaden your thinking; to include other possibilities and to focus on the GOAL rather than the PLAN. If your goal is to be successful, you can hardly claim to have reached it if you and your family are miserable, even as your company takes over a larger market share.

What do you do to increase positivity and avoid tunnel vision in business and your personal life?