Outside our bedroom window is a hummingbird feeder. Each day one, two, and sometimes three birds at a time come and partake in the prepared meal of red sugar water. On this day, I was particularly fascinated by their swift-moving little bodies. One after another, the hummingbirds zipped up to the feeder and, with careful precision, aimed and fired their beaks into the tiny holes. And each and every time they reached their target.

How did they do it without smashing their little beaks into the side of the bird feeder, I wondered? It seemed that at least once, they’d miss the mark. But they never did. After watching them intently for about twenty minutes, I realized they got their beaks into the hole every time because they were focused. They are clear about their goal: to get food. They know how to make that happen: get their beaks into the holes of the hummingbird feeder. They know what it takes: being focused—and they are—every time.

Focus is the key to making something happen. It’s about being attentive to the goal, about keeping the end in mind. I learned from a wise person, many years ago, that where I place my attention is what I manifest.

Bring to mind your own experience. How many times have you attempted to complete a task or satisfy a need, and someone else’s wishes took priority? How many times have you made a commitment to yourself and not kept it? How many times have you just al- lowed stuff to get in the way of your doing what you said you’d do? Once in a while, perhaps, it’s not a problem; it’s part of human nature. But when regularly neglecting our needs and desires becomes a lifestyle choice, we pay dearly. And with each mental detour, the price gets higher as our self-esteem sinks.

So why do we get off track? Why do we allow ourselves to lose sight of what we say is important at the moment? There are lots of reasons, some more valid than others. Our own emergencies, other people’s emergencies, lack of money, lack of time, insufficient information, no child care, our spouse, our boss, our kids—are all examples of excuses we use for not tending to our own needs. But regardless of the validity of our excuses, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we see that most often it boils down to fear. We’re afraid of what people will think of us if we put our needs above theirs. Selfish is the word that comes to mind.

On the airplane, the flight attendant reminds us, “If you are traveling with a child or someone who needs your assistance, put your oxygen mask on first, and then assist them.” It’s a good reminder that we do a better job of taking care of others if we first take care of ourselves.

Staying focused and on track is about keeping agreements with ourselves. Eventually, to succeed at what we want to do in life, we must start doing the things that lead to our success, regardless of life’s distractions. We must be willing to take an action despite how we feel. We must stay focused on the goal.

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