Fortune magazine has started reporting about family in corporate life.

We all know corporate jobs are messed up. Fortune magazine is a monument to how messed up corporate life really is. In November, Fortune wrote that the company that Sheryl Sandberg, a working mom, runs, has employees “on lockdown” and their kids come to the office to say goodnight before bed.

In December Fortune reported that to get his almost-top spot at GE, John Krenicki relocated his family 11 times while the kids were growing up. Working at GE requires the same type of sacrifice from a family that the US expects from military officers.

In January, Fortune profiled Wei Hopeman, from Citigroup (pictured above). She has one of the coolest jobs in the world — investing Citi’s money in startups in Asia. Here’s how she describes her life: “I have an apartment in San Francisco, but I usually stay in hotels in Palo Alto because I’m generally in the office 12 hours a day; no matter where I am, I’m almost never home.”

The workplace is in a war with family life right now. It’s not a question of balance or accommodation. If you want a big, serious job, you have to give up your family.

I never really noticed this stuff when I did not have kids. But once I made the goal to have a fun, exciting career that also accommodated kids, I started paying attention to everything related to my goal.

That key shift toward attention and focus pops up everywhere. Our instinct is to try to ignore what’s going wrong so it doesn’t bring us down all the time. But really, the key to improving what we don’t like in our lives is to pay attention to it. By paying attention we can’t help but make it better.

Here are a few examples I’ve noticed:

1. Careers
People who hire me for career coaching are invariably high performers. Even the people who got themselves stuck, or the people who have no idea what to do next, all have a common past: strong performances wherever they have been.

I realize that this is because people who are strong performers at work get lots of advice for how to manage their career.

2. Love life
At a point in my life when I had tons of disposable income but no boyfriend, I hired a feng shui consultant. My apartment had almost nothing in it, but I was curious. What would a feng shui expert advise? What differences could feng shui make?

She made tons of suggestions. Like, put something purple in my money corner.  But I noticed that the suggestions I paid the most attention to were the bedroom suggestions, because that’s the part of my life I wanted to change. I threw out old pillows. I changed the lighting. I added some pink. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg for what I did.

I am not sure that I believe that the feng shui got me my husband. But I do think my mental shift to paying attention to things that create a life of romance gave me the ability to find a guy.

Feng shui, like career consulting, reflects a commitment to focusing on what matters most during that time of your life.

3. Finances
My friend is investigating whether she should cancel a credit card to get a better one or if it’s not worth it because it’ll ding her credit score.

The first thing I thought to myself when she said that was, “Oh god, I have to check my credit score.”

This is why: People who know their credit score do better at managing their money. Not because you will somehow be a high earner if you know your score. It’s because people who pay attention to their money are better at handling their money.

I know this first-hand because I’m actually terrible at managing my money. I get away with it because I’m great at earning money.

When I met the Farmer, one of the first conversations we had was about money.

He told me he made $15,000 a year.

I couldn’t believe it. “I make that from one speech,” I told him.

“But you have no money,” he told me.

It was true. I have lived with no savings for the last fifteen years. In my defense, nearly half of the US lives paycheck to paycheck, and you’d be surprised how high the incomes go in the paycheck-to-paycheck world. Although surely I’m at the high end of it.

I realized, from watching the Farmer in action, that people who have a grip on their money don’t necessarily earn a lot, but they focus on what they have. People who don’t have a grip on their money choose to focus away from their spending.

I know this because I am acutely focused on earning. I am always hatching plans for new revenue streams.

So my point is that you can learn about yourself by seeing what you focus on day to day. That’s what you’re going to do well in. And the stuff you hate thinking about? That’s the part that will never improve.

I once interviewed Tiziana Casciaro, professor at Harvard Business School. She does research on social skills in the workplace. Midway through the interview, I started to panic and I asked her how I could tell if I have terrible social skills.

She told me that it’s nearly impossible to judge one’s own social skills. But there’s one good way: Measure the amount you care about your social skills. If you care, and think about ways to make them better on a daily basis, you probably have decent social skills.

This is true for most things in life: It doesn’t matter so much exactly what action you choose in working toward improvement, it just matters that you’re trying, with genuine intention. The common problem is not wrong action so much as it is no focus.