Keep Your Focus

“I’m facing Niagara Falls-the wind and the mist and the dark and the peregrine falcons-and I’m going to stay focused on the other side.” -Nik Wallenda

I’m a big picture type of person. It’s not that I can’t handle the details; when I need to, I can hunker down with the best of them. The big picture is just easier for me to see, like stringing beads together to create something larger. Individual notes aren’t a song unless they’re played together, and I’m really good at hearing the music.

That is, I’m good as long as I can stay focused. Focus is easy to lose when we are distracted by either internal or external stimuli. In other words, when our brains are busy or there is much happening around us, focus is one of the first things to suffer. It’s an official symptom of major depression, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety. We are distracted at work, at home, when we’re driving. Our minds are elsewhere.

Mindfulness has gained much popularity in the west for this very reason- we all know we’re distracted. We’re not in the moment at all, and in fact, we do so many things automatically that we forget we did it. While driving, we think, “Wow, I don’t remember getting here already!” In some ways, this is a coping mechanism for our brains, or we wouldn’t get anything done at all, especially under stress. But sometimes we’re too unfocused and it derails us from what is healthy and productive. We get knocked off our square, as it were.

How do we keep it together? Remind yourself of what’s important. Remind yourself of what can be done today, and only for today. Or only for the morning, if you must. Divide and conquer your day, your tasks, in order to stay focused on your goal. Yes, other things may distract us and we attend to them if we must, but keep your eyes on the end zone. Especially for those unanswered questions: how long will I stay at this job? Will my relationship last? Will my kids be okay at their new school? Some things can’t be solved now, and we don’t need to allow those worries to consume us. Keep two lists- a weekly or daily list (whatever is easier) and a monthly list. Your decisions will stay current and relevant. Tackle what you can now, and try to discard the rest. Make a “worry box” if it helps you, where you write down your concerns and distractions and put them in the box. You’d be surprised at how often I do this and weeks later realize I’m not concerned at all about what I wrote down. All worrying does is distract from the present and keep your mind in the future. Don’t allow your past to haunt you, either. Pay attention to how you’re feeling- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the legendary psychiatrist and expert on grief, was famous for saying that any anger older than fifteen minutes was old anger and not about the present. Whether or not you agree with her, pay attention and ask yourself some questions. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, and focus on healing. Focus on your goals. Focus on now.

Tune in to right now. Tune in with how you feel, what you are experiencing, and keep your focus. Don’t allow the static to derail you. Don’t allow other people, situations, or your mood to take you off track. Keep your story real, fair, and objective, so you can stay kind to yourself. Stay true to what you know your goals to be. Do the things that help keep your focus, even when you don’t feel like it.

Be like a camera lens and snap a clear shot, regardless of the blurry objects in the background. Those blurry objects don’t matter in the big picture, and only you know what you want the big picture to look like. Make it happen. 

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