April 15, 2019

Staying Focused When Your Project is Off-Balance

My daughter is a competitive gymnast. For years we've traveled from meet to meet watching her flip, leap, and run with a determination one usually sees in a more mature athlete. It's an adrenaline rush for the whole family but for very different reasons. Our kiddo exudes pure concentration as she's competing, followed by exhaling sheer joy at the end of each event. For us parents, however, each time we see her jump from one parallel bar to the other or run and dismount off the beam, our hearts skip a little as we pray for both success and for safe landings.

Recently an eye exam revealed my daughter needed glasses, so she dutifully picked some smart (but cool blue!) shades which she wore all the time except during gym practice and meets. We started to see the impact of this small vision change on her confidence; wobbling more on the balance beam and hesitating as she ran toward the vault. Our hyper-focused kid was losing a little focus.

When You're Losing Focus
We can all relate to those times in our lives where our focus has shifted, causing a little imbalance. A big project at work is suddenly clouded by outside distractions.....a diet goes awry because of that big party you went to (then the after-party, then the early morning breakfast tacos).....a home improvement starts strong but somehow becomes the never-ending labor, then you still see it looming after a year's time. For me, my beloved blog was put on the back-burner to catch up with work because I lost my own balance for a bit. "Focus" is something we tend to create with passion in order to accomplish a goal, yet for us to sustain this focus is the bigger challenge. When you look at successful individuals that have accomplished something great, do you ever wonder how they sustain focus? Jack Canfield, creator of the explosive best-selling series Chicken Soup for the Soul, explains:
"Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them." 
Think about this: when you dive head-first into a goal and you start to lose that initial focus, is it because you're distracted by less-prioritized events around you, or could it be you're remembering past failures that start to shake your confidence? Ask yourself: am I focused on the end-goal or dwelling on my beam-wobbling? Or in my case, am I over-committing to so many other things that my priorities....MY focuses....get lost in the process? 

The Power of the Picture
"Focus" goes beyond the eye-on-the-ball philosophy. It's not just about seeing your goal, but seeing it clearly. Visual focus and mental focus must be symbiotic. One simple, yet powerful, way to maintain focus is to create a visual cue to support your visual focus. This may look like drawing a picture or sketching out your project or goal, or simply writing out a few significant words that you can read on the refrigerator door or post-it note each day. It can also be helpful to draw the end-goal in "parts" or pieces and color off each one that you complete. Think of a pizza divided into 6 pieces, or a simple square with four parts to complete your project. When we think of bigger challenges in global terms we tend to lose focus, but when we divide a goal into a few parts we see the bigger picture (literally!) in a more concrete state.  

For me, I found making a "word cloud" around my goal helped re-energize me (and it was fun, too!) If you don't feel like you're the creative type, simply hop on to Google Images and type in what your completed goals may look like, print them out, and post them where you can be reminded of them. Use highly-viewed areas such as refrigerator doors, bathroom mirrors, a small frame on your desk that you see each day, or your visor in your car (can you imagine opening your visor mirror every day and seeing the word or picture of your end-goal there? Talk about focusing!) Be looking for my upcoming blog about "vision boards" and how these highly-visual boards can help you with short-term and long-term focus on your dreams. But for now, simply the power of a picture can help you re-gain your focus. Find that picture, find that focus, and you'll find your goal being achievable. 

For our daughter, she found focus with the magic of contact lenses. For me, creating my word cloud and hopping back onto my blog gave me a new lens to focus with. What about you? Ready to find your lens?

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