Finding our focus has never been easy. Many of us have always lacked direction and fallen short on “clarity.” We’d multitasked ourselves into a daily fugue state long before COVID and quarantines and Zoom upended our lives.
Time somehow seeped through an unseen hole, leaking away one errand, email, trip, chore, or event at a time.
Ironically, I wrote a blog post Quiet: Have We Forgotten to Be Still in a World That Never Stops? back in February.
Um, so yeah. Oops. #CarefulWhatYouWishFor
Yet, to be blunt? At the time I wrote that blog, our Normal meant living life strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl every…single…day. That is NOT healthy. We needed rest, quiet time and peace, yet we were threadbare and run ragged.
I apologize for not posting for a while. It’s been VERY odd, especially since I’ve posted religiously no matter what for almost fourteen years. Suffice to say, this year—which started with yet another death in the family—had me ground down and exhausted. I seriously needed a sabbatical to recharge.
Focus & The “New” Normal
So maybe we’ve had enough “quiet time.” We miss getting out, socializing, and long for the days when shopping for groceries didn’t require sanitizer, gloves, face masks, eye-balling six feet for social distancing, and a canteen of holy water.
Alas, there are a handful of phases or words guaranteed to make me twitchy. One is this idea of a “new normal.” First of all, every day is a “new normal.” The entire GOAL of human civilization is to change, ideally for the better.
If we aren’t changing, we’re dying.
That aside? Normal doesn’t exist, other than as a setting on the dryer. And when I hear others (and myself) bemoaning all the changes and trials and wanting to “get back to normal,” I cringe. NO. I don’t want things back the way they used to be, namely because I believe we can do better.
COVID and everything that’s gone with it sure has been a trial. Some have suffered terrible losses, hardships and/or setbacks. But I refuse to endure these tests and tribulations only to go BACK.
Because what was BACK THERE wasn’t all that great.
Nostalgia can be misleading. It’s like that ex we keep returning to because we keep forgetting WHY we dumped the @$$hat in the first place.
Nostalgia can lure us to focus on only what was good, and forget what was broken. Nostalgia cajoles us into dismissing why we were burned out, stressed out and ready to crack.
Since we don’t have a time machine, we’re in this together.
If we focus on all “we’ve lost” then that’s wasted effort that only makes us feel crummy and powerless. We can’t undo what is done, but we can assess, adapt and overcome. THAT is active, offers us agency, and a reason to hope.
Where the Mind Goes, Man Follows
When I first started toying with the idea of writing professionally, I had an idea for a book set in Monte Carlo, with the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix as a backdrop. Being bold and brassy, I somehow talked my way into some of the inner circles of Ferrari racing.
Though I never finished the book, I did have a great time and learned a lot of key lessons that would carry me through much of my professional life. One lesson in particular stands apart.
We go where we focus.
In professional racing, a lot of winning involves not crashing. Simple, right? If your car is a pile of wreckage, then chances of crossing that finish line go quickly to ZERO. High speed racing—particularly in places like Monte Carlo—are unusually challenging.
Why? Because it isn’t as much about driving faster than the competition, as it is about driving better than the competition. Monte Carlo is a maze of hairpin turns. Not only must a driver be mindful of the wall, but of other drivers as well.
What I learned was this: If you look at the wall, you’ll hit the wall.
The driver must always be keenly aware of where he has his focus, because focus on the wall? You’ll hit the wall. Focus on the other cars? You’ll hit the other cars. Focus on where you want to go? That’s where you’ll naturally drift.
It’s why it’s so crucial to phrase objectives in the positive. Remember you put your keys next to the door is much more effective than telling yourself Don’t forget that you put your keys near the door.
The human brain tends to only start listening at the first ACTIVE verb, and that’s where it will focus. If we say, Don’t forget to pick up cat food, our brain hears, Forget to pick up cat food.
Watching our words and how we speak can drastically improve focus for the better. POSITIVE goals! Instead of, I don’t want gain anymore weight, try, I want to be healthy and properly proportioned 😉 .
Authors and businesses drive me bonkers with this. Don’t forget to subscribe! Guess what you just told everyone to do? *face palm*
Focus: Only So Many Ducks to Give
Since bluntness is my superpower, here it is. Life is the leading cause of death. Today is the youngest we will ever be. Time is a nonrenewable resource, so we’re wise to be mindful how we spend our days.
Once we understand all this, then ask: Where are we placing our focus?
We cannot care about everything. When we care about everything, we care about nothing. Why? Because we can’t care about everything and also maintain focus.
That race car driver can only care about a short list of priorities. If he lets in too much other “stuff,” he’s far more likely to end up a pile of smoldering wreckage than to zoom across that finish line.
The same can be said for us.
Again, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but I was too scattered. There was no sense in posting blogs when my mind was a mess. I needed to back off, get quiet, ponder my priorities, and ask myself the hard questions.
Was I blogging because I loved it? Because I truly enjoy sharing knowledge, wisdom and even some laughs? Or, was I blogging only because I’d been blogging since 2007 and felt obligated instead of compelled?
What did I REALLY care about?
Because after being sick for so long, and all the upheaval in publishing, and then the world losing its ever-loving mind? I’d caught a bad case of value vertigo.
Until I could regain equilibrium, I’d have little or nothing of substance to offer any of you. Since I value your time, I’d rather post nothing than nonsense.
Focus is Essential in Everything
First of all, obviously I love blogging and miss you guys or I wouldn’t be here. Yet, with the world going crazy, I struggled to even think of a topic. There was plenty of negativity going around, so no need to add to it.
But being positive? It was next to impossible for me to think of anything encouraging to post that didn’t make me want to punch myself in the face.
As I see it, we’re in the meantime, which is what I like to call that span of suck before the breakthrough. It’s a tough place to be and often we wonder if it will ever end. Thing is? I can’t promise the world will be any better because I don’t (sadly) control the world.
I can only control myself, my actions and my attitude. My locus of focus must be internal, because I have authority there. If I give too many ducks about people, places, things that I can’t control? That’s a recipe for a nervous breakdown.
If I focus on all the negative, what bothers me, what upsets me and gives me apoplexy, guess what happens? I’ll get more of that.
If I look at the wall, I’ll hit the wall.
Dreams & Pain
One of my all-time favorite books is Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve listened to the audiobook. Why I love this book is that Manson has a very counterintuitive approach to reaching goals and living “the good life.”
Many of us, when we have a dream or goal, tend to focus too much on the dream and not enough on what is required to attain that dream.
We might imagine having a rock hard body with single-digit body fat, a successful small business, or being a mega best-selling author. But are we willing to do all that is necessary to get there?
Manson points out that life has problems. There is no escaping problems. All that we can do is choose better problems.
To paraphrase Manson, Warren Buffet has money problems, but so does the homeless guy hanging outside the Quickie Mart. Buffet just has BETTER money problems.
Since I prefer to stay in the PG13 realm with my blog, we only have so many ducks to give. Where are we going to spend them?
Because if my ducks are scattered all over—some arguing on social media with strangers, some trying to Marie Kondo my house in a week, others fretting about whether Pilates or Yoga is a better way to get back in shape, etc.?
I’m circling the drain already. Loads of activity, with little to no results (other than self-loathing).
I’ve been around long enough to see this play out in the writing world. For ages, I’ve heard, “If I only had enough time, then I’d finish that novel.”
BAM! QUARANTINE! How many people have finally had the time? Yet, how many finished novels?
The problem (for many) with writing professionally is that it’s easier to daydream about being a best-selling author than to sit down and work day after day after day.
Writing has problems. Learning the craft, coming up with a book idea, writing the book, editing, revising, building a brand and platform, facing uncertainty and crushing insecurity, and on and on.
How many love the idea of being a best-selling author but not the pain/problems that go with being a best-selling author?
I LOVE the idea of having a fitness model physique, but I don’t love it enough to embrace the pain of having that fitness model physique. Since I don’t want to live in a gym, measure out every portion of macro and micronutrients, and retool my world for this level of fitness? The dream will remain that, a dream.
But, when it comes to being an author? I LOVE to read, and enjoy craft books, writing sprints, revisions, research, blogging, editing, etc.
See how by choosing my pain (problems) I’m able to gain renewed focus? When I understand that life will always have problems, I can make a conscious effort to always be choosing better problems.
Sure, I could argue with strangers on-line about sensitive topics, but why? I’m not (at the moment) running for office and I’m not a political writer. Why would I throw my ducks into an area where they’ll just get de-feathered and roasted?
Unless I aim to completely shift my brand and goals, this path has my ducks all over when I need them in a row to be effective.
Writers change the world all the time, always have. I choose the pain I want, which is to change hearts and minds using the power of story. I’m learning to be more selective about how many ducks to give and when and where to give them.
I’ve Missed Y’all!
So yes, I am back. The world needs a nap and a Snickers (my POV), but I can’t do anything about that other than bring some sense and sunshine into your world…which I HOPE I’ve done.
I LOVE Hearing From YOU!
What are your thoughts? Have you been dealing with feeling strung out? You have more TIME than ever, but all the craziness has you circling the drain or building blanket forts? What have you changed in your life to help you remain positive and manage stress?
Have you gotten any writing accomplished? I’m 45K words into a non-fiction ghostwriting project, so I’ve pretty much buried myself in that and doing home improvements.
I think Lowe’s stock will bottom out once I finish all the painting and repairs here, LOL.
So come on and share! I’ve missed y’all, but I love you enough not to drop more doom at your door. Thanks for your patience while I recharged my optimism 🙂 .