Focus In, Focus Out…Both-And…

Without direction and a map, you can get off course and end up in places you never wanted to go. A typical day can be choked with 50 things to do, many of which have nothing to do with your Focus. Spark People

Focus can be extraordinary and critical to success. Being able to pinpoint a goal and focus solely on accomplishing it is invaluable. If my current focus was on completing this Daily Writing Challenge it would likely be finished much quicker. If I didn’t dash over to grab my coffee, almost worshipping it in sing song as I returned to my writing spot, briefly chat after a cheery good morning on my behalf an a slightly more grumpy one mumbled from my son, and zip over and open some windows — ah, gulps of cheek chilling freshness…I might already be done this piece.

We are told “if you want to re-design your life, reshape your focus” (J.D. Meier) and to “Focus on your potential instead of your limitations” (Alan Loy McGinnis). We know that Olympic athletes obtain because they have sharp and severe focus. We eliminate distractions and teach our students skills and strategies so that they are able to focus on, and accomplish, tasks.

The other side to focus, however, is that when you spotlight something specific you avoid, ignore, or discount other things. When we “starve distractions” they die. This might be good: habits of excessive social media time or halting needless sugar products from vaulting into our mouths, no longer spending time on toxic relationships or expectations. This might be bad: children are ignored and friends are neglected. Just like in photography: when we hone in on a subject all the surrounding bits are left out.

Last week after a massive downpour that left our street flooded and the potato plants in our neighbour’s garden floating I attempted to be creative by taking this picture:

Photo by J. McDougall

You can see raindrops, still lazing about the covering of our cheap porch canopy, recently gifted to us after a decade of hanging out in someone’s shed, unused. You clearly see that the water bubbles amplify the weave. The camera is focused on those spheres…What you don’t see — what is left out of the focus — is the half of the fabric hanging like a limp, broken wrist, tie-downs wrenched away by the wind and replaced by caterpillar-shaped rips. What you also don’t see? Two kids, soggy after we spent half an hour running around invisible bases in the ball diamond across the road, chocolate milk-coloured water slowly inching its way up to ankle height in the gravelly infield, mischievously laughing…before dumping water trapped in the tarp-y top on to one another.

Does focus always have to involve starving distractions, leaving important bits out of focus, sacrifice? Yes and No. It’s highly unlikely I am going to lose weight when I regularly bake and eat cookies. Yes: I need to sacrifice those darn biscuits with their yummy bits of gooey chocolate, warm from the oven and dripping on to my chin if I want to lose weight. It’s highly unlikely I’m going to lose weight when I regularly live with children and a husband that stress me out and a job that is demanding (and when research has shown that high levels of stress induce weight gain rather than loss). No: I do not need to sacrifice my children, husband, source of employment to lose weight. See where I’m going with this? I’m trying to be superfluously ridiculous to make my point.

We need to adopt Pauline Boss’s practice of “Both-And”. Although primarily used as a tool for grief associated with ambiguous loss (loss without closure or understanding such as children leaving home, a breakup, or a partner/parent with Alzheimers’), I find it helpful when used in regards to focus. “Both-And” (rather than “Either-Or”) thinking involves more gray than it does black and white. For instance, in terms of supporting a partner with Alzheimer’s that might look like “They are both gone and still here” and “I can take care of both him and myself” (Boss). In terms of focus:

I can BOTH focus on my objective AND enjoy/handle the “distractions”.

I can BOTH see that something can be considered a distraction AND is important to me.

I can BOTH attain my goals AND focus on more than that objective itself.

Focus is critical to success and that means “Reshap[ing] our focus” and “focuss[ing] on our potential”. It means both narrowing and widening our view. I can BOTH observe that a water droplet looks gorgeous up close AND understand that “behind the scenes” mirth and amusement is just as important and just as beautiful.



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Jennifer McDougall

Attempting Serious and Satire... Sometimes successful. Editor, Doctor Funny.