“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie
I can recall driving on the road on many occasions and accidentally cutting someone off. As I looked over to apologize to the driver, all I received was the finger or a glaring stare that would kill if it were at all possible. After many occurrences of this over the years, like anyone you get tired of the unnecessary ill-treatment and you do what you can to avoid it. So today if I accidentally cut someone off or make a mistake while driving, I say, “sorry person”, out loud (in my car, windows up) and keep it moving. I do this without any hesitation or even a glance at the other driver. Since I’ve come to the conclusion that most people aren’t so nice in these situations, (even the ones with bumper stickers that state otherwise) I keep my focus straight ahead and don’t give them the benefit of flipping me off or yelling at me through their window. Who does that? Unfortunately most people do.
I never realized how taking this approach would end up being so helpful in other areas of my life as I encountered other types of distractions and life issues along the years of my life. Issues that manifested as loud noises and destructive interferences, only designed to keep me from what was best for me or my family. These distractions were exhibited in various forms such as:
2. My Common Sense (or seemingly)
3. Opinions of Others
5. Self Doubt
1. Fear – a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. – Dictionary.com
How many times have you allowed fear to deter you from pursuing a dream or goal? One that was ultimately yours if you had only not given up so soon. I believe we all have a story like this to tell at some point in our lives. A time when the voices in our heads became so strong that they effectively drowned out or persuaded you, that the vision you once had was not worth pursuing any longer. How does fear cause us to lose our focus? I can only examine my own life and ask myself this question before I dare answer for anyone else. My answer is multi-layered.
Typically when fear was able to elude me from my goals, it was because I begin to over analyze my situation.
I began to see the mission or task at hand ultimately too large for me to accomplish or achieve. This mindset strategically set me up to sensibly talk myself out of pursuing whatever my initial goal was. I use the word “sensibly” because at that point it was no longer about me moving forward with passion or by faith, it became about logic and what made sense to my brain, even if that logic was off the mark. The thought or idea of continuing down the path brought on a feeling of trepidation and anxiety and I had convinced myself that stopping was the right thing to do. These emotions that I now embraced (during that time), I knew were enemies to any dream, but I allowed them to grow and ultimately take control of my destiny in many cases. So there was my dream, being hijacked by fear and I willingly handed it over. Fear had so cleverly became intertwined in my thoughts that I would have convincing arguments with others about why I had a change of heart and usually at that point, no one could convince me otherwise. It was a precarious situation, sad even, because I was the only one in the dark about where I was typically, but I had to learn, which in that time I was not ready to grasp. Hindsight, I recognize that fear did it’s job and I relented to it. It effectively paralyzed me, like a deer in the headlights, and destroyed some of my dreams. What I recognize today are the triggers that bring me fear, which affords me the opportunity to expose the source of it and handle the anxiousness head-on with support, through prayer, counsel or trustworthy friends and family.
2. Common Sense – sound judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like. – Dictionary.com
In this particular case I used the word “seemingly” for a reason. We all know what common sense is, however in my case it was quite the contrary. I do consider myself a fairly wise man who uses sound judgement when necessary, but in this case, as I mentioned earlier I would easily talk myself out of something due to logic. The point to make here is I should have questioned what I called “common sense”. Unfortunately I was unable to question this due to the fact that I had shielded myself from others, which in turn locked me in to my own devices. Devices that would ultimately perpetuate an already defeated mindset. A mindset detrimental to keeping focus.
My “common sense” was common only to me and it desperately needed the thoughts and ideas of a trusted and wise outsider.
The lesson here in regards to maintaining focus is to not be afraid to invite someone in to bounce ideas around. Don’t become a stale pond with only your own ideas. Realize that you don’t know everything, and that God has placed some special people in our lives for good reasons. It’s for us to learn why they are there and when and how to utilize their support, versus trusting only our own senses. It’s widely accepted that what we don’t know can hurt us, but I say in this case, “what we do know (or think we know) can equally destroy and hinder our focus”.
3. Opinion – a personal view, attitude, or appraisal. – Dictionary.com
If I had a nickel for every time I heard people say that they don’t care what others think about them, I could probably retire early. The fact of the matter is we do care, and much of that can be healthy. The problem lies in how much we internalize what others have to say about us. It becomes energy that we give away by attempting to prove something we should already know, therefore have no reason to prove to anyone. Think of how much time you spend attempting to convince others that your goals, dreams or pursuits are worthy of becoming more than just an idea. Think about how you could better utilize that time, versus giving it away to critics.
The lesson here is to know who is worthy of your time.
Hint, these individuals usually do not appear suddenly. Look around, they’ve most likely been around the entire time supporting you quietly behind the scenes. All others and their opinions of you should be strategically placed. A place where their voices are limited to your access. Negative ideas and unproductive criticism is designed to hurt you, not promote your dreams. Be warned that, “everyone don’t love you”. (Henry Nutt, III)
4. Guilt – a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. – Dictionary.com
Guilt, whether substantiated or not has been, and unfortunately will continue to be a precursor to idleness. What we have done or allegedly done is one the quickest ways to short-cycle of focus. Perhaps in the minds of others, or perhaps in our own minds, we can never do enough to be forgiven, therefore we should limit our lives to mediocrity. I dare say that we have all hurt someone in our lives (some more than others). My question to that population of individuals is when is enough a enough? And when is it okay to begin living your life again? When you have made peace with your past, (hopefully with an apology to the ones you hurt) the time is today.
Nothing distracts focus quite like guilt, because at some point you begin to believe that you are undeserving of achieving the goal or dream, therefore the energy required to maintain focus begins to deplete.
Eventually you stop, and justify in your mind that it was never supposed to happen anyway.
5. Self Doubt – lack of confidence in the reliability of ones’ own motives, personality, thought, etc. – Dictionary.com
Of the five mindsets that I have listed, “doubt” tends to be the decisive factor that ties them all together. This is the ultimate mindset of each potentially destructive thought. When we doubt our own ability to accomplish anything for whatever reason, we place limitations on ourselves without the need for help from anyone. In other words, we will find a way to destroy our own dreams with no one’s assistance.
The doubter will question everything, believe nothing and always expect the worse outcome.
The doubter is constantly questioning themselves about the validity of their dreams, therefore will rarely share them with anyone. They start with plans that die prematurely and have ideas that pass like dreams in the night. Only to awake to something new again, possibly forgotten and seldom discovered. How does this person ever begin to obtain a focus to lose, some might ask?
I believe deep inside in us all lies an inherent belief that there is something bigger and more profound for us to accomplish while on this earth. Our ability to accomplish these things requires what I mentioned above and so much more, but I believe this is a good place to start. Often, we can become our own worst enemy. I know this all to well and still fight today with that (myself).
What I learned to recognize is that my past does not define my future.
I am more than what I use to be and I will be more tomorrow, than what I am today. The key for many of us, is to actually begin to believe this for not just “the others” in our lives, but for ourselves. Sometimes the sheer fact that our focus is constantly being hampered is the indication of how important the underdeveloped dream is. Think of all the great inventions and discoveries we now benefit from today as a society. Now imagine if the individual(s) were distracted to the point that their ideas were never actualized? Where would we be? Do you see yourself as that important? You should begin to if you don’t. The world needs you to pursue your God-given talents and step into the process of causing them to manifest. First begin by acknowledging the five things I stated. Deal with that reality and seek support to get answers on how to move past them.
Staying the course does not mean you will never be distracted, it simply means you won’t quit when things get tough. The best of us have to pause at times or take a break, but we usually pick it up where we left off, and the only one that is aware that we were on short hiatus is us.