Focus. It’s what gets things done. Pick an area of life, pick a force in the universe, and you will see the power of focus.
- Light that shines dispersed might brighten a room, but light focused into a laser can cut through steel.
- Water in a lake just sits there lapping peacefully on the shore, but water focused in a powerful recurring wave will erode stone.
- We’re constantly surrounded by a never-ending electro-magnetic field that we can’t even detect. Concentrate those same forces in a magnet and you can hold photos to your ‘fridge, or with enough power, move crushed cars around the junkyard.
This principle works the same in human endeavors. In the past year we’ve seen unarmed populations take down powerful dictators. Instead of going about their individual lives, scattered across the country, they came together with a unified cause, and things changed. That’s the power of focus.
In your personal life, focus makes a similar difference. You are surrounded by competing agendas, needs, and commitments. Each demands an investment of time or money, emotions or attention. The list of obligations far exceeds your capacity. You simply don’t have enough resources to attend to all of them.
Shotguns are for Zombies
Life is coming at you. Most of us apply our resources with a reactionary shot-gun, spraying our time, money, emotion and attention at whatever is causing us the most stress. We live our lives exhausted, with our resources spent, but wonder why we aren’t really accomplishing much.
- We’re surviving day to day with our kids, but not ever really engaging them in the character-building ways we’d hoped.
- We’re working a hard 40 hours at our job, putting our fires, answering emails, checking off boxes, and yet projects that really matter don’t seem to be moving forward.
- We’re trying to grow emotionally or spiritually, doing a little reading here, a little counseling there, a random selection of spiritual disciplines that we engage from time to time, and yet we don’t really feel like we’re growing.
The problem? We are not living with focus. We’re using all the limited resources we have, but we’re not applying them intentionally in a direction that matters. We’re just trying to push back the crowding commitments and obligations.
Living intentionally is a matter of choosing your focus. Where will you apply the time, money, emotion and attention that you have? Are you choosing a direction? Or is someone else choosing for you? Any great thing that has ever been done required focus. But it’s not just great things that need it. Living a life you really want requires it too.
The Good and the Bad of Focus
The good thing about focus is that it concentrates your effort creating clear results. Think about two different ways of cleaning your house as an example. Method A? Picking up things that are out of place as you go about your week. Method B? Setting aside a block of time to completely clean and organize the room. Method A doesn’t take much time or commitment on your part. No focus. But it also means that you never really see the results of a clean room, and never get the accompanying satisfaction. Method B requires setting aside a block of time, and doing nothing else. But you see the result when you get to finally sit down in your peaceful, clean space enjoying the fruit of your work.
The difficult thing about focus is that it means making choices. When you choose to focus on one thing, you are making a decision to turn your focus away from other things. Choosing to set aside two hours on a Sunday to clean the house, means you are not choosing a hundred other things. You’re not choosing the game on TV. You’re not choosing shopping at the mall or the party you were invited to or playing softball.
I think this is why we don’t choose focus. We’re afraid that by choosing to focus we will miss out on something. So we never commit. We never make the choice to apply all our focus. We stay open and available, but we also miss completely the result of focus. We still spend our time and money and energy. But by not spending it intentionally, we spend it in reaction to other people’s agendas, in an effort to manage our circumstances, and in an effort to feel better.
By not choosing focus, we think we won’t miss out. But the truth is that there are many opportunities we miss simply because we’ve not made the commitment.
- The life-giving intimacy of a healthy long-term marriage is not available to someone unable to choose the focus of monogamy and marriage.
- Being a published author with multiple book credits is not a life that’s available to someone unable to choose the focus to write, even when they don’t feel like it.
- Growing in spiritual maturity and intimacy with God is not an experience available to someone who won’t choose to focus on pursuing God.
We miss some of the most important opportunities in life because we’re afraid to focus. If you have a desire to live intentionally, creating something special with your life, then focus is a necessary tool for you.
Are you focusing?
This blog post has two endings. One that pertains to you; the other that pertains to me.
First, your ending.
I don’t know what kind of life you dream of. Whatever it is, getting there will require focus. (Well, a life of over-extended mediocrity and little impact doesn’t require this, but if that’s your gig, you probably aren’t reading this blog. Feel free to head over here.)
If you’re not investing your time, your emotion, your attention and your money in the direction of your dream, you really can’t expect it to happen for you. Want a more engaged family? Want a deeper, more compelling spiritual life? Want to create art or start a business or serve the world? Then you must choose your focus.
My next post will talk more specifically about spiritual focus. But first, stop and evaluate. Look at your calendar. Look at your budget, or if you don’t have a budget, look at your last 30 days of expenses. Look at your emotional and relational investments. Are they lining up with your pursuit? What needs to change? But first, tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear your hopes and encourage you in your focus.
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