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Narrowing of foci

From jack of all trades to master of one.

Do you ever feel your focus being pulled in many directions? While there may be a limitless number of interests, we are limited in what interests us, and more importantly, what interests we can focus on.

There is a need for concentrated effort which is severely hampered by the danger of too much choice. Potential can be overwhelming and lead to indecision, inaction and/or procrastination. Someone who is high in the personality trait openness knows this conundrum all too well – thankfully, I’m also high in conscientiousness otherwise I’d be lost to the world of ideas and the arts in a never-ending daydream.

I have been guilty of trying to achieve too many things at once. This is not to be confused with aiming high, although it often is. A fragmenting of focus is different from ambition and the pursuit of excellence. There’s only so much we can put our minds to. We must learn what we need to switch off or sacrifice.

You probably have heard of the term “one-track mind” or “being single minded”, which is relevant here as it involves having a laser focus or purpose. World renowned sports psychologist Bob Rotella discusses being single minded in his book, “How Champions Think”, but it’s not just for professional athletes.

You have to define what it is that you wish to achieve. So many people end up a jack of all trades, master of none (and a lot not even that), partly from failing to define what their ideal life would look like and mapping out a path to attain it. It doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice family and friends nor does it mean you can’t take a break every once in a while, but one must burn off the deadwood and reallocate resources to greater priorities.

Think of this another way, our social circles we interact in get smaller and smaller over time, generally speaking. This happens for a number of reasons, but we seem to come to the conclusion rather naturally that we can’t keep giving so little to so many. As a result, the majority of our resources are pooled into our interactions with our intimate partner. You can’t be as good a person nor build and maintain as great a relationship without doing so.

Narrowing our focus can be hindered by many things, but it also can help us in times of uncertainty, as I discussed in driven to distraction previously. I’ve used a T.S. Eliot quote a number of times before about being “distracted from distraction by distraction”, which is greatly effecting people today as we’re constantly being inundated by all manner of things all the time as well as seeking these distractions ourselves. It’s almost like it’s by design to overwhelm and exhaust people so they cannot (or perhaps, insidiously, do not) focus on the important things.

There are times when you need to demonstrate patience, say with delayed gratification. You can achieve this far easier by narrowing your focus and concentrating your efforts, and who knows what you might achieve as a consequence of doing so? You have to choose or the choice will be made for you. Your commitment and perseverance will not be unwaveringly perfect and you probably will get impatient, but don’t get dejected if the results haven’t arrived yet and also don’t think you can’t succeed early (especially with the limits OTHERS set for you). Most of the time we don’t know when things will bear their fruit, and that requires a trust or faith in the process.

I feel it is more helpful to view ourselves as being “unlimitly limited” – we have a limited capacity to do an unlimited number of things. Becoming self-aware, knowing yourself and your interests, you can begin to narrow your focus and separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. It’s very easy to lose energy and feel frustrated when we have too much on our plates. Sometimes we have to dial things back to make them manageable, at other times we block out the periphery and become fixated to accomplish great things.

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