In the real world, I am much better at being able to balance this and it is one of the skills that I share with my clients.
When I talk to young adults, people of the age where they are talking about ‘adulting’, I hear them say that one of the questions they dread is the one that asks them, “What are your plans?” This happens to high school students when they are in the final year, or even years, of high school. People ask them what they will do when they finish high school. Will it be college, university, travel or a job? Then, they no sooner choose their next step, perhaps university, when people ask where they hope to work once they are finished. Once they land the job, the question arises about potential advancement.
The same applies for young dating singles. They only have to be together about a year when people begin to make polite inquiries about whether this could be ‘the one’. They no sooner announce their engagement than we want to know the date and details of the wedding. The cake is barely eaten when people start to wonder about babies. Babies are no sooner conceived when we want to know if mom will work or stay home. And on it goes.
In my life, people ask me what is my next big goal. What is my ultimate dream, they wonder.
In all of these examples, there is absolutely nothing wrong with people wondering about our lives. Ok, it might be a bit much to have people speculating about our plans for love or pro-creation, but mostly people are simply trying to make polite conversation.
The problem begins to surface when we feel a pressure to know; to know exactly where we are headed. And the problem really shows up in colour when we become tied to a long-term goal; tied so tightly that we become racehorses, blinders in place, finish line in our sights. I meet so many people in my work, who have a clear knowing that the path they are on is not the right fit for them, and yet who are terrified of changing paths simply because they fear they will disappoint others with whom they have shared their goal.
It’s a fine line to walk. It is like trying to figure out the focus features on my camera. It is being able to know when to focus up close and when to gaze beyond. It is knowing how to make the most beautiful picture with the material that is right in front of you.
It is always good to have a goal and to take bold steps toward it. The secret is to not focus on that goal so firmly that we miss the opportunity of what may lie either right in front of us or just at the periphery of our vision. In coaching I call this, ‘Softening the Focus’. Instead of having laser vision, staring straight down the hallway and looking only at the door at the end, and the treasure behind it, it is good practice to slow our pace just a bit as we head toward our goal. I don’t advocate slowing to a crawl. I do advocate slowing enough to notice if we are passing other doorways along the way that might be begging for us to open. These could be the doorways, behind are which people able to help us with our dream. They may be doorways of respite, giving us the rest and rejuvenation we need to continue. They may be doorways leading to new ideas and new dreams; dreams even more in line with who we are becoming.
Sometimes when I think I am taking a picture of something in the distance, I later examine the picture, and I am shocked to notice beautiful things in the foreground that I completely missed while I was focussing far away. I know that this happens in my life too. I can be so focused on achieving my goal, on taking the perfect far-shot, that I can miss some of the opportunities right at my fingertips. When I remember to soften my focus, I am able to slow down just enough to find joy in the moment.
As you head into this upcoming busy end-of-year season, notice where your focus lies. Are you bound and bent to get your goals achieved, to focus only on the end goal, or are you willing to adjust your settings and to capture some unexpected beauty along the way?
As for me and my Facebook challenge, I am deciding to accept. I am going to quit worrying about the end goal of having seven perfect pictures. Instead, I will focus on the joy of looking back at some of my photographs (ok, snapshots) and focusing on the great memories they evoke.
Book a coaching session with Elizabeth to help learn how to focus on the distance without losing the beauty of the moment. Elizabeth provides coaching for individuals and for groups. She also facilitates custom workshops for teams, groups and businesses.