What I Learned From Holding a Flashlight- The Ongoing Process of Focus


Focus is hard. It’s hard to find it, let alone maintain it. But it is the key to effectiveness in anything.

Dr. Henry Cloud talks in Boundaries For Leaders about the working memory, which is the memory we use to accomplish right-now tasks at home or on the job. Ever been in the middle of something and had an interruption, like a phone call or email, or someone that just pops in your office? Ever think about how long it takes to get back on task, to remember the detail you were just working on, and get reengaged with the job at hand? It takes a while and it is frustrating.

I was holding the flashlight for my dad last night, a job I’ve had since I was very young. When I was a kid, I couldn’t maintain my focus very long, and the beam would drift, causing dad to look up from the job at hand and say, “Hey, pay attention!” As an adult, I can focus longer, and yet I noticed from time to time I had to readjust the beam to focus exactly where his hands were, to illuminate the tools he was working with.

Focus is actually an ongoing process of readjustment. Like driving is an ongoing series of course corrections to keep your vehicle in the right lane and away from others on the road. Focus is effectively achieved by small changes made frequently in order to keep the light where it needs to be.

When a flashlight is a little off target, it is difficult to realize at first because of the ambient light. But you can tell the difference very quickly when the brightest beam is refocused on the job at hand. The important details become easier to see and the job is more easily done.

Whatever your cause, purpose, or pet project is, to make the best of it requires focus. I just heard Rush Limbaugh say, in relation to a question about his process for preparing for his show, “I’m lucky I’ve always been able to focus my passions.” That’s the key to success for you and the important causes you work so hard for.

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