Wow! You guys blow me away! Thank YOU for the great response to the poll and for sharing your thoughts in the comments. By far and away, it seems many of us are struggling with FOCUS.
I must admit, I'm surprised! When I look around at so much beautiful work, it doesn't seem like there's a FOCUS problem.
FOCUSING On The Cause
What is odd to me, is that when I found myself thinking about FOCUS, I realized I had always considered a lack of focus to be a condition of being an artist. After all, we're also blessed with an abundance of curiosity and that's just the way of things, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
Turns out that's the short view. There's any number of reasons for a lack of FOCUS.
There is no doubt that if we could ask everyone who voted for focus what their definition, their vision of FOCUS in their lives looked like, we'd get a lot of different answers.
But it seems to me to make sense to have a clear idea of what FOCUS would look like in our individual lives if we could snap our fingers and have it RIGHT NOW. So before we go any further, let's define FOCUS for ourselves. What does being focused look like for the VERY BEST YOU in your life RIGHT NOW?
Remember, this is not about what FOCUS will look like when all the laundry is done, the kids are all on their own being successful, the parents are healthy and happy, our health is great and we're rich as can be. This is about the Very Best You, Right Now, Today:
For me, right now, it would be to have a clear step-by-step plan of what to do first, what to do second, what to do third, kinda like building a piece of furniture. If you skip the fifth step, the blasted thing will wobble. I find myself wasting energy worrying about that potential missed step.
So Many Ways To Be UNFOCUS
As I mulled over FOCUS this week, I started looking for causes for being out of focus or lacking focus. I found myself looking at being UNFOCUSED for some of the reasons and here's what I came up with (in no particular order):
- High Expectations. Also known as Trying To Do It ALL. Most of us are coping with jobs, kids, parents, health issues—our own and/or others, exercising, money worries, keeping a house and home operational, food on the table or at least in the pantry and clean clothes on our backs. And we want to be artists, too. In fact, we want to be brilliant artists! Expect much?! How do we even begin to decide what to focus on and is there any energy left at the end of the day to pursue a creative endeavor?
- Bad Habits. Perhaps we have never learned to focus our attention and so we're distracted by every bright and shiny thing that comes our way. (As a side note, there may also be a medical reason for this. Many adults suffer from some version of adult attention deficit. If you suspect this, please seek medical advice.)
- Diversionary. By not being focused, we don't have to worry about failure. Or success. Or dealing with feelings of inadequacy. Also, be careful of perfectionism with this one…it's insidious and will creep into places we never expect. Remember, perfectionism is all about using fear to keep us from trying. Our lack of focus may not even be related to our art. It may be something else in our lives that we're avoiding and the bleed-over effects our art.
- Exhaustion. Hmmm, I wonder why. If you wonder why, see "High Expectations" above. Exhaustion from high expectations and trying to do it all and be all things to all people is a focus-killer if ever there was one! This may also be related to "Not Saying 'No" below.
- Overwhelm. This is one of my personal favorites. I stand in one spot and turn round and round and round, getting nothing accomplished because I have no idea what to do first because there is soooo much to do! Ever happen to you? This is usually related to "Being Unable To Make A Decision" below.
- Not Saying "No." Every. Single. Time. We say "yes" to something, we are saying "no" to something else. Sometimes it's an unexpected opportunity (like a trip out of town with friends to a quaint little place the same weekend we were going to paint because our spouse was out of town and the kids were going to their grandparents). That's temporary and a conscious choice. What happens when we're saying yes to everything, all the time, with no filters? Even though we know it means we won't have time for what's important to us? Something has to give and it's usually our focus.
- Unable To Make A Decision. It decision time on what project to start or where to start on the project and we freeze. We're hesitant, unsure if it's the right decision. What if there's a better way or this isn't the right place to start? We're in a constant agony trying to decide where to go, what to do, how to do it, etc.
- Isolation. Many of us crave alone time. But too much of a good thing is still too much. By the very virtue of being an artist, much of our time is spent in our heads. Alone. That isolation can be solace or it can lead to a spiral that is nearly impossible to break. We lose focus and cannot seem to regain it. Another form of isolation is being around folks who have no grasp as to why it's important to us to paint, dream, dance, create, draw, stare into space or otherwise indulge in something they don't understand.
- Permission. This is a big one for a lot of women I know. Women struggle with taking time for themselves, to focus on their own interests. Society frowns upon this selfishness. And a lot of women are not able to grant themselves permission to take the time and resources they need to pursue their dreams.
- But I Don't Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. When you are seeking to find your niche, it's hard to stay focused. This calls to mind the words of David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, "You can do anything, but you can't do everything." How can we be focused if we don't know what we want to focus on? A conundrum for sure!
- Pain. Pain takes many forms and whether it is physical, mental or a combination, it's darn hard to move past it to focus on anything else. Illness is often temporary, but what if it's not? What hope do we have of focusing on creating when we're challenged by a chronic illness or limitation?
Whew! That's a lot and I'm sure the list is incomplete.
Getting A Handle On Our FOCUS Challenges
Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have another or different reason that's keeping you unfocused or at least contributing to the challenge of getting focused? Please share it in the comments below.
Knowing or at least having some idea as to the root cause gives us a compass reading on where we are.
In the next post (it will be published on Monday, January 20th), we'll discuss more about where we want to go and how we're going to get more FOCUS in our lives.
If you know someone who would benefit from this series on FOCUS, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this series with them!