Are You Too Focused?

How focused are you? Too much can be as problematic as too little, and widening our horizons can benefit our leadership. I recently led a clergy retreat in Hoquiam, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. Before I headed home, I asked how far we were from the ocean. “About fifteen minutes,” someone said. I am not one to meander home; typically I drive straight through with minimal breaks. But I thought to myself, it’s ridiculous to be this close to the beach and not go. I could feel the pull of the many things I had to do, but I made myself take the little trip. I didn’t spend all afternoon there, but I did find that even a short glimpse of waves and sand, and especially the long ocean horizon, gave me a much-needed sense of perspective.

Widening our perspective and taking a break are about more than stress relief. When we have some new experiences, we can begin to see our leadership context in a new light. And when our perspective is different, we lead differently, and others have the chance to respond to our wider view.

Here are some things that help me keep my focus from becoming too narrow:

1. Nature. In addition to the ocean, there’s a park near my house with old, tall trees. I lean against a tree, and it reminds me that it’s been around a lot longer than I have. My anxiety of the moment is just for a moment, not for a lifetime. I’m really an indoor person, but getting outside is a gift to myself and those I work with.

2. Art. Music, art and fiction feed my own creativity in writing, speaking and leading. I do better work when I keep my creative vision fresh by staying in touch with those who are creative in the arts.

3. Other leaders. In my own arena of church leadership, and in others, it’s easy to connect only with others in my field. I find when I connect, in person and by reading, with leaders in other fields, I discover the gifts of my own area, and that my struggles are not unique to the church. I’m challenged to learn some things I need to know. And I’m more gracious and less whiny when I stay in touch more widely. And beyond collegial relationships, making friends who are not clergy keeps me fresher and makes my life more interesting.

How’s your focus? What do you do to keep it broad enough? What might you try? Who might you connect with who brings a different perspective?

2 Responses to Are You Too Focused?

  1. Betty, thanks for your thoughts. For me the issue is not hard work in and of itself, but cultivating the discipline to lift our head out of the water from time to time. This is in fact a spiritual practice. Can we pay attention to what is in front of us (including our families)? I have to work on this myself daily.

  2. Betty Brighton says:

    I’m anxious to hear some wisdom from the troops on this one. I’ve been accused of being “too focussed” by my family. It’s quite bewildering. I always thought hard work was a good thing. I do admit that all else seems trivial besides my vocation. I have learned not to bring work home, but then there is the matter of disciplining myself of contemplating work and those whom work involves. I can see the suggestions here are a good start. B. Brighton

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