The Art of Focus and Perspective. And once again about the flow...
About a year ago, I was on a ferry to Montezuma in Costa Rica and listening to a lady from LA who was about to start her own company doing breath work classes but couldn’t work out how and where to start. She said she was “kind of going with the flow” for some time, but felt “it didn’t work”. As she was telling her story, she looked increasingly sad and anxious even though we were approaching one of the most luscious vacation spots in the world…
By the time this conversation was happening, I already had a pretty good experience of providing some consoling guidance in such cases.
And this was the first time in my life I realised that I knew so many people around me who were once “going with the flow and it didn’t work”.
The wave of “downshifting” lifestyle is still swelling and even more so due to so many areas becoming freelance worldwide. The advertising of doing “what you want from where you want” has become viral. While the new age interpretation of “letting go” and “non-attachment” leaves many wondering around the world with even less satisfaction from their own lives than ever. Solopreneurship can be virtual and thus viewed as “easy to play with”.
It’s amazing that even with the saying “going with the flow”, many don’t feel a sheer contradiction between what they say and what they think they say.
The flow itself means it is GOING TOWARDS something.
A stable controlling force is ALREADY in it. That’s why it is a FLOW, and not a SPLASH. Imagine a river? That’s what it is.
Going with the flow has a strong presence of an inner compass; it is going TOWARDS the attracting force. This feeling is always grounded.
You get to feel it by “endorsements” from the outer reality. By your inner authority saying “Yes” to what is happening.
It has become an incidentally adopted attitude among people seeking for their purpose in life that “going nowhere” means “going with the flow” and eventually, it will lead you somewhere, you just have “to embrace it”.
You DO have to embrace it. Acknowledging it gives you a chance to reevaluate your direction. The sense of “going nowhere” is a strong ally that helps you “turn” somewhere else. But making it “chronic” and embracing it repeatedly over and over again — is NOT ok. Unless you really enjoy drifting with whichever current will catch you first.
In the corporate world, you meet people whose illusionary “control over everything” makes life stagnant and extremely heavy. In the “downshifting communities”, you see the trend of getting carried away by every wind, covertly distressed about the future but with the illusion of “going with the flow’ while hiding behind misinterpretations of spiritual teachings.
Well … I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to feel the extreme before you understand the lesson.
Focus. Long-term or short-term?
Focusing has become a mantra among business and life coaches.
Nothing is wrong with it because it seems right and obvious.
Not obvious for many, however, is WHAT should be the point of focus.
Quite often, procrastination comes from not knowing whether to focus on the short — term or long — term goals.
Focusing on the short — term is not giving you the right perspective; a distant focus is not good for laying out the steps of your process.
Setting a goal or starting a business is a MINDSET. How do you focus without becoming “fixated”? I had been trying to figure this out myself as a head of business development for few companies with a long sales cycle and then doing business consultancy.
And I have found a vivid analogy to describe how it works for me.
Dance the focus.
I used to dance for many years. Although I was learning jazz not classical ballet, surely enough we had lots of ballet elements while studying. Our classical ballet teacher had to find some special language explaining elements to us since we were amateur in this genre. He was a good teacher so he prioritised the main principles over technique.
There is an element in ballet everybody loves called “fouette turns”. It is a rapid whirling of the body which is performed in consecutive spectacular series. I am sure everybody who ever saw 32 fouettes from Swan Lake performed was wondering how a human body could do it. As you can imagine, the moment the dancer is performing, everything is automatic in her process, the body is just doing it, and there is no thinking involved. And yet there is ONE element which is NOT automatic and has to be controlled by the dancer. This element is FOCUS.
There are TWO kinds of focuses in this process. One focus is inside of the dancer. It is the inner axis which is the NOW focus and it is the cohesiveness of her body with where she stands. It is the dancer’s main attention so that the movement continues to happen.
The other focus which has to be with the dancer is the DISTANT focus. It is OUTSIDE of the dancer and it has to be STABLE and FAR enough. The farther it is, the better.
It is a point BEHIND ANYTHING that can move in front of the dancer’s eyes. Yet it is visible. And yes — it has to be unchangeable till the end of the dance. This is dancer’s anchor; it is how the whole dance (not the movement) is happening. It is the attracting force, the point of return after each consecutive turn and before starting the new turn. The dancer doesn’t’ stare at it intensely as you can imagine. She keeps it in the “relaxed focus”. Her main attention is with the inner axis. But if this distant point moves — there is NO CHANCE the dancer will remain stable as she will lose balance and fall.
So it is the distant focus that actually keeps the present focus aligned. You are not in possession of this distant point. You neither can influence it somehow, nor move away at your will. It is there for you as long as you keep an eye on it.
The present focus, however, is being kept by you and is only there due to you.
Focus and Perspective. Distant and Now.
Your distant focus always comes first. It is not only the vision of the project you are launching, but your own mission behind it. Usually, it is intrinsic to your core beliefs. Many business strategy books are echoing Simon Sinek and suggest that it answers the question “Why” (Why am I doing this?). I find “the why” a bit too “open” and sometimes including the “past” into the scope of the answer which makes it less clear. Instead, asking “what” (makes me want to do it/moves me) is more linked to the present and future.
The idea of movement is already in the question so it will easily transmit into understanding whether you feel like doing anything at all.
Often, there will be several layers to your answer and you may end up with the list of “reasons”. A “map” of your reasons will give you a scope of your most important preferences at this moment as well as a better understanding of your project. If “enjoying it” is also among them, consider the distant focus of your project to be stable.
We are wired for seeking pleasure — not a single “big mission” will be enough if you are not going to enjoy it.
There is no need to say that if the distant focus changes every other day, you will be losing lots of energy on unnecessary steps towards nowhere.
Your short-term goal or focus comes as a response to your distant perspective and you become aware of it as long as you are present and willing to move.
If you are overanalysing in the attempt to decide which step to take first and what will happen next — you are not going to move, ever.
You WILL SEE the steps as YOU GO. And your first step is THAT which is right near you.
Even if you have a huge list of things to do — you can always sense the priority. As you do this, you will, in fact, find yourself in the new circumstances and see where it takes you next.
Lots of entrepreneurs are “trapped in the future”. The language they speak reveals it very easily. While planning ahead can be useful, insisting on how it SHOULD BE is useless.
Business plans are insanely overestimated. In the corporate world, many executives are obsessed with planning for the future without even understanding what is the best thing to do NOW. I was once consulting for a start-up company like this. After we made a comprehensive list of the “corrective actions” to their business model and unhealthy marketing budget, I received an email asking me to provide them with the revenue projections for the year ahead. I replied that there was no CONSCIOUS way to do it unless we start from what has to be corrected in the first place. They didn’t like this answer. “Give us the future. We don’t want to see what’s NOW. The future is BETTER.”
Enterprises (and people), where the real present circumstances are of primary importance and the business plan is of secondary importance, are always moving faster and in the right direction.
Very often your path towards something will be indirect but it can only happen if you let it happen.
Enjoy your focus and keep it flowing, not splashing…