Focus – The Thing in our Performance That Makes all the Difference

I personally have been struggling with focus my whole life. Ever since I was a kid my teachers would say ”focus Nika, do not stray from today’s lesson” because my mind was always wandering to a new more interesting place. During a math class I would look out of the window and ask the teacher why the trees lose their levees in autumn.

When we had science class and we talked about trees, I would all of a sudden start wondering how come the earth is turning and people are not falling off of it (gravity was not a topic yet at that grade). A scattered mind, what we would call. But I did love to learn and to study just not that which was imposed but rather things that I found to be exciting and thrilling to me.

Then came the adult age. University with its more competitive assignments and knowledge testing. My freshmen year did not go so well. I lacked focus. I was always thinking about how fast or how good my other colleagues are preparing for the exam and how I will probably not be able to do as good because there is just so much content to grasp all at once. Little did I know almost everybody was struggling the same way.

A leap from high school to university is a large one. It takes adjustment. Also, little did I know finishing university was no rocket science and millions before have done it. I was wasting my time by making unfounded assumptions about other colleagues and expectations which undermined my own chances for success.

The truth was university was not that hard it was just scary at first but I freaked out before I even trying. I assumed it had to be too difficult and others were way better and I am gonna fail or sure – that way nobody could ever blame me once I actually failed – I said it were impossible didn’t I? This types of failure are very often and are called a self fulfilling prophecy.

It took me a bit longer than my peers but I managed to graduate from University, after changing several majors. I could not believe once the dean handed me my diploma that I actually made it to my Masters degree. Then came real life and my first job. I was working like a dog. I stopped comparing myself this time and I worked night and day. I was so motivated to work.

Maybe I was so grateful for once I don’t have to learn hundreds and hundreds of textbooks for once that I felt liberated. Guess what? In 2 years time I became the youngest manager in my company despite of my lack of work experience which I compensated by working day and night. Competing with myself everyday. Staying later and later in the office every day. Nobody could beat me. Can’t say they didn’t try to.

Every day I had to listen to comments such as ”she is too young to sit at the table with important business clients”, ”she does not have the competence and the skills”, ”no one can get that far that quicky unless they have protection from someone”. First behind my back then in my face. It became rough. What did I do? Same as before. I gave my 100%, worked rigorously, with careful attention to each task and thinking only about delivering my best work.

So, how do you think that ended as me being promoted to a CEO couple of years later or …? No. Because life is not always ”fair”. And hard work and focus do not always pay off when you expect them to. But dedication and focus eventually do.

I was a victim of changed politics in my institution and I had to go ending up at another managerial position at a privat hospital where I was expected to work 24/8. That is right. The week hadn’t had enough days in it for my boss’s business appetites.

I put up a fair fight and I stood strong. But sometimes giving up is the only smart thing you can do to save your health and sanity. So I sum up the courage noted down the pros and the cons and decided no big money is not worth ruining your health. And I left my job. I left my country even. And I was once again on a job market where I had to prove myself all over again in a country where nobody knows me. I did not succeed after couple of years trying to land my dream job. So I changed professions.

Just like that, a bit gullible but with passion. Always with passion. And this was frowned upon by my closest friends and relatives. But I persisted. I am still struggling but I am reminding myself every day that fear, self doubt, resentment and anger are all feelings that come out when we lack real focus – or should I say purpose. You might disagree with me on that saying there are people who have jobs they love and firm goals but still feel resentment and anger that block them in their performance. So how come? But the truth is it is an ongoing struggle in life as it is in sports.

In sports we know very well it is rather impossible to maintain focus over longer periods of time. It is just contrary to human nature. So it is not about not getting angry, disappointed or doubtful of oneself – it is about recognizing those moments and replacing them with focus and purpose.

Let’s put it like this, if a football player gets his ankle broken on purpose by another player during the game he sure will feel anger and pain and desperation. Maybe even fear. But does he dwell on getting back at the player of the opponent team or focus on getting his foot healed and ready for the game as soon as possible? Which one is harder? Well, rehabilitation is harder and more painful.

Resentment and self pitying is much easier and provides comfort even. So, the real opponent is always  within yourself, very rarely on the outside. When you decide to focus on bettering your next step instead of pitying yourself, making comparisons or dwelling on the past half the bettle towards your peak performance is already won.

Final question for you – what is the best antidote for overthinking that will make your thrive? Starts with F and ends with S 😊