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Unfocused Focus

March 06, 2016

It’s unbelievable to think that we are in March already. Isn’t it just the other day we were sending messages of goodwill over Christmas and New Year? What happened to the days in between? It feels like the earth is rotating faster nowadays than it used to before. It is unbelievable that we are in the last month of the first quarter of this year that was new just the other day. Of course at this point thoughts such as what we have achieved in the last two months of the year start coursing through our minds. If you are like me, you will probably have a not so good report. When I look back, I see more of the challenges I have gone through in the last 65 days than the accomplishments. I guess the challenges have been so major that they have dwarfed the accomplishments. But you know what, I believe if I changed my perception I would see things in a different light, I would see the bigger picture.

Speaking of the bigger picture, the other day when I was going home I happened to be so tired and needed something interesting to listen to lest I dose off behind the wheel. So I looked through the many clips I have on my phone and landed on one that really got me thinking. It is possible that you might have heard or read this story before but I ask that you read it one more time, just so that it can help convey the message I need to pass on today. Here goes…

One evening a factory owner saw one of the workmen leaving by the side gate pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt. He didn't think much of this, but the next evening he saw the same worker coming out with a wheelbarrow full of dirt again.

There was something incredibly suspicious about this. And it didn't take him long to begin to suspect that the worker was waiting for the rest of the crew to leave so that he could steal from the work site, probably hiding his ill-gotten gains in the dirt.

The next evening, he waited for the worker. When the worker came out with the wheelbarrow, he confronted him and searched through the dirt. He found nothing and sent the worker on his way.

A few days later, he again confronted him and found nothing. This continued for more than a month. Each day the worker left a little later, probably to try and avoid his snooping employer, who waited outside to search him. But the employer never found anything, either in the dirt in the wheelbarrow or in the worker's pockets.

Finally he confronted the worker one evening and said "Look, I have been searching this wheelbarrow for seven weeks. I'm sure you're stealing something but for the life of me I can't figure out what it is. It's got me so worked up that I can't think straight and my work is suffering. I lie in bed every night trying to figure it out and I just can't. I admit it, you've got me beaten, but I have to know or I'll never get a decent night's sleep. So I promise you right now, if you'll just tell me what you've been stealing, you will not be punished in anyway.”

"Sir, I have been stealing wheelbarrows" the worker said with a smile.

What the @#%#?!? I can almost hear the supervisor curse.

The truth is, it never occurred to the supervisor that actually what was being stolen was right there in plain sight. The perception he had was that because people who steal do things in hiding, the stuff that was being stolen had to be hidden under the pile of dirt that was being pushed out. That perception made him miss the bigger picture.

Isn’t this what we do as well, focusing our minds and thoughts and energies on the wrong things while we lose sight of the real issues we should be concentrating on? What do you mean Liz, you might ask. Well, let me explain.

At the beginning of this article, I started by saying that it is very possible that when we look back at the two months that have already passed we do not see any tangible achievements. It is possible that when you look back you see the challenges and the obstacles and the many annoying things that you had to go through. It is possible that you are focusing on the goals and dreams you did not achieve for that period. That is the dirt in the wheelbarrow.

Friends many are the times we let the dirt in our lives cover the wheelbarrow to the point that we do not see the wheelbarrow, all we see is the dirt in it. We let the issues we are going through shift our focus from the goals we have set for ourselves. We focus so much on what we did not achieve instead of focusing on what we did. We beat ourselves for not achieving what we had intended to achieve instead of patting ourselves on the back for that little we have achieved. In fact we do not even need people to discourage us; we ourselves have become masters of self-destruction.

Sharron Scott said this one time; “if you constantly focus on what you do not have, then you will never fully appreciate what you do have”. This is so true! Picture this: someone gives you ¾ of a wonderfully delicious chocolate cake, and all you could focus on was the fact that you were missing a slice. Would you even enjoy the rest of the cake? I guess not. You see, if you constantly focus on what you do not have, you will never see what you do have. It’s just that simple.

Focusing on the wrong thing (the dirt) causes us not to see the bigger picture i.e the wheelbarrow.

What are you focusing on in your life right now? Are you focusing on the good stuff you have done so far or the stuff that didn’t turn out too good? Are you focusing on the negative things that happened to you in the last couple of months instead of looking at the positive things that happened during the same period of time?

For instance, you could be complaining that your car broke down while you were on your way to work. How about being thankful that all it did was breakdown and not cause an accident that could have taken your life? You might be complaining about that house girl who ran away from home. How about thanking God that she did not steal anything from your house, or even worse? What I am trying to say is that in most cases, no matter how bad things may look, there is always something positive to be thankful about. The problem is that we keep our focus on the wrong thing and hence end up missing the bigger picture.

Believe me if the man had been pushing the wheelbarrow without the dirt he would have been caught by the supervisor instantly. But the dirt acted as a disguise for the actual theft that was going on. Do not let the dirt in your life steal the good stuff in your life. Of course that was a nice and very creative strategy used by the man but that is not our focus for today. My challenge to you this whole month is that you may shift your focus from all the dirt in your life and instead focus on the wheelbarrow; the bigger picture.

This March keep matching to your goals and don’t let any dirt shift your focus from those goals. Like Nelson Mandela said, “Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead”. Yes take time to celebrate your achievements so far and do not focus on your failures, unless you are learning from them.

PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 6th March, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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