Recently, I’ve been musing on the apparent paradox of how to combine a childlike and joyous wonder of the universe with a mature and responsible adult’s role in the world.
I’ve seen the two clearly demonstrated in my own life and in the lives of some of the people I work with, but not necessarily in a way that gives the impression of the two being in perfect harmony within the same person.
They don’t show themselves as seamlessly integrated as if designed that way. They’re more like two bits bolted together with a series of upgrades over time – a bit like separate computer programs on your PC that are part of the same suite of products but don’t work well together.
One of the joys of being a kid is the right to have a mind that dances from thought to thought, idea to idea, obsession to obsession like a butterfly in a field of summer blooms. It’s a fabulous way to gain experience and knowledge and skill through the blissful experience of play and experimentation.
It’s not so easy for some of us to transport the wonder and artlessness of childhood with its ease of learning and open-mindedness into an adult framework and keep it natural and fresh. It gets changed along the way into something that isn’t what it was.
For those folks that have the ability to take that genius with them intact and fully assimilated through adolescence, into adulthood, as spouse or partner and parenthood, they’ve been granted a precious gift.
But I’m not one of them. I’ve usually been two people: the sensible dad, husband, businessman, coach, hypnotist, mentor, responsible-member-of-society type person. And the childish, butterfly-minded, semi-certifiable, anarchic, bottom-humoured, pub-singer idiot person that forgot the gift I was given.
While I can be quite happy being two people, I know it can cause stress among those closest to me – those that have to live with me and work with me, unless I manage it properly. That’s because I’m not one of those people with the gift of being seamlessly integrated.
When I’m on my game, those around me experience someone who’s reasonable, predictable, content, buoyant, creative, productive, engaging and happy with plenty of time and energy to invest in others.
When I’m not on my game the experience for others is usually not the one above and it’s easy to see that being somewhere else at those times is a good option for them!
I’ve had to learn to manage these two people and in doing so I’ve found that both parts of me – the idiot and the grownup have benefited immensely. The idiot benefits the most because it get’s to be childlike again instead of childish. The people around me have benefitted too.
For me the solution is focus.
But focus is something I’ve resisted in the past because it limited me in the number of things I could do or think about – or so the idiot thought.
For many of us, focus has been forced upon us through circumstance. Perhaps an illness, the loss of a loved one, redundancy, injury or a surprise win on the lottery have pitched us into a conundrum that demanded our full attention until order was restored. But we prevailed. We came through it. Some things take more time and effort than others but the focus was there when we called upon it and the circumstances were managed.
We found the resources to dig deeper than we thought we could and stretch ourselves beyond what we thought were our limits. And even if the results of our efforts fell short of our hopes or expectations, we still came away with something we didn’t have before – moved goalposts. We made the field we can play on bigger. We became childlike again in our search for knowledge and answers.
But whether or not we get there, we prevail. We’re bigger, more complete. And ready for the next hurdle.
And then, when things are settled again, many of us reach straight for the switch that is labelled ‘Focus’ and switch it off. So we can coast and drift and ‘enjoy’ things.
In my world, when I switch Focus off I break the integration that unites the childlike joy of learning and experimenting with the benefits of being a fully paid-up grownup. For a while I think I’m being carefree and fun but in reality I just seem to be planting the seeds of the next crisis that will bring about the circumstances that force me to focus again. I can also be a pain in the butt.
I’ve learned that it’s easier, more fun, more relaxing and more profitable to remain focussed on what I want – whatever those things might be.
And it’s really simple: I just ask, “What do I want?” followed by “How will I know when I’ve got it?” followed by “What needs to be true for this to happen?” Then I decide to be focussed.
In a professional context many of the people I work with often attain senior positions or become world-class in their fields but there comes a point when the focus fades and there is a perception in the mind of the beholder that the excellence they attained is somehow capable of sustaining its own separate and self-fueled existence.
It ain’t. It’s just an illusion created by the mind of the Faded Focuser.
This is the point where the ‘Law of Use It or Lose It’ (LOUIOLI) comes into effect. The LOUIOLI is well understood and self-explanatory, and you’ll know that often all that’s needed is a fresh look or approach or even change of scene to rekindle the passion in the topic.
The LOUIOLI is often accompanied by the LOIBHaW – the Law of ‘I’ll Be Happy When…’
The LOIBHaW is a pernicious and horrid statute passed by the minds of Faded Focusers. It’s a cop out to transfer the ownership of our responsibilities away from ourselves to external events or things.
It is also complete and utter bollocks. Because there is no ‘when’ – there is only ‘now.’ So the idea that you will be happy at some point in the undefined future, but can’t be now, is tosh.
Things only start when they start now otherwise they can only ever be ‘whens’, and ‘whens’ are the same thing as ‘nothing.’
So, for me, focus is the glue that bonds the role of adulthood with the privilege of learning like a child and all I, and maybe you, need to do is keep the hand away from the Focus switch. It’s on – keep it that way.