Blind Focus

Two incidents happened a few days ago within minutes of each other which had me ponder the power and the inherent blindness of focus on a single end point.

I received a personal email with a TED video attached and shortly this after I was reading a page from the book The Balance Within.

Let me explain;

The Balance Within is a fairly heavy read by Dr Ester Sternberg, a medical researcher, on how the brain and emotions affect the body’s immune function. I was struggling through her description of gushing hormones running through the glands of Fischer rats when a completely out of context paragraph struck me. She was describing her incredibly focussed work on rats (!) blindly unaware of complimentary work being undertaken in Austria by another researcher on Chickens (!!) After all if you are a rat person why would you be interested in chickens half way around the world and vice versa? She says…

“Such seemingly large holes in scientist’s collective knowledge have much to do with the blinders we are often forced to wear as a result of focussing so exclusively on one field. It happens in all fields”

It was the last sentence in particular which struck me – It happens in all fields.

This hugely intelligent medical researcher acknowledges the inherent limitation of her focussing on her subject. In her focus she was completely missing massive opportunities to get her to her end goal.

For any of you who read a lot of the “self help” genre, this will seem like a complete contradiction. This genre advocates complete focus on your goal.

Let me now introduce the TED video sent by my American cousin.

Click here for a stunning visual example of exactly the same principle, explained in an entirely different way. You may want to watch it twice!

Total focus on an end goal allows us to block out distractions; disturbances; and potential impediments – this is all good and useful and frees us to follow a straight and true path to our end goal. And it introduces perceptual blindness.

BUT what happens when the key, the da Vinci code to getting what we want is slightly off centre, and out of focus?

We focus, focus, focus, and miss it.

We try again and again and miss. The frustration of total focus on a single point means we miss the big picture; and also that we miss the opportunities (as well as the distractions) to get to our end goals quickly and easily.

Like a draft horse with its blinkers on blindly following the carrot on a stick; we don’t see the carrot field to one side of the road.

We miss colleagues, family and friends on the sidelines waving to us and offering the assistance we need. We miss the miracles of coincidence and the synergies of opportunity. We miss the books written by others in an entirely different field which point the way we need. We miss the Eureka of sitting in a bath and solving a scientific puzzle.

It isn’t that we don’t stop to smell the roses – we simply don’t see the rose garden.

Taking a wide angle view – seeing the big picture which holds our goals within – does not take our focus away from our goal. It actually frees us up to see the obvious (to everyone else) and to take hold of the opportunities presented.

Enjoy the big picture – Enjoy the view, and the journey.

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