Have you ever watched a horse wearing blinders? As a child, I remember thinking they were cruel, preventing the horse from seeing fully.
But the blinders have a very specific purpose:
Horses have peripheral vision, which means they can end up running off course unless they are made to remain focused.
Farming horses can also be predisposed to distractions and… they might need blinders to stop them from losing concentration on the direction they are supposed to be headed. The blinders cover the rear vision of the horse, forcing it to look only in a forward direction and keeping it on track.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? As creatures with peripheral vision, blinders aren’t a negative thing, but rather they keep a horse focused and moving in a forward direction.
They’re not the only ones with peripheral vision. How many times a day do we look around at what other women are doing and compare ourselves (hello, Facebook and Pinterest)?
How often do we feel less than after visiting the elegantly decorated and spotlessly clean home of a friend? How many times have we felt good about goals we’re working on in our marriage, only to read a blog post about someone else’s goals, and suddenly what we’re doing seems pathetic and like it’s just not enough?
In a sense, setting priorities (which you did at the very beginning of Live) is one way of putting blinders on ourselves.
And it’s not that we don’t want to see and experience and understand other ways of doing things, or that it isn’t good to be exposed to fresh ideas or be inspired by others. But if we’re not careful, that can drag us off course, away from our own personal best, and the carefully-set goals we’re working towards.
One of the most important aspects of focus for us to grasp (and come to terms with, quite frankly) is that with all the benefits come some harder elements as well:
- Learning not to compare ourselves so much with others (or better yet, at all). Just because someone has a different focuses than you doesn’t make yours any less valid.
- Realizing that not doing everything doesn’t mean we’re missing out on something. Fear of missing out is so rampant, but the goal is to be fully engaged in our own lives, instead of trying to do or be a part of everything we see in other people’s lives.
- Saying no to things, even when it feels scary or we’re walking away from something that has mattered to us previously or that matters to someone else.
- Recognizing it’s OK to disappoint others. An expectation or hope on their end does not and should not equal a necessity on ours.
- Accepting our own limitations and learning to live joyfully within them.
It doesn’t mean we don’t continue to see or evaluate other things and see if we need to shift our focus over time. Inevitably we will need to. Seasons change, we change, opportunities change. Learning to focus isn’t a one-time thing, but rather a lifelong skill.
It’s just that we intentionally choose to say no to being distracted by (or being made to feel guilty by) the things we see around us that we’re saying no to, so we can focus fully on the things we choose to say yes to.
This year, I’ve had two big things I needed to let go of, one completely and the other temporarily. One affected my work and career; the other my mothering.
Both felt incredibly painful and so deeply woven into who I thought I was and how people knew me and what I expected of myself that making the decisions felt like tearing off a band-aid that’s stuck on a wound. You know that ripping the band-aid off is going to be excruciating, but it’s only way to move forward and let it heal.
That’s what I’m still working through right now. Nobody wants to work through the pain (believe me, I don’t), let alone inflict it on themselves by making changes and hard decisions.
And yet, I can already see that the result of saying no is more breathing room and space in my life to live joyfully and authentically, and to be that second, happier, more focused version of myself that I want to be.
Do you (like me) struggle with peripheral vision? Are you getting off-track of what matters most in your life because of guilt, the expectations of others, denial of your own limitations, fear or anything else that might be causing you to run off course?
Perhaps there are things you need to say no to so that you can say yes to something else. I wish I could just rip the band-aid off for you, my friend. I can tell you, however, that we’re on this journey together and it’s all so that you can keep moving forward with purpose and determination.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Have you allowed your “peripheral” vision to take you off course in life? Which things lead you astray (guilt, the expectations of others, denial of your own limitations, fear, perfectionism, etc.)?
- Do you need to put on blinders to stop comparing yourself to others by avoiding certain websites, shows, magazines, etc.?
- What are some steps you can take this week to put on the blinders and find focus in one area of your life?