Intense Focus vs. The Big Picture

I joined a bowling league a few years ago when my mom’s team broke up, and she invited me to start a team with her. I’m a decent bowler. My current average is 145, and my highest score ever is 207.

What I love most about bowling is that I’m not competing so much with the other players, but that I’m competing with myself. I’m always trying to do better and get my average higher.

When I compete against myself, I get pretty serious. I can be hard on myself too. But one thing I’ve noticed is that I get super focused when I’m standing on the lane ready to thrown my ball. I stare intently at the arrow on the floor knowing I have to hit my mark if I want to hit the head pin. There’s no use looking at the pins. I have to look at the mark. So I pretty much ignore the pins.

Which can be dangerous.

There I was, focusing on the mark, and I got ready to start my approach. I happened to look up, and at the same time a fellow bowler yelled out my name. It turns out that the pin grabber was still down, and if I had thrown my ball at that exact moment, it would have bounced off that thing. Probably not a big deal, but I would have had to call maintenance and have someone walk down the gutter to go get my ball.

That would have been pretty damn embarrassing.

But I realized this happens to me more often than I like to admit; I focus too intently on what’s in front of me that I forget to look up and look around and see what’s happening outside my little world.

Taking time to see a teammate having a rough day or listening when my lead agent needs to work though something by talking it out is also my job. And no, these things aren’t in my job description, but maybe they should be.

As a leader on the team, I have a responsibility to move the whole bus forward; not just myself.

It’s easy to keep working while someone is trying to talk to me, because I feel like when I’m working, I’m earning my salary. Often though, I’m working on the details, the checklists, the little projects that are easy to do and don’t take much brainpower. These things can easily be set aside in a moment of need.

Of course, it’s up to me to discern when I can be interrupted and when I really can’t. And my team is respectful of my time when I indicated I can’t be interrupted.

But it’s also up to me to recognize when someone is in the moment. My lead agent will often come to me at a moment when he’s been thinking through something, and he’s ready for outside input. I don’t want to put him off because in that moment, he’s about to make a decision and the emotions and thought processes that have led up to it are at their peak.

And quite frankly, I love those moments. Watching our team work through problems and emerge as something new and transformed is exciting. Being part of that fulfills my need to belong to something bigger than me.

My advice here is to look up once in a while. When it’s appropriate, pay attention to what’s going on outside yourself and you to-do list. Not all of us are geared to think about the big picture, but that kind of thinking is what propels the team and yourself to greater success.


Are you mulling over a decision and could use someone’s “outside looking in” opinion? I’m happy to help if I can. Send me an email: My inbox is always open.


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