Most people have a project, especially when they work with a coach. “I want to get a new job!” “I want to double my sales!” “I want to lose 50 pounds!” When you have a project, it’s easy to lose sight of everything else. But tunnel vision is counterproductive. Peripheral vision holds the key to success.
Three years ago I wrote Provision #122 entitled “Look Ahead.” (You can read that Provision in the archives by following this link: Click.) I wrote then about the four places to focus your eyes and attention while running: you can look down, ahead, up, or around. Each view has a time and place, but for general-purpose running I coached readers to look ahead.
To look ahead while running requires you to rely on your peripheral vision to see not only where to plant your feet but also other aspects of your environment. This can take some cultivation. When one has a clear vision, what Bennis & Nanus call a “target that beckons” in their classic book “Leaders,” it’s easy to become a victim of the horse-with-blinders syndrome. We see nothing other than what’s right in front of us.
I know runners who can do no other. As the race approaches, and once the gun goes off, they lose all track of time, people, and perspective. The crowds become a blur. The noise becomes a drone. And no one had better get in their way. The target that beckons produces a kind of tunnel vision that blocks out every distraction.
Unfortunately, this powerful human ability to focus our attention • so lacking in and yet desired by those with attention deficit disorders • can work against the very success it tries to achieve. As we narrow our focus, ever tighter and tighter, we heighten our anxiety, tension, and stress to the point where it can take more energy than it produces. It can become counterproductive not only of our ability to enjoy the run but to achieve the goal.
That’s why Lynch & Scott have a chapter entitled “Relaxing to Excel” in their excellent book, “Running Within.” They coach runners to find that perfect balance between sharp focus and broad awareness, between tunnel and peripheral vision, in order to stay relaxed and yet comfortably aroused. Through a series of “watching exercises” (breath watching, face watching, body watching, and word watching) they show runners how to avoid the negative impacts of stress without losing their competitive edge.
Their exercises and the entire concept of striking a balance between sharp focus and broad awareness are relevant to far more than running and sports. In every human endeavor, whenever there is a goal to achieve or a problem to knock down, striking that balance will inevitably make the difference between success and failure.
This is especially relevant and important when you find yourself on the back end of a transition, in a new situation or changed circumstances. There’s so much going on under these circumstances that only a broad awareness • free of anxiety, tension, and stress • can begin to produce the kind of opportunities that make for success.
Two weeks ago my wife and I were riding bikes around “our lake” in the evening. It’s a wonderful 5-mile ride that can produce delightful sights, sounds, and smells • as long as we use our peripheral vision. We’ve seen a family of swans, snowy white egrets, turtles, frogs, pelicans, deer, bald eagles and countless (but often unnamed) species of flora.
This particular evening, at the end of our ride, we rode by two people sitting in their side yard. We saw them waving, out of the corner of our eyes, and decided to turn around, go back, and say hello. Before we knew it, we were sitting down with them, enjoying an apricot tea smoothie, and receiving an invitation to visit their church in Colonial Williamsburg. That we did, two days later, after which we went out lunch and discovered all sorts of profitable connections.
None of that would have happened had we not (a) seen them out of the corner of our eye, and (b) taken the time to turn around and say hello. Had we been so focused on getting home to start our own dinner or do whatever else was on our mind, a wonderful opportunity for networking and socialization would have been missed.
Do you see the relevance here to successfully managing life’s transitions? With new situations and circumstances, you inevitably end up with new challenges, goals, and projects. For me and LifeTrek Coaching International, that includes establishing a viable corporate presence in a new region of the country. It’s tempting to push this agenda, in order to try and make it happen as quickly as possible.
But pushing an agenda in business often produces the same, counterproductive tunnel vision, anxiety, tension, and stress that Lynch & Scott describe for runners. Pushers are just not very attractive (hence the negative stereotypes of used car sales people). Pulling is the way to go, like magnets, if you want to be successful in business. And using your peripheral vision can make that magnet very powerful indeed.
See the big picture and not just the work project. Notice the people and not just the problems. Take in the environment and not just the task at hand. You will still get the job done • often more quickly and easily than if you had been hard driving to the end. Relax and lighten up. It’s the only way to attract your heart’s desire.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I’ve been reading for many months now and I have yet to find a Provision that I couldn’t use on my own trek. I have recently gone through several major changes: getting married, separating, leaving my job, leaving a large Canadian city where I know many people for a small American town where I know no one, becoming an independent consultant•. It seems there is no aspect of my life that is untouched. As you can imagine, such sweeping change has resulted in profound emotional turmoil. I have been to a therapist and take medication to help me get to a point where I can combat the troubles…through it all, working out, mountain biking, and LifeTrek has helped as well. Indeed you are a giver. I try to be one, and thought that I was, but I fear I still have work to do. As strange as this may sound, I think I have to give a little to myself • in the sense of giving respect, better eating and sleeping • factors that will dampen the oscillation of the pendulum that is my life rather than exacerbate this wild swinging to the outside.
I live in Argentina, and if you want a constructive feedback, I can tell you that besides my lovely kids and mountain biking, what keeps me pushing in this tough environment is studying. Yes, the first thing I do when I wake up is study. That enables you to begin the day in a positive way no matter what happens then. Furthermore, I prepare myself for the moment my country is ready to resume growth.
I’ve always enjoyed your Provisions but this one, about giver and taker, is so illuminating. I realized that I’m more of a giver than a taker. It’s very helpful to categorize in this manner. Many thanks.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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