I often question my focus. Is my focus too broad, or what is the risk of being too narrow? A former professor once promoted how it is acceptable (and necessary) to have multiple interests. Different things bring different joys to work and life. When I heard this idea, it resonated, but I now question the value of too many things to juggle.
The value of having a wide view and juggling different interests is keeping curiosity alive. Being curious is an important element to fostering a growth mindset. Becoming set in your ways is a bigger risk than taking on too many different projects. Finding the right tempo between the two is always the challenge.
A wide-angle focus also can help make connection points between ideas. Two unrelated areas can unexpectedly find commonality. By putting two different concepts together, one can be stronger than by itself. A wide-angle focus requires good critical thinking skills in making the linkages between diverse initiatives and ideas.
The value of zooming into one project is traction. With diligent focus, gaining momentum may happen more quickly and efficiently. While momentum is good, there is a risk of lessening the impact if too narrow. Instead of gaining the support of hundreds of community members, we may only gain half or less.
Another risk is missing the connection points. For example, if you only talked with people in your office and your industry, you miss a potential diverse idea or best practice and how both could expand the possibility of your initiative.
Having a zoom-in focus requires good sensory skills. Missing an outside signal can slow or diminish the value of your focus. Digging in can create a rut so large that you can no longer see the bigger picture.
The Dilemma of Focus
The answer to the question of focus is a challenging one. With many focus areas, we may not feel we are missing out on much since we are engaged on many fronts. With a few focus areas, we may feel like we are making progress, or we may feel like we are missing out on other opportunities. Fearing of missing out should not be the determining factor of how to focus.
Another dilemma is opportunity. With a wide-angle focus, there are more opportunities to view, and many look beautiful with probability. Maybe it is related to fear of missing out, but it relates to making a difference. With more opportunities in play, we have more opportunity for success and impact. With a zoom-in focus, we have a few selected opportunities. The few may result in a positive impact, but we are committed to them. If they don’t work out, we will need to zoom into the next opportunity.
We need to deal with the dilemmas of focus and make our selection.
Determining Focus: Wide-Angle or Zoom-In
It may sound like a copout, but the focus decision is a personal one. What I know is to trust your heart and gut while using your mind to evaluate.
- Gut: Do you feel like you are too stretched and losing effectiveness? If not, stay with the wide-angle. If so, focus on a few.
- Heart: What encourages you in how you can make a positive impact? Whichever ideas and initiatives meet a high standard of making a positive difference, focus here.
- Mind: What are the quantitative results of the selected focus areas? If your brain cannot compute a reasonable path forward to achieve a quantitative difference, then drop the idea or initiative. Focus on the ones that will make a quantifiable difference.
The gut, heart, and mind alignment are probably the best way to determine focus. It takes quiet time to discern the right decision. If you remain stuck, it may be time to phone a friend, meaning having a collaborative and accountable conversation with a friend or colleague can be the focus game-changer. Talking it through triggers other brain, heart, and gut connections to shine a light on what should happen next.
The key, I believe, is this: If there is a connection between brain, heart, and gut, then good things happen whether a broad or narrow focus. If there is a connection between interests and projects (i.e., a common bond), then good things can happen with the broad focus.
Focus to Make a Difference
More than anything, whether to focus wide or narrow, the ultimate factor is how you can make a positive difference. Making a difference can be local, regional, national, or global. In many ways, it does not matter, as long as you are making a positive impact. Don’t get caught up in what others are doing. Each of us is unique, so our impact will be unique. Whatever your focus, be active in it and build momentum!