Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.- E.B. White
As the mother of a two year old, I know that you can find wonder in anything if you are willing to look. The problem is– how often do we look?
We are all so busy worrying about what we have to get done that we get bogged down in our tasks and forget to look up and give other people and things the focus they deserve. Just as I was writing this, my son climbed into my lap (with sauce covered hands from lunch) and at first I tried to push my computer a little further away and continue to work. What irony! I was writing an article about not taking time to focus in the present, and I was guilty of exactly that. Not only is it illogical to think that work produced while holding a wriggly, sauce-covered two year old would be any good, but on top of that I should have realized immediately that this little person warranted my attention.
I was having a conversation recently with a colleague who told me that as an ethicist, he believed he was no more ethical than those who did not study ethics. I can relate, as someone who studies emotions, at times I am no better than anyone else in falling prey to my own emotions. So, we are not perfect and we don’t need to be perfect to be good at what we do. But, what we do need to be is diligent and this is where focus comes in to play.
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on our self, especially when we feel pressured by a deadline or when we are inspired by our work. And while it is wonderful to put your head down and get something done, too much of this focus can limit our ability to be in tune with others and our surroundings.
Dan Goleman talks about three types of focus in his book, Focus: The Hidden Ingredient in Excellence. Rooted in the idea of attention, the different types of focus certainly fit nicely with Goleman’s previous work in emotional intelligence. Goleman talks about ‘inner,’ ‘other,’ and ‘outer’ focus in the book. When I give a talk or hold a workshop on emotional intelligence, people often realize that the concepts within are things that they already know, but these are the things that we can fail to recognize as important and concentrate on. It is easy to allow ourselves to become distracted and fail to focus with information and instant communications constantly popping up on all of our devices.
So, focus is of course important and necessary, but it is also important to recognize wonder when you see it. Having enough awareness for what is happening with others and all around us is so important if we are going to be creative and innovative. If we are focusing too closely on the task at hand, we may miss the big opportunity. Today, I am happy to report that I didn’t miss the opportunity to get some sauce on my clothes and spend some quality time away from my computer to find out the wonder that you can find in the simple pleasure of lunch with a two year old.
So, concentrate when you need to, but be aware that taking time to stop and see the wonder that is present within and between others may just be the best thing you can do today.
Right now, I hear a little voice in the distance singing a song about mama, and I am off to go find out about the latest wonder that just may inspire me to do even better work when I return.