3 Ways to (Re)focus When Life Throws You Off Your Game

 Photo credit: David Tufino

Photo credit: David Tufino

The following is a loosely translated excerpt from the Mahābhārata (an ancient Indian epic), which illustrates the concept of FOCUS. The warrior prince Arjuna was known as the greatest archer of all time. It is said that once Arjuna focuses on a target, he always hits it. 

 ***

Drona Archarya was the greatest teacher in archery who ever lived. Following him as a group of students were Arjuna, Ashwathama, Yudhistar and a couple of others. Among them, Arjuna excelled in archery. One day other students openly criticized Drona for favoritism towards Arjuna, telling him they too were not less skillful in archery.

“Tomorrow, there will be an archery competition to find out the best archer,” Drona replied. The next day Drona hung a wooden bird on a tree far from them. “See that wooden bird perched on the tree ahead of us? Aim at its eye,” he said.

He calls the first student – Yudhistar. Yudhistar plucked an arrow from the quiver, placed it on the bow, and pulled the string. “What do you see?” Drona asked. “I see the sun, the clouds, the trees,” Yudhistar replied as he released the string. The arrow shot forward and landed yards away from the tree.

Another student – Ashwathama took his position. He plucked an arrow from his quiver, placed it on the bow, and pulled the string. “What do you see?” Drona asked. “I see the bird, its legs, the twigs on the branch in which the bird sits, the small mango behind the bird, the leaves surrounding the bird, a small worm on the branch that approaches the bird.” The surrounding crowd is amazed. Other students could barely see the bird and nobody else had the eyesight to spot so many small details that Ashwathama so casually spotted. As he released the string, the arrow shot forward and landed near the roots of the tree. Similarly the rest tried but none succeed.

Finally it was Arjuna’s turn. He plucked an arrow from his quiver, placed it on the bow, and pulled the string. Following is the conversation between Drona and Arjuna emphasizing on how focussed Arjuna was:

Drona: “What do you see?”
Arjuna: “I see the eye of the bird”
Drona: “Do you see the tree?”
Arjuna: “No”
Drona: “Do you see the branch?”
Arjuna: “No”
Drona: “Do you see the bird?”
Arjuna: “No”
Drona: “Then what else do you see, Arjuna?”
Arjuna: “Nothing. I see only the round black eye of the bird.”

As Arjuna released the string, the arrow shot forward with a swoosh. It pierced the center of the eye of the wooden bird.

***

Whoever said we must aim for the eye of the bird 🐦 with focused, single-minded, all-absorbed determination must not have had two small children running circles around him.

If I had to re-write the story of Drona Archana and Arjuna from the Mahābhārata, with Arjuna as a mom, what would that look like?

Mama archer aims cooly, steadily at the wooden toy bird perched on a tree in the back yard. “Kids, focus and aim for the eye. But remember, this is a toy, not a real bird. We love and care for living animals.”

Wanting mama archer’s attention, her boys pull at her clothes and cry, “Mama, mama!!” just as she shoots a Nerf arrow. 

On the other side of the fence, they hear a voice from an unsuspecting neighbor, “Ow!!! What the... !?!?”

Mama archer turns to her children, “See what happens when you get distracted?”

As a mom, finding focus in every day life can be a bit of a challenge. There are so many things that can pull us in different directions: children, relationships, work, household chores, and every day responsibilities. 

When we divert our energy into 10 different tasks, it’s easy to get de-railed from pursuing our purpose. If we each had a bow and spread the energy of the bow among 10 arrows, they each would shoot about 20 feet in different directions. But if we focused all the energy of the bow to one arrow, it might shoot 100 feet and hit the target. 

Well, easier said than done, right?

A number of things can present themselves as obstacles, such as unexpected distractions, a lack of control, or even a lack of understanding. At times, I feel like there are too many unexpected distractions that need urgent attention. Anyone else with me? 🙋🏻‍♀️

 

 Photo credit: David Tufino

Photo credit: David Tufino

3 Ways to (Re)focus When Life Throws You Off Your Game

1/ Clarify your intention. 

If your purpose seems to be overwhelming and takes you to many different directions, make it more manageable, single-pointed. This all comes down to what do you value most. (Achievement? Connection? Balance?) 

If you focus on work, relationships or family life may suffer. If you focus on relationships or family, you may not achieve as much in your career. If you try to have both career and family, your health may deteriorate. There’s no such thing as “having it all”, at least not all at the same time. 

Decide what is worthy of your attention because you have limited time, resources, and energy. (You are human, after all.) Let competing ideas exist, but stay focused on what means most to you. 

2/ Commit to actions that support your intention.

This means saying YES to some things and NO to others. For example, each night I prioritize the top 3 tasks that need to be accomplished the next day, without negotiation. When I wake up the next morning, I know to focus on the 3 most important things first, then work through the rest of my list. If other things that don’t support my intention come up throughout the day, I have to say “no” to stay on track.

3/ Go with the flow.

Do your best, work to serve the highest purpose for yourself AND for the service of those around you at the present moment, and let go of results. At times, this may require having faith and accepting a new norm.

Timing is everything - what is “right” for right now may not be “right” 5 years from now. Decide what’s right for NOW. You are always one decision away from a totally different life. The timing of life offers us a chance to reinvent ourselves every few years. 

For those of us who left the workforce to have children and plan to return to work in the future .... I try to believe that what’s meant for us will be there for us. 

Any great accomplishment we have ever made happened because we committed to it, never giving up, even if circumstances were difficult. 

So what can I say, Warriors!? Courageously aim your arrow in the direction which is right for you. Those who have fulfilled lives have learned to gather their energy, focus it, and let the arrow fly! 🏹🎯 

 

This post is in collaboration with #TheRefinedCollective Series. Be sure to check out my sisters’ stories as to how they stay focused!

*From Avani Mehta (http://www.avani-mehta.com/2008/06/13/do-you-have-arjuna-like-focus/)