Friday, October 10, 2014

Life Under The Magnifying Glass

I mentioned the other week that I'd recently read a great book by Daniel Goleman called Focus, which was all about how our brains direct our attention. Funnily enough, this week my blog buddies set the title "Focus is not something you find but something your create" (Jeff Goins).

So initially I thought I'd write on some of the brain-stuff surrounding focus.. but then (ironically) my mind went off on a tangent and I ended up somewhere completely different! This is something I enjoy about writing blog posts!

Finding caterpillars
My kids love finding bugs and creepy crawly things outside. When we're on our allotment my daughter is usually on a mission to find as many worms and ladybirds as she can find. In our back garden they are always collecting caterpillars, woodlice, and other small creatures. Many of these find their way into a special collection pot with a magnifying glass lid. We all enjoy getting a closer look at these creatures through the lid, counting legs and identifying mandibles and other features. They come into crisper focus when viewed in this way.

Something my kids have not yet learnt to do (although we should try it soon) is harness the focusing power of a magnifying glass to start a fire, which is the picture that came to mind when thinking of the Jeff Goins quote above: "Focus is.. something you create".

The key thing about starting a fire in this way isn't necessarily the size of the magnifying glass, but about position and patience. If you orient it appropriately to the sun, and if you're patient at sustaining it's focus, then the focussed sunlight heats up the locus point enough to cause ignition. Ideally it's paper or twigs that are being burnt and not small insects!

My dad's amazing sundial.. 
A few years ago my dad made me a sundial (I've mentioned before how he inspires me to make things). Since this was my dad we're talking about, this was no ordinary sundial. For a start he made the base out of slate, into which he engraved not only the numbers around the dial but the co-ordinates of our house (at the time in Southampton), since the gnomon (a favourite word of mine, and basically the sticky-uppy bit of a sundial) was calibrated for that exact location.

Here is another example of the importance of correct positioning - for a sundial to be accurate, the angle of the gnomon needs to vary depending on latitude.. so to use the sundial in the West Midlands we need to tilt the base accordingly to compensate for our change in latitude! I love the level of thoughtfulness my dad exhibits in the amazing things he makes.

As regular readers will know, recurring themes for me include thinking big and being the best expression of who you are. For both the sundial and the magnifying glass, it's not about how big or small they are, the key point is about positioning. So too in our lives, it's not necessarily how gifted or talented we may or may not be, it's about how we position ourselves to use those gifts and talents to the best effect. When we're doing what we're made by God to do we'll be happier in ourselves and contributing best to the world around us.

Has your focus diffused?
But.. it's a tension we face that what puts food on the table and pays the bills may not be something we feel is so life-giving, or our life calling. I don't dispute this, and whilst I encourage all of us to dream big and take steps towards that dream, I also recognise that this is often an incremental process, and the pressures of providing for family can override rash or drastic action.

On this note, I read a really helpful LinkedIn article by Chester Elton the other week on job-sculpting. The essential premise was that "dream jobs" are rare, but by making small changes to your current situation you can make it more satisfying. I'd encourage you to read the article, but the main questions it asked were: What can I add/alter/delegate?

Not giant questions, but a helpful framework to help you adjust your position - like the magnifying glass - to better effect. Making small changes can make a big difference - as Sir Clive Woodward would say "Doing 100 things 1% better" to make a 100% change.

For me, 1% changes are manageable. In my work, one thing I've been trying to add over the last year is more writing in different forms. I've been able to delegate some technical aspects to make space for this. I'm enjoying my job more as a result.

"So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God." (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

Need to refocus your magnifying glass?
It can be hard sometimes to find satisfaction in our work, in our ordinary day to day existence. Maybe you're waiting for that dream job, dream opportunity to come along. But waiting is hard isn't it? And how you wait can be as important as whatever it is you're waiting for. My friend Dan Bennett spoke on this subject recently, his talk is well worth a listen.

Has the sun moved since you last focussed your magnifying glass? Or maybe your life is in a different place now than when you set up your sundial. Either way, to create (or re-create) focus, it might be time to assess your position again - are there small things to add, alter or delegate?

I'd love to hear from you - if this post has been helpful, why not share some things you plan to add, alter or delegate in the comments box below?


Thanks for taking the time to read Life Under the Magnifying Glass. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes for the audio version and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

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Unknown said...

My mind is forever going off on a tangent and focus is something I need to improve. Thanks for linking up #bigfatlinky

Luke Strickland said...

You and me both Al!

Emily Twin Mummy and Daddy said...

I can lose focus quite often. I'm easily distracted at times, but it's something I'm aware of so I try to improvise it. Great post. #AnythingGoes

Random Musings said...

I love how your posts always give me something to think about. I like how you used the sun dial (which is fab by the way) and it's position to show how just moving something a tiny fraction can change the results so much.
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Emily, and thanks Debbie - it's good to connect on #AnythingGoes
Appreciate you both taking the time to read and comment :)

Lady Nym said...

Some great metaphors there. My eldest has just started preschool. Only two mornings a week but it's still a change. I think I'll need to plan out what I'll do with that time.