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February, 2013

Are you overly focused? 

Every positive attribute has its dark side when taken to an extreme.  "Focus" has its benefits, but it also has its toll.


I learned about the down side of "focus" when I first started to paint about fifteen years ago.  I would get so focused and engrossed in my work that my instructor would always have to remind me to step back to observe my painting and the work I had done.  


I can still hear her words:  Step Back.  Observe.  Reflect.


Stepping back temporarily disrupts your focus momentarily, allowing you to reflect and see things differently.  

In doing so, I gained perspective on what I should do next. However, what I found most surprising about stepping back during the painting process was the realization that my intense focus often resulted in me over working and over complicating the piece. 


I believe that this same principle applies to much of what we do at work. 

We often  can over-complicate a task or a situation if we are too close to it. As a result we can overwork or simply get worked up over something, but if we can just step back momentarily and disrupt this focus, it can lead us to some different conclusions. 

I was reminded of this recently.  While I was starting my new role last month, I was also completing 2012 commitments I had with clients. Needless to say, my time was stretched and I felt like I was putting 20 pounds of activity in a 10 pound capacity of time. 

All the signs of being overwhelmed were there:  that pit in my stomach, the quick, impatient responses, and the juggling and shuffling of multiple activities at once.  

When I am in this state of mind, I am not present, instead I have tunnel vision and am hyper focused on the tasks I am trying to complete.  Over time I have come to realize that this intense focus actually worsens the situation.  My pressure mounts and my perspective lessens.  


When you find yourself in  moments like this, recognizing it will be your first step in finding your way out of it.  


Then once you are able to recognize it,  do as I do, repeat the words of my painting instructor: 


Step back, Observe, Reflect.  


And when you do, the furious cycle will dissipate and a new way of seeing your situation will emerge. A new sense of perspective and clarity.


It may sound counter intuitive that the best way to move forward is to step back, and the best way to gain clarity is to lose a bit of your focus....momentarily, but it's worth the effort to get there.  


Laura Lopez is an award-winning author of The Connected and Committed Leader.  She is a leadership and branding expert who has been featured on the Today Show, Latina Voices Smart Talk, Living Smart and Fox News


In addition, her accomplishments have been highlighted in several business periodicals including  Personal Excellence, The Long Beach Business Journal, The Houston Chronicle, Latina Magazine, and Central Valley Business Times. Her articles on management and leadership are regularly seen in Leadership Excellence. 

Laura can be contacted via her Web site at:


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All the best,
Laura Lopez
Laura Lopez & Company
(713) 868-5025
cell (713) 828-8829