Three incidents happened recently that show that at times, focus is overrated.

  • Meeting a friend for lunch and FOCUSED on getting into the restaurant right on time, I parked, bolted for the door, and walked directly past him sitting in the car right next to mine.
  • I bought an audio birthday card for a friend. I FOCUSED on it playing the theme from “The Twilight Zone” when buying it because it tied to something going on in her life right now. When discussing it later, it recalled for her a shared connection to the song from nearly ten years before. That very personal connection completely escaped me when I purchased it.
  • My wife and I were looking for an orange shirt to replace one that I’d ruined with permanent marker (it’s a bit of an occupational hazard, unfortunately). She was holding up a possible shirt when I became FOCUSED on exactly the orange shirt I wanted and made a beeline past her toward the rack where it was hanging. Moments later when she called my attention to the shirt again, I reacted as if it were the first time seeing it. She said that she’d held it up for me to see not five minutes before. But once I saw the orange shirt, it wouldn’t have mattered if a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model had been standing there; I’d have missed her.

Focus can be great when facing a critical task and you can tune out distractions, but too much focus can cause you to completely miss the obvious. That’s why it’s important to either force yourself to break focus or to seek perspectives from others who aren’t as focused on your issues as you are. In that way, you can help avoid looking foolish (or worse) for ignoring something staring everybody else in the face.