We say no to a lot of things not necessarily because we choose to, but because a lot of issues don’t need our attention.
The men wearing neon vests doing construction work on our street don’t need our opinion to do their jobs. Local politics will carry on without our viewpoint. The junior high basketball team will be fine without our input on how they should execute their zone defense.
So, we let these things go. We let them be.
We also say yes to a lot of things not necessarily because we choose to, but because we allow our attention to be stretched beyond its malleability.
One of our greatest assets — focus — gets lost in this shuffle between a series of artless noes and passive yeses.
A meaningful — or focused driven life — is rarely forged by one event; instead, it’s shaped moment by moment. The sum of this rhythm dictates what we are focused on.
One unfocused moment doesn’t matter all that much. One focused moment doesn’t matter all that much. But over the course of weeks, months and years, either stance — unfocused or focused — produces an outcome.
This result is a screenshot of where our attention has been channeled on the days that have passed. We look back and see what we have given ourselves to.
The scorecard society has constructed fills us with ambition fueled by the result — giving little meaning to how those results are achieved. It’s rather easy to forsake moral strength and performance character qualities by the strong pull of ambition.
The imagery of achievement we consume online, TV, and in commercials becomes the norm. And as a society practices so does the individual. Thus, jumping into the river that we see others swimming in becomes a reaction instead of a decision; another passive yes.
In these waters, the current has its way with us. It takes a superhuman effort to not become transfixed on the idea that the achievement itself becomes the yardstick of success. We become dangerously exposed to the win-at-all-cost mindset which ironically turns out to be exactly that — victory with little to show for.
It seems out of place for us to work so hard for ephemeral things, but give so little attention to what we know our souls need.
Poets, early scholars, and spiritual leaders have pointed to this concept over the years. And now, science is catching up. Our souls aren’t thirsty for fame, money, and power. Our souls are crying for a new scorecard that is marked by influence, meaning, and love. The good news is that we can thrive and practice these virtues.
The scorecard society has constructed is not a zero-sum game. There is more than one way.
This is not an attempt minimize ambition. No.
Rather, it’s an aim to dethrone transitory pursuits as the highest item on our goal sheet. It’s redesigning the hierarchy of how we answer the question, “How do we live our best possible life?”
Like exercise for the body, pivoting our mindset in this way requires daily training. Henry David Thoreau puts it this way:
"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."
One question has the potency to change our thoughts and eventually help us forge a mental path that aligns with our values, and it’s this:
What am I focused on today?