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The Road To Fort Worth

Read » Chapter 8: Danville


Stay Focused, Not Frazzled


You know that you function best on eight hours sleep, but you rarely hit the hay at ten p.m. because there's always another show to watch on television or the news. Then you think that a half cup of coffee couldn't hurt, that it will help to relax you. When you finally drag yourself to bed at eleven-thirty, you're counting sheep for a while trying to fall asleep.

The dreams you remember best are just before the alarm blares, and you hit the snooze button to try to recapture the interrupted dream. You doze off for a minute, then the alarm blasts again.

It's six thirty-five. You spring out of bed. You have a half hour to get ready for work and a forty-five minute drive. You may be on time if you're not delayed on the highway. No time to make coffee. You swear that you'll buy a programmable coffeemaker by week's end. You grab an energy drink and slurp it as you run into the bathroom to get ready for work.

Finally you open your car door, fasten your seat belt and speed out of the garage just clearing the rising garage door. You make a mental note to find a faster motor for the door.

The freeway is jammed with traffic, which gives you time to think of a new excuse for being late for work. You pull into the parking lot at work. It's seven fifty-eight. "Phew," you whisper as you look into the rear-view mirror and brush your hair. You wait for an elevator for what seems like an eternity and finally arrive at your desk at three minutes past eight.

"Oh no. The boss spotted me." Then you breathe a sigh of relief when you see him heading for the conference room instead of your desk.

After you boot up your computer, the phone rings. You talk on the phone and try to work on the computer at the same time. You don't complete either task successfully and have to ask the caller to repeat himself.

By ten o'clock, you're starting to fade, crashing from the energy drink that promised you'd be alert all day long. So you take a break, drink a cup of coffee and eat a couple donuts.

WHOA! I'm getting stressed out just writing about your morning. Stress is a killer and the great thief of productivity. Stress is largely self imposed by our habits and routines as well as our reaction to it.

So let's start over and roll back the clock to last night. It will take you some time to get used to a new routine, but this is what it looks like.

You turn off the television set at eight p.m. and listen to some soothing music as you breathe deeply and rhythmically. You focus on your breathing and feel relaxed. A warm bath will do wonders to relax you an hour before bed.

You don't watch or listen to the news after five. The events occurring in the world will wait until tomorrow. The news is fraught with anxiety producing events, most of it useless information.

You read a chapter in a good book. You do a gentle Yoga pose. This is your time to center on your life giving force. You are relaxed when you go to bed at nine-thirty.

If you have children, they will have to be taught to adapt their lives to your schedule, not the other way around. You set your alarm to five-thirty and use the music mode for the alarm. You will awaken more gently to music than the foghorn alarm.

When soft music awakens you in the morning, you lay in bed for a moment and stretch. You're amazed at the creative thoughts that pass through your mind after a good night's sleep.

You have a glass of juice, toast, and cereal, then you get ready for work. You leave the house at six-forty-five, enter the garage and wait for the garage door to finish its cycle. You drive slowly down the driveway. Since you've allowed plenty of time to get to work, you actually enjoy the drive, arriving at the office at seven-forty. You have twenty minutes to prepare for your day.

When the phone rings, you concentrate on the call. Multitasking is inefficient, so you complete each task before starting the next whenever possible. There will be interruptions, though you've learned how to be flexible. At break-time, you drink a glass of water with some fruit you brought from home. At the end of the day, you're amazed by all you've accomplished in the course of the day.

We are, by and large, a stressed out country. Poor diet, lack of exercise, inadequate sleep, and an irregular routine impair focus, and wanting too much too soon, wanting, wanting, wanting, all add up to a high stress level.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, athletes talked a lot about the degree of their focus in their event. Every athlete has prepared for years for the Olympics by following a strict schedule of exercise, practice and a balanced routine. As challenging as it is to know how far they can push their bodies, then push beyond their limits, it is equally challenging to develop the kind of focus it takes to succeed in an extremely stressful situation.

Before they begin the event, you can see them breathing deeply, stretching, preparing for the long course ahead. There is a discernible difference between athletes who are completely focused and those who have wavered in their mental preparation. A skier becomes at one with the slope and his skis, and has reached his or her goal before even leaving the starting gate. It's similar to the way you become a part of your car when you're driving, or a part of a boat when you're navigating through a storm. The waves, wind and boat are all a part of you as you navigate to a safe harbor.

U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson is a creature of routine, balance and practice. She won the inaugural slopestyle event in the Sochi Winter Olympics. Her secret to staying focused and balanced during the heat of competition is yoga.

After her Slopestyle Gold Medal win, Anderson told reporters, "Last night, I was so nervous. I couldn't even eat. I was trying to calm down. Put on some meditation music, burn some sage. Got the candles going. Just trying to do a little bit of yoga. Last night, I was processing so much. I just had to write. I write a lot. I was writing in my journal. Listening to calm music. It was all about good vibration. Thankfully I slept really good. I did some mantras. It worked out for me."

As Anderson pointed out, another tool to use to stay in balance is writing, commonly known as journaling. It has been proven that test scores are higher for those individuals who journal before examinations.

Stress can be a good thing when we channel it toward a goal. It can provide us with the energy we need to proceed forward. The secret to success in any endeavor is balance, persistence, focus, and practice in the light of a sensible routine.

Copyright ©2014 Michael Jackson Smith


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