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The Road To Fort Worth
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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