Where’s Your Focus?

I was driving home from a training session on Wednesday and as very often happens on open highways on sunny days, there was one driver who was in a huge rush.  It was a busy, two lane highway. The driver would tailgate the car ahead of him until a spot opened up where he thought he could safely pass.  He wasn’t always right.  His reckless driving put people at risk.

As I watched him head off into the distance, I remembered being a very, rushed young mom trying to get to daycare before 5:00 pm.  Being late meant paying extra fees and I wanted to avoid that. Being stopped at a train or a red light was pure torture as I watched the minutes flick by on the dashboard clock.   I ran yellow lights and cut people off in traffic, while frantically calling the daycare to let them know I was on my way.  Every once in awhile, I made a complete mockery of the tagline “Friendly Manitoba” on my licence plate.

One day, after arriving on time, but stressed out, I had my own personal “ah ha” moment.  Was my real goal to get to daycare by 5:00 pm or was my real goal to get there?  It seems so obvious, but I realized that I had been putting my focus on the wrong part of that sentence.  Having to pay late fees was ultimately less expensive than the costs associated with a speeding ticket, car repairs and the resulting increase in registration and licence fees. And even if I did manage to avoid a speeding ticket or an accident, I was arriving at the daycare so stressed out that I was not the mom I wanted to be.

I’ve learned to ask myself that question a lot. What is the real goal? What is the true purpose?  Sometimes we get so caught up on timelines and deadlines, some self-imposed, some not, that we lose focus of the real purpose of our goal.  What will cost more?  Launching a new product, riddled with glitches on Tuesday, because we said we would, or delaying the launch for a month to work those glitches out?  Is the real goal to introduce a quality product or to introduce a quality product on Tuesday?

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t attach deadlines to goals.  If we give ourselves all the time in the world to get something done, that’s usually how long it takes!  So go ahead set deadlines.  Just don’t let those deadlines divert you from your real goal.

Enjoy your weekend … and drive safe!