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Laser Focus

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Dogs always play prominent roles in the works of one of my favorite authors, Silas House. He frequently comments on the various things we can learn from dogs, much of which you would expect, such as unconditional love, loyalty, rest and so on.

I have lately learned something unexpected from our dog, Reagan. Although I’ve observed it almost every day of the seven years of his life it just became a actual lesson while reflecting on this nearly complete year and the coming New Year. It’s important for me and maybe even universal.

The lesson is about focus. Every day articles, podcasts and videos show up in my various feeds addressing the need for focus . . . in work, on projects, health, relationships and every other aspect of life. How to achieve for focus, how to be more focused and even how to focus on getting focused. It’s exhausting. My smart devices are now equipped with “focus” modes so that I can eliminate distractions and can be laser focused on everything from exercise to sleep to meditation. My cherished iPhone, for example, automatically goes into “church” focus mode upon arriving at church so that am not distracted while worshiping, learning or teaching.

Here’s what I’ve learned from our canine family member and how I learned it. Reagan can be laser focused and often is. When we take him out for his daily “duties” he’s just fine until he sees a squirrel or another of his kind, but when he does he is immediately laser focused. The entire rest of his brain shuts completely down. He loses peripheral vision, his ears don’t work any longer, his sense of smell fails and he won’t obey any commands. And it’s dangerous. Reagan doesn’t recognize that the rodent he is obsessed with has run across a busy street and, but for the leash tethering him to one of us, would run into the street oblivious to traffic. He doesn’t care that the Rottweiler several yards away is five times his size and could render him lifeless with a single blow. Oh no, you see, because the rest of his brain, the parts that should account for reason and wisdom, have shut down completely.

Many people, and I count myself among them, become so laser focused that reason, wisdom and patience just go out the window. Our singular focus prevents us from seeing options and opportunities while having some sense of peace and contentment.

I have friends who are so focused on their professional lives they fail to cultivate friendships. I have friends who are so laser focused on finding their soulmate that they fail to actually appreciate the friendships they develop while waiting for their soulmate to show up. And we all know folks so focused on politics, culture, and climate change that they can’t see any beauty in the world. Of course, a few of my friends and yours don’t represent everyone in our orbits, but the lesson remains important.

Occasionally I want and need to be laser focused, but most of the time I don’t want the rest of my brain to shut down (although some who know me would argue that my brain is always shut down). I need life to be somewhat more blurry in order to appreciate whatever is happening in the background, the world around me, friends, family, co-workers and nature, my fiancé and, of course, our dog.

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