When we let our fears, worries, and bad habits control us, we are held back from pursuing our passions and living the lives we desire and deserve.
It’s vital that we take a closer look at the fears, negative thoughts, and false assumptions that shape our mindset, and the concrete action steps we can take to shift our thinking.
Mythical creatures are manifestations of our very real fears. Take the CYCLOPS, for instance. The cyclops appears in Greek mythology as part of a race of giants with one single eye in the center of their forehead. In the classic epic The Odyssey, Odysseus is trapped in a cave by the cyclops Polyphemus and must use his cleverness to trick the monster and escape.
With it’s unnerving large eye and brutish punch first ask questions never approach, I like to think the cyclops represents tunnel vision. Tunnel vision occurs when you are so focused on one problem or one course of action that you completely ignore important information, good alternatives, and red flags at your own peril.
This kind of hyper-focused thinking could be stemming from a fear of failure, or a deep desire to not repeat past mistakes. You’re so focused on a specific outcome that you don’t slow down to gather different points of view that could serve you in your decision-making.
Maybe you don’t trust yourself enough to make those decisions, so you think proceeding full steam ahead will get you through the difficult portion relatively unscathed. Instead you end up creating problems that could have been avoided.
So how do we handle the cyclops and tunnel vision when working on accomplishing our goals?
1) Conduct a SWOT analysis before you start.
A SWOT analysis breaks down the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats associated with the project you’re about to take on. When you sit down and get really clear on what has a reasonable likelihood of happening based on what others have gone through before you who have done something similar, you can prepare better and move forward confidently.
2) When close friends and mentors begin to point out potential issues, do not ignore them.
Those who are firmly in your corner and want you to succeed will often be the first ones to warn you when you’re making a mistake. Sit down with them and really hear them out. It will be hard for you to see the rationale in what they are saying, so agree to meet them halfway. If they are recommending you take a certain course of action, take a step in that direction and see what follows. At that point you’ll know whether you need to take additional steps to solve any issues.
3) Take breaks to give yourself some perspective.
It’s important to step away from what you’re doing for a bit so you can allow your mind to relax. I’m of course a fan of reading a book or watching a movie. Stories are excellent tools because we naturally empathize with the hero and can learn from their faults and pitfalls. You can also spend time in nature or hanging out with friends.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is fun, fulfilling, and removed from your work.
When we are working and concentrating the pre-frontal cortex of our brains is doing the heavy lifting. The PFC is where logical thinking, executive functioning, and willpower all stem from, so when we give this part of our brains a rest, we can start fresh and begin to see things differently. (There is a great article on the science behind breaks and how they affect our motivation, creativity, decision-making, and more here.)
So there you have it. You now have the knowledge and tools necessary to defeat the cyclops and tunnel vision.
What are your favorite methods for hitting the reset button so you can maintain a healthy and productive focus rather than an all-encompassing and destructive one? Let us know in the comments!