It’s uncanny how life conspires to send us messages. And no matter how stubborn we are, it’ll keep trying over and over until those messages get through to us – some way, somehow. We’re meant to learn certain lessons at specific times, and seemingly random events will continually shape us until we’ve absorbed those lessons.
Discipline Is Liberating
The other day, I was particularly overwhelmed and planning a trip from New Jersey into Brooklyn. As I drove, I listened to some old CDs (for all you kids out there, that stands for Compact Discs, the things we used to use to play music) that I’d found when cleaning out my room at home. They were from college, specifically my freshman year. As music has a tendency to do, I was immediately brought back to that time and place in my life. And I could feel how carefree it was. That’s because at that time, I had only literally one concern in the world--becoming the best and most elite soccer player I could be. That, and how to avoid taking Bio Lab.
Ironically, as I checked my phone, my good friend and business partner had sent me an article titled, “The Power Of Doing Only One Thing.” I read the article immediately after parking at my destination.
The article states, “Doing one thing gives you extreme focus. This focus can be channeled towards tasks that lead to mastery instead of trying to dabble in lots of unrelated passions.” I realized in that moment that for nearly my entire adult life I’ve had one singular focus: soccer. And there’s a beautiful power in that.
I’ve found incredible freedom in the discipline of doing one thing. I created a rigid lifestyle, devoted to a single goal, and then carried out my plan. Decisions were easy, because they were all based on how they’d affect my singular focus.
I never thought much about how simple my life was prior to this. I realize now how that contrasts with my current state; how many layers have been added and how many more things I care about that have taken my focus and caused me stress by threatening the status quo of my priorities.
Life has its phases, and this past year has brought a new and different challenge to having a singular focus.
Struggle Provides Purpose
During this past year, when I was significantly more ill with Ulcerative Colitis than I am now, my life was also incredibly simple. I still had a focus on only one thing: my health. I couldn’t agree to do things; I had an automatic and very acceptable reason for saying “no” to work requests; and my single focus was getting through each day, finding some semblance of comfort, and getting healthy.
A goal takes many shapes, and suffering (an illness) can shape that goal for us in the same way ambition (to be a great soccer player) can.
As I’ve crept back to health slowly but surely, my body has allowed me to do and think about more than overcoming illness. I’ve started agreeing to a few appearances, I’ve taken on more, gotten back into more rigid training routines, and began saying “yes” to things that previously I couldn’t even consider.
A Fork in the Road
As I approach better health, I’m not sure what my current “normal” should be. I’m overwhelmed and confused. My life has changed, and therefore my previous singular focus is no longer appropriate, or even healthy. The truth is, life is complex. And while I believe that harnessing all of our energy and passion towards one thing is the best way to excel in that area, I don’t believe that’s currently the best way to live my life.
I need to still focus on my health, I want to continue to play the sport I love, start a family, run my business, and work to give back to the communities of which I am a part.
So while I mourn the loss of simplicity from my prior singular focus, I recognize the rich choices and goals available to me. I know myself, and believe I’ll always go after my goals with intense focus. But learning there is not just one, but many potential goals, is a new phase in my personal journey.