When You’re Missing the Forest for the Trees: 3 Steps to Regain your Focus

This week, I ran across a story about a tourist who had been reported missing when she did not return to her tour bus after a stop. In fact, she was not missing, but had simply changed her clothes and “freshened up” at the stop and was not recognized upon returning.

When she heard someone was missing, and saw the description, it did not occur to her that she was the one that was missing. So she dutifully joined the search! 


It wasn’t until 3am the next morning in the midst of a several hour search by over 50 people, with a Coast Guard helicopter preparing to join the man hunt that she realized she was the one that was missing. Talk about an “aha moment.”

We’ve all been there. Searching madly for a solution only to find out it is staring us in the face. The next time you face a seemingly insurmountable problem and you reach that point where you feel like you are simply spinning your wheels, use these 3 tips to regain your bearings:

1. Get fresh eyes on the situation – When you’re right in the middle of a situation, it is easy to miss the obvious. Bring in a colleague or an outsider for a little perspective. Many times, by simply explaining the situation to someone else, you’ll come upon the answer – without the other person even saying a word!

2. Define the desired outcome – If you’re stuck in a hole, the first step to getting out is to stop digging! Take a step back and refocus. Ask the question, “What is it that I’m trying to accomplish here?” This works really well in meetings that seem to be dragging on as well.

3. Write it out – Once you’ve refocused on your objective, take a moment to write it out on a whiteboard or a piece of paper and return to it when you start to feel overwhelmed again. This will also prevent you from continuing to work after you’ve already solved the problem. Sounds impossible, but you’d be surprised how much time is wasted trying to solve for unnecessary minutia after the primary issue is resolved.

Much like a sincere search party looking for someone that isn’t missing, hard work and determination are only useful qualities when paired with a clear objective. Sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.



Photo credit: sachman75 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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