Article: Kathy Paauw

The Small Business Library

January 17, 2001

Ready, Aim, Focus!

My daughter has recently taken a special interest in photography, so I am learning a lot about such things as angles, framing, and focus. In December she took a close-up picture of a pine tree in our back yard. It was amazing how much beauty and detail she captured -- detail that I generally miss when looking at the whole tree. The next photo she took was of a whole section of our back yard, and it was equally beautiful. Both photos provided very different perspectives of our yard.

I realized that there are benefits to both the big picture and the close-up view of things... in photography and in life. As we gear up for the New Year, now is a good time to look through the wide-angle lens at the big picture.

Imagine that our minds are like a camera lens. When we zoom in on the details, the big picture gets out of focus. And when we take a wide-angle view, we can see more opportunities and then choose which actions we'll take to seize those opportunities. A wide-angle view can provide the motivation needed to focus on all the details needed to make something happen.

In Stephen Covey's book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit #2 is to "Begin with the end in mind." By focusing on the final outcome first, you can get more clear about what it would look and feel like if you were already there. This wider focus makes it easier to see more opportunities and possibilities than we can see when we only focus on the details.

As I watched the Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day, I realized that football provides some great analogies for life. Hundreds of moves and plays are required to reach the goal, yet it is impossible to plan each play before the game begins. The players can see the goal -- to win the game -- and they can predict what the next few plays will be, but they can't figure out the exact moves they will make by just standing on the sideline. They must take action and continuously look for their next few moves as they keep the goal in mind. They stay focused by remaining aware of where they are and what options are available to them. This sharp focus makes it possible to seize opportunities as they arise and ultimately win the game! (Yes, our Washington Huskies won -- a bittersweet win that the Husky coach dedicated to a teammate who sustained a paralyzing injury last fall during a game.)

During the Rose Bowl game I overheard a friend's son ask, "Why is he running backwards with the ball? Isn't the goal the other direction?" My friend explained that the football player hoped to gain yards by running backwards, because he was creating space so he could throw a long pass. That's bigger picture thinking!

Sharpen Your Focus

How often do we plow forward with our next move without thinking about the bigger picture? Take a few minutes to jot down your response to these questions:

  • What are my most important goals or dreams for the coming year?
  • What would it look and feel like if I were already there?
  • How can I accomplish this with the greatest ease?

Look through your wide-angle lens for the opportunities you may have previously missed. Be aware of where you are on your journey and what your next few moves will be. Then take action!

Many of my clients have found that as the New Year wears on they get lost in the urgencies of day-to-day life and find their New Year's Resolutions falling by the wayside, only to reappear on next year's list! According to Woman's Day magazine, almost 25 percent of all New Year's resolutions lose their momentum after one week. Try the SMART process to keep the momentum going.

The SMART Process

The SMART process is a good way to organize yourself for success with any intention or resolution. Make goals or choices that are:

  • Specific - Have a crystal clear picture of the desired outcome.
  • Measurable - How will you know you have achieved your desired outcome? How will you measure it?
  • Achievable - Create a step-by-step plan to accomplish what you want.
  • Relevant - Does this goal fit within the bigger picture (wide-angle view) of what is most important to you?
  • Time-bound - What is the timeline for accomplishing what you want?

The Author, Kathy Paauw, President of Paauwerfully Organized, specializes in helping busy executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs declutter their schedules, spaces and minds. She is a certified business/personal coach and professional organizer. Contact her at or visit her website at and learn how you can Find ANYTHING in 5 Seconds - Guaranteed!