This line from the Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan remake of the Karate Kid movie has become a recurring theme at our house.
When we first saw the movie, our son was having trouble focusing in school. But it’s not just him. Shiny objects, distractions, are everywhere. I find that I do better when I can remove them.
On the other hand, life is messy. Without some chaos progress is impossible.
When I feel the amount of clutter has reached the stage that I’m no longer moving forward, but merely moving things from one pile to another, that’s my indicator that my focus needs more focus.
It’s not just accumulation of stuff. Sometimes it comes when I realize that I have too many projects pulling me in too many different directions at once.
I start lots of things — way more than I finish. Which is fine. Not everything works out. The problem is my tendency to, instead of letting the unfinished things go, keep them hanging around, even when it’s clear that they won’t work, or I’ve lost any real interest in them.
These old projects are sunk costs: time, energy, and sometimes money invested in an idea whose time has come and gone. I keep them around, telling myself maybe someday I’ll get back to them. But keeping them around continues to be a mental drag. They occupy mental space, just as surely as clutter occupies physical space. Inevitably, the thoughts turn to “I really ought to get back around” to them. That’s when I get dragged back into them, investing even more time, energy, and sometimes money into them. Increasing the sunk costs, all the while being distracted from what’s important now.
As 2018 draws to a close, I realize my focus needs more focus. I have a few projects I need to let go.