Paradoxically, the urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent. In order not to get distacted by the unimportant, but urgent responsibilities, we need to learn the discipline of focus. Florence Chadwick learned this the hard way.
Florence was born in 1918 and started swimming at a very young age. At age 10, she became the first person to swim the San Diego Bay channel. A few years later, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. And on July 4, 1952, she set out to swim the twenty-mile distance from Catalina Island to the coast of California.
Florence got an early start that morning. Even though it was summer, the water was cold, the weather was chilly, and a heavy fog hung in the air. Part way into her journey, some curious sharks began to follow her. People in a nearby boat—including her mom—fired gunshots into the water to scare off the sharks.
After a while longer, Florence began to cry and thought she would drown if she didn’t stop. At that point, she was hoisted into the boat. Shortly afterward, she looked over the bow of the boat to the east and the fog lifted just enough for her to see the California shoreline. She was only about half a mile from the beach. She had swam for 15 hours and 15 minutes, and she had quit just short of her destination.
Florence was very upset when she realized how close she had come to the shore, only to quit. Later, she commented with regret, “I would have made it if I could have seen the shore, but all I could see was the fog.” Florence did not lack stamina, she lacked focus.
Florence’s experience illustrates for us the importance of having a clear focus anytime we want to achieve a goal. A clear view of where you are headed is necessary to tackle a major challenge. It’s true in the world of sports, in academics, in business, in parenting, and in our personal lives.
If we can’t see the finish line, then we get confused, distracted, and sometimes we give up. So in anything God calls you to do, a clear vision is essential. You must learn to focus and concentrate your energy and efforts on the goal.
We all need greater focus if we hope to experience the life God designed. Life is not a perfect science. At times, we all get our priorities out of adjustment. So take time to assess, give yourself some grace as God does, and get back into the race.
Florence Chadwick could have accepted defeat and spent the rest of her life regretting her decision to quit when she was so close to the California coast. But she didn’t. Two months later, she was back in the cold water. But this time she didn’t allow the fog to distract her. She told a reporter that she focused on the vision of a beach, and she swam a straight line all the way to the Los Angeles shore. She completed the swim in 13 hours and 47 minutes, which was two hours faster than the previous record. She wasn’t stronger, just more focused.
Reflection & Response:
1) Where do you tend to lose your focus? Why? What are some of the major distractions you need to stay on guard against this week?
2) One way to maintain focus in every area of your life is to make a habit out of refocusing. Set aside regular times to routinely refocus. To read more about how to build “refocus time” into the rhythm of your every day, week and year, read this blog post.
Other related posts that may interest you include:
Overwhelmed By Ministry? The 4 R's To Maintain Balance
A Day Of Rest: Not Just Possible, But Essential
Results Time: The Power of Focus
Response Time: Sweeping Up the Debris of Your Success
Refocus Time: Small Adjustments Pay Big Dividends