Lesson #12: Learning to Focus on the Task at Hand

by J. R. Cuevas

I remember listening to an interview with a former college football player. The host asked him who his favorite athlete was. Without hesitation, he answered, “Tiger Woods.” I admit that I was a bit surprised to hear a former jock who tackled men for a living express admiration for a man who spent his life hitting non-moving objects. When asked to explain what about Woods he found phenomenal, he said, “First, his hand-eye coordination. Second, his ability to concentrate.” He went onto say about Woods, “He would have been good at any sport.” In other words, the ability to truly concentrate is an essential attribute for success in all sports. 

Flashiness impresses crowds, but focus wins championships. From Tiger Woods to Michael Phelps to Monica Seles to Wayne Gretzky, the best competitors are those who know how to concentrate—those who, when competing, know how to “live in the moment.” These athletes forget about what just happened, and they aren’t concerned with what might happen. They’re focused on the point at hand, the play at hand, the element at hand, and nothing more.

On the flip side, it is the momentary lapse of concentration that has cost many a favorite their sport’s biggest prize (remember Roberto Baggio’s penalty miss in the ’94 World Cup Final?). It’s especially true in sports like sprinting or gymnastics, where a single split-second error can cost you the championship. But the ability to focus on where one needs to be and what one needs to do at the moment is an essential skill for every sport. It was Gretzky himself who said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” While it is courage that unleashes talent, it is concentration that directs it. Nothing, then, wastes time and energy more than being distracted.

The truth about life is that the only way to live life is to focus on the affairs of the moment and the troubles of today. We can’t rue over the past, because the past can’t be changed. We can’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow can’t be known. Christians who are unproductive in life are those who refuse to accept what has happened and are continually anxious about what may happen. Wise Christians who are productive are those who can focus on what is happening today and what needs to happen today. Did not Christ say, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34)?

Christians who are unproductive in life are those who refuse to accept what has happened and are continually anxious about what may happen.

We can (and should) plan for tomorrow, but not be anxious about tomorrow. We can learn from the past, but not remain in the past. When it comes to the seeking of God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:33), there’s enough in today’s to-do list that would keep your hands occupied. There may have been a lot that you did for the kingdom yesterday, and there may be a lot that you need to do for the kingdom tomorrow. But maturity knows how to focus on what one needs to do for the kingdom one day at a time, one moment at a time, one hour at a time. It is through paying careful attention to how we walk each moment of life that enables us to wisely make the most of our time and thus be of greatest productivity for the Lord’s work (Eph 5:15-16). 

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