January 10, 2011

Great Migrations: What Animals Can Teach Us About Focus

The Sooty Shearwater is the most focused animal on the planet.

This New Zealand bird flies up to 74,000 kilometers on its yearly migration, averaging more than 500 kms per day. During this largely solo annual migration, Sooty has many distractions and temptations to overcome in order to reach its incredible goal (the North Pacific). There’s mouth-watering food along the way, potential mates, and many other possible distractions on the path of their yearly destiny.


It’s this kind of focus I seek. I want the single-mindedness of a Sooty Shearwater, the sort that is not distracted by the easy way out, or tempted to sneak over and see what the crowd is chasing. In the National Geographic article Great Migrations, David Quamman discusses five characteristics common to every animal migration:

  1. They are prolonged movements that carry animals outside familiar habitats;
  2. They tend to be linear, not zigzaggy;
  3. They involve special behaviors of preparation (such as overfeeding) and arrival;
  4. They demand special allocations of energy.
  5. They maintain a fervid attentiveness to the greater mission, which keeps them undistracted by temptations and undeterred by challenges that would turn other animals aside.

Generally this time of year we set annual goals, only to be distracted by the end of the first month. We have a hard time staying focused for one kilometer, let alone 74,000.


What can we do?


Three things:

  1. Know you want—what you really want.  Sure you want more opportunities, more freedom, perhaps more adventure.  Why? I want those things also, but two things I want more than that: inner peace and confidence. I can have freedom and opportunities, adventure and even happiness, but I’d trade it all for inner peace and confidence. And not just any confidence, but the sort that is independent of circumstances, one so faith-filled that life’s battles are exciting challenges, not fear-inducing setbacks.
  2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. In our North American lives of affluence and ease, we avoid discomfort. This allows self-consciousness to keep us in our personal prisons. Jeff Bridges, said this (about working with then 13 year old actress in True Grit, HaileeSteinfield) when asked if she was nervous. “She was nervous, but she wasn’t nervous being nervous, if you know what I mean.” We all get nervous, we all get uncomfortable, but can you be ok with that discomfort, with that nervousness?
  3. Learn how you want to feel, so you can create routines that direct and control your energy. Most of us at this time of year ask ourselves what we want for the next year, but have you considered how you want to feel? As I said, I want to feel inner peace and faith-filled confidence. I also want to feel engaged. I want to truly feel my life and not succumb to the numbness that inhabits a life of grey desolation.


Your energy, and how you feel, comes from three main sources:

  1. What you do with your desires (your desires can hurt you or help you, depending on what you set your heart upon). The heart can only have one all-encompassing desire, says Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Where your desires go, there will your heart go also.
  2. Your physiology, which is a combination of what you eat, how often and how intense you exercise, your body’s flexibility, and how often and well you rest.
  3. The image in your mind. What words and pictures are flowing through your mind each day? Track it and see if those are the words and images taking you towards inner peace and confidence, or however you want to feel.

Now is the time to consider these things. Tomorrow may be too late. Do it now! Haven’t read Inner Excellence yet? Join those who’s lives have been changed around the world by Inner Excellence.


Air Aaran (Irish airlines) owner and World Entrepreneur of the Year Nominee Padraig O’ceidegh called Inner Excellence “Probably the best book I’ve ever read.”  Pro baseball performance coach for the Colorado Rockies RonnSvettich calls it “a book that will change your life.” Is it time for your life to change?


Photo credit: Craig Nash (A Northern Ireland bird photographer)