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How often do you focus on what you can do?


Today is May 29 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you focus on what you can do?” Leveraging your mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos of life and translate one dream after another into reality often requires you to realize you need to focus on what you can do as opposed to what you cannot do in any life situation.


Focusing on what you can do during difficult times has been a theme by authors since the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote On the Tranquility of the Mind: “No condition can be so wretched that an impartial mind can find no compensations in it. Small sites, if ingeniously divided, may be made use of for many different purposes, and arrangement will render ever so narrow a room habitable. Call good sense to your aid against difficulties: it is possible to soften what is harsh, to widen what is too narrow, and to make heavy burdens press less severely upon one who bears them skillfully.”


Today’s reflection involves dissecting Seneca’s quote for a better understanding of how to use this strategy of focusing on what you can do instead of what you cannot do.

  • No condition can be so wretched that an impartial mind can find no compensations in it.

  • Ever life situation, regardless of how terrible, offers an opportunity to do something if one maintains an open mind during the chaos.

  • Small sites, if ingeniously divided, may be made use of for many different purposes, and arrangement will render ever so narrow a room habitable.

  • Consider each life situation like a mosaic made up of hundreds of small pieces. Focus on the smallness within the life situation so that you can make room to breathe. In this breathe is your ability to create a much-needed space between the stimulus of the life situation and your response.

  • Call good sense to your aid against difficulties

  • No matter how difficult the life situation, maintain your focus on what is right, fair, and proper. Rely on your sense of goodness to prevent you from responding in an inappropriate manner.

  • It is possible to soften what is harsh, widen what is too narrow, and to make heavy burdens press less severely upon one who bears them skillfully.

  • Know that any life situation offers one an opportunity to navigate the chaos by holding firm to a belief that each burden can be lifted ever so lightly if you approach it with skill, patience, and kindness.

Major League Baseball player Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs ‘found compensations in his harsh’ life situation. Schwarber refused to let his inability to swing the bat during a rehab assignment stop him from doing what he could do to get ready to play for the Cubs in the 2016 World Series. On April 7, 2016, Schwarber and teammate Dexter Fowler collided in the outfield. Schwarber was removed from the game with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament in his left knee, and would miss the rest of the 2016 season, just his second year in the major leagues.


As the Cubs advanced further into the postseason, an unexpectedly fast recovery made the return of Schwarber increasingly more of a possibility. His doctors told him that he could not swing a bat more than 60 times a day. Professional baseball players need to swing a bat a few hundred times to get their batting eye finely tuned. Schwarber decided to just stand at home plate and train his eye on the pitching machine as it sent fastballs, sliders, and curveballs his way.


He did not know if watching hundreds of pitches for two hours at a time would work but it was all he could do to help train his eyes without swinging a bat. It most certainly worked. The Cubs added Schwarber to their roster for the 2016 World Series and started him in Game 1 as their designated hitter. Schwarber's addition to the Cubs' starting line-up was surprising given he had not played since his injury in April. He was not medically cleared to play on defense, and only made appearances as a pinch or designated hitter. Schwarber had a batting average over .400 and the Cubs defeated the Indians in seven games to claim the Cubs' first World Series championship in 108 years. Schwarber did not let what he couldn’t do get in the way of what he could do.


As Robert Puff wrote in his October 3, 2020, Psychology Today article "Focusing on What We Have," one strategy to use while navigating the chaos of life is to remind yourself you have the ability to focus. “We don’t always have total control over the situations we face in life,” Puff wrote “but we can control where we place our focus and our attention.”

  • How often do you let what you cannot do get in the way of what you can do?

  • If you find yourself stuck just how open are you to suggestions?

  • Are you allowing yourself to focus on what you can do? Or are you so upset that you are unable to do A, B, or C you are blinded by what D, E, and F might offer? At this point of navigation some people might say something like “Well what is the point, if I can’t do A, B, or C doing D, E, and F is just stupid. D, E, and F won’t really help me.” So, the alternative is what?

  • For those who fail to succeed they engage in predictive thinking, overlook the value of D, E, and F, and remain stuck blaming others for their inability to achieve their goal.