53: Where’s Your Focus?

53: Where’s Your Focus?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

Where’s Your Focus?

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
~Sir John Lubbock

Middle of August. Washington State. Twelve-year-old Boy Scout with a forty-pound pack. Six days of fun-filled hiking with the Scout troop for fifty miles through the middle of the Cascade Range. Sounds like a great adventure right? Well, that’s at least what a younger, more naïve version of myself was led to believe.

We said goodbye to our moms who dropped us off at the trail-head. Eagerly, we turned away from the highway, said goodbye civilization, and headed into the mountains. It didn’t take me long to feel that maybe this fifty-mile hike thing wasn’t going to be everything our Scout Leader had said it was going to be. It seemed the trail only went in one direction, uphill. And when we wanted to stop for a much needed break, we couldn’t. The mosquitoes were just so bad! They were in our ears, eyes, even our noses! It was better to just keep moving to try and stay ahead of them.

When we reached camp after an exhausting first day I wanted nothing more than to eat a warm meal and then go to sleep. I got everything ready. I got out my mess kit, fired up my stove, and cooked some delicious pasta. Boy did it smell good! Now there was only one thing left to do—grab my fork. As I leaned over to grab my fork, the handle on my mess kit broke. I watched as my meal plummeted to the ground. I had knocked my dinner over and it lay on the ground, covered in dirt and pine needles, mocking my hunger. I ended up nibbling on some granola bars and beef jerky and spent the first night longing for my bed at home.

By day two of the hike, I was convinced that nature was out to get me. The endless hills, the hordes of mosquitoes, and with every step, I seemed to get a new blister. But I trudged on. By the late afternoon my scoutmaster and I reached camp first and were glad to be rid of our heavy packs. Finally some relief, right? Well, the catch was that my buddy who was carrying our tent was still a couple of hours behind.

So in the meantime, I tried to cook some dinner, again. I’m happy to say that my mess kit worked well this time. I’m not happy to say however, that the heat of my stove attracted all kinds of bugs. Now they must have thought that my food looked delicious because they kept landing in it and getting stuck. It got so bad that at one point, my pasta looked like it had fresh ground pepper on it! I gave up on yet another dinner.

At this point, all sorts of thoughts raced through my head. My muscles and feet ached with pain. My stomach groaned with hunger. I looked to the sky, wishing there was some way a helicopter could come and take me away from the madness.

I looked over to see my scoutmaster seemingly oblivious to everything going on. Who was this guy? Didn’t he see my predicament? Now this was the kind of guy that just belonged in the woods. He was a big, strong, manly man. I think he even wore a flannel shirt with suspenders.

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself now and in my moment of self-pity, I didn’t want him to see me. So I wondered off and found a small thicket of trees where I could hide. Can you guess what I did next? I sat down and I cried. That’s right. I cried. A tired, little, sore, hungry, pitiful Sean sat alone in the wilderness crying. I didn’t know what else to do! After my moments of self-pity, I realized that I was awfully close to where the rest of the older guys would be coming up the trail. I pulled myself together and wiped away the tears. Well, the evening finally came, along with my tent, and I tried to sleep away my troubles.

What happened the next morning was incredible. Looking back, I really consider it a blessing—a key learning point in my life. The morning of the third day found us hiking along a beautiful ridge. The views were amazing! It hit me in that moment that I had been focusing on all of the wrong things! How could I possibly feel sorry for myself when there was so much beauty and majesty all around me? I made up my mind right at that very moment that I would focus purely on what I did want and not anything that I did not want.

As if like magic, the mosquitoes seemed to disappear. The trail flattened out. My muscles stopped aching. I soaked in every ounce of beauty I could. The rest of the trip was incredible. It was late Saturday afternoon when we finished our trip. And I came home a bit less of a boy and a bit more of a man.

Often times, I feel, we go through life with our focus only on ourselves, on our problems. There are bills to pay, traffic to deal with, quotas to meet, businesses to run, etc. But there is so much good in the world and so much beauty all around us! All we need to do is simply change our focus. When our focus is shifted from the inside and changed to the outside, I know, from personal experience, that life truly becomes abundant.

So the key to managing that emotional stress is to change your focus. My question is: where’s your focus?

~M. Sean Marshall

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