I’m not all that old, but I remember when the first “point and shoot” cameras came out. Remember the old Instamatics? Drop in a film cartridge, spin the little wheel a couple of times with your thumb, and you were ready to go. No lens settings to worry about, no rings to adjust. Just aim, click, and wind.
What made those cameras so universal was that they were always in focus. Unless you had a mighty jittery hand or you snapped a picture while jumping on your neighbor’s trampoline, the odds were that every picture would turn out. Of course, you wouldn’t know for sure for a week or so – depending on how long it took to get them developed.
With today’s digital cameras, the auto focus feature makes us all good photographers. But good is all it can do. That wonderful feature that automatically focuses for you cannot see all that’s framed in the viewfinder, and often prevents you from seeing the detail that separates good from great.
If you want to be better than good, you’ve got to take charge of the focus.
When your camera is set on auto focus, the lens will always focus on the largest or brightest object it can see. So, the bride posing on the steps will be completely in focus, but her father, standing on the porch behind her, wiping tears from his eyes, will fade into the background. Auto focus requires the photographer to accept the image as it sees it.
But what if the photographer sees it differently? What if she wants to focus on dad and not the bride? What if she wants to capture the expression on the baby’s face and not the big, red ball bouncing behind him?
She has to turn off auto focus, and return to the old-fashion method of adjusting rings and lens with her hands. Manual focus.
When it comes to setting goals, the same truth applies. You can’t rely on auto focus to capture what is significant to you.
All the books say we need to have short-term and long-term plans that include our work, our health, our families, and our money. But following generic templates won’t allow you to hone in on the things that are most important RIGHT NOW.
Do you have a child graduating from high school or college this year? A daughter getting married? Scheduling a little extra time to spend with them before they leave the nest might be more important than taking on an extra project at work. Your templates won’t consider these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Too many folks get caught in the swing of life and assume the same goals and dreams that are common among the friends and peers they embrace. Those goals usually include a house in the right neighborhood, kids in the right school, ski trips in the winter, and beach trips in the summer.
But is that really what your life is about?
When is the last time you took your life off auto focus and manually zoomed in on what is important to YOU?
We preachers think we have to pattern our lives after the most sought-after orators in our fellowship. We might be a rung or two down the ladder, but our daily lives reflect the same patterns and habits of the big dogs.
Why shouldn’t I focus on what would improve my life, and how I can enhance the lives of those I serve?
I’d like to say that, like all big-time writers, I write this blog from a trendy little coffee shop where all the creatives hang, but there is only one coffee shop in my little town, and the last time I was there it was overrun with middle schoolers and the internet was locked down. The truth is – I write it sitting in my cluttered living room while my wife sits across the room frowning at me because I am the chief cause of the clutter. (Talk about manual focus! She’s good.)
To plot and plan your New Year’s resolutions so you fit the mold of someone else’s expectations is a road map to disaster. Take your brain off auto focus. Evaluate the uniqueness of your life. Then, zero in on what will make you happy, content, and successful.
Auto focus is okay if all you want is good. But you and your family deserve more. Don’t miss the glory hidden in the viewfinder because your brain is forcing you to see the world the way someone else wants you to.
Turn off auto focus and find the wonder you’ve been missing. It takes more time and effort, but the results are well worth it.