The Benefits of Tunnel Vision


Yeah, it’s usually viewed as a negative, and for good reason. It usually means a limited viewpoint, ignorance, not seeing the big picture. But in this complex world, there’s usually a yin to every yang. And, at times, a little tunnel vision comes in handy. 

The ability to focus – or, more accurately, block stuff out – isn’t just important, it can be a damn superpower. But it’s REALLY hard to do. Like the kid in school who can’t sit still, the mind likes to wander. It focuses on the past and the future, but rarely on the present. 

In health and fitness, that often means thinking of the past and maybe how out of shape you’ve gotten, how much weight you’ve put on, skills or functionality you’ve lost. It often means worrying about the future, how it seems impossible to lose that 30 or 50 or 100 pounds, or to get strong again, or work up to running a 5K when you currently get winded walking up your stairs.

That’s when feelings of discouragement, overwhelm and hopelessness happen. And that’s when giving up happens.

Here’s the thing: None of that stuff matters. Where you used to be, where you hope to be, it doesn’t matter. Sure, it can guide your direction. But, ultimately, the only thing that matters is that next goal in front of you.

I’ve recently struggled with that. Discouragement of how far I’ve regressed over the last year since breaking my leg; having a hard time imagining being able to do long ultras or tough challenges again. Feeling weak and slow and tired (and… ack! … old). None of that is helpful. The only thing to do is focus on the next goal in front of you, which for me was to run one continuous mile on pavement, which I finally did this week for the first time in more than a year. It was slow and awkward, but it’s something I couldn’t do 10 days ago. Next goal: 2 miles.

Your goal doesn’t have to be mileage. It might be weight loss or number of minutes of physical activity a day or eating better. Whatever it is, use tunnel vision to discipline your mind and focus only on the goal in front of you. Keep doing that, and those long term goals have a sneaky way of getting closer without you even knowing it.

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