Fix Your Focus

Fix Your Focus

In our Volunteer Facilitator Training, we talk about the importance of not using the “Why?” question; however, when we’re thinking about things that are important and impactful in our lives, we should think about the “why” of the things we focus on. By thinking about “why,” we are focused on particular things, and it helps us to dig deeper into what is really important about that topic or issue.


This thought has been on my mind a lot lately because of social media. I feel like there is a lot of focus on negative things, or maybe just controversial ones – from bathrooms, to LGBT, to the presidential candidates. There is a lot of negative going through my social media feeds. That got me wondering about why we are drawn to those things and how that affects our ability to actually make a difference on those issues.


Those thoughts have led me to work on how I think about these issues and many others. My focus has shifted from the presenting issue to what might be behind those things. What is the surface issue, front and center and big and loud, keeping me from seeing under the surface or behind the scenes? That background issue is what really needs to be addressed!


I found this article on Why We Love Bad News that points to research showing that our human brains are drawn to negative things because of our natural survival instinct. This can play out in several ways. Either it is seen as a challenge to be accepted, an enemy or barrier to be overcome, or a possible a distraction to keep the focus off of us. Any of these options make sense to me, but it is only when we recognize them for what they are that we can even begin to move in a direction toward positive work and relationships.


As we raise awareness about these things for teens and parents, we can begin to shift the focus off of the surface issue (or distraction) to the deeper, more meaningful need that we as human beings have. What I see in the teens we work with is that their is a desire to defend their side of the issue or simply debate any issue that is brought up exists so that vulnerability can be avoided.


So many of these underlying issues are things we all as humans face, but as long as we have something else to argue about, we don’t have to be honest about our core issues and desires. Instead, we can appear to be fighting for a cause or group that needs defending. The truth may be that what really needs to happen is a real, meaningful conversation between both sides so that an understanding is gained on both sides and a resolution and collaboration is able to be agreed upon.


As an example, I had the privilege to visit Honduras a few years ago. As an American, I looked at things through that lense. I saw the lack of electricity and people walking and no street lights. But someone said something that got me thinking. What if not having electricity just means you wind down and go to bed when the sun goes down? What if walking means you stay healthier than you would if you drove to work every day? What if no street lights means you really don’t have a choice but to spend time as a family in the evenings? Should that be so bad? Some people I was with felt strongly that we should “fix” all of these issues, but I wondered what “fixing” these issues really meant.


This shouldn’t lead us to do nothing. We live in the digital age where we have so much information, it is hard to process it all. that should be empowering, not defeating.  We should still share our ides, ask good questions, influence, serve people and vote! But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that making noise about an issue is what will solve it.


Let’s teach a new generation how to invite conversation in a way that is safe and welcoming. Let’s focus on the real issue faster rather than wasting time trying to be right about things we truthfully know little about. Facts may be available, but they can change and they can also be wrong. What is never wrong is listening and helping people in a way that they want to be helped. Not projecting on them what we think their rights should be or defending how we think they have been wronged. Let’s join together to really make a difference and work together to make this world the best place to live that it can be in the here and now.


It’s very possible this post will get to you in one of two ways. Either it helps you think through what you should be focusing on or you pushback, not wanting to think about the importance of focusing on the right things. I hope that if it is the latter, you will still give some thought and even share your input to help us better each other. If it is the former, I hope you take time to share this with someone you have influence over or maybe someone you disagree with.

So, what do you think? Is there something you’re focused on that needs to be re-focused on the right thing? How have you failed at this or do have a great idea? Let us know!

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.
Remember a Better Future

Remember a Better Future

When I was about 3 years old, our house was broken into. We weren’t home so it wasn’t traumatic, but I remember the mess around the room and that my piggy bank was broken.

I remember when I was about 6 years old and water-skied for the first time. I can almost still hear my grandfather coaching me lovingly on how to hold the rope and stand and let go if I fall.

In high school, I didn’t get in much trouble, but I did get sent to the Principal’s office because I was in a part of the building I wasn’t supposed to be…with my girlfriend.

I remember a time I went snow skiing (something I was not confident about), and a high school girl had to coax me down the mountain because I froze about 100 yards from the bottom. I made it down but was very embarrassed.

I remember my most embarrassing moment meeting my now in-laws (thankfully they don’t).

And I remember asking my wife to marry me and her saying, “No,” and it still being an amazing night thanks to some wise loving mentors. We’re in our 15th year of marriage and it’s the best yet!

I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember these times.

I have been thinking lately that how we remember things really shapes what our future looks like; it shapes who we are because of how we remember the past.

So here is what we can all work on together – choosing to remember the best parts of the past. And this can be a choice. Through conversations I have with students, we get to talk about how they can choose to see things through a negative viewpoint and keep focusing on how things aren’t going their way, or they can choose to remember the good times, the good qualities in people, the lesson they learned and use those positive memories to propel them toward an ever better life.


Here are some ideas for remembering better:

Work hard to find the positive. This is tough. I know because it is hard to see any positives in some family stuff I’m dealing with right now. And yet, I believe it’s there. I may not see it today, but I can choose to keep looking, and when I find it, I can only imagine how good that will feel!

Stop reliving the negative parts of the story. It’s often easy to want to tell others those negative parts. Either because we feel we handled it well or because it is what seems most interesting. The truth is, by focusing on these aspects, it reinforces the memory we have in a negative way.

Ask, “How can we get something good from this experience?” I had the kids in my car, and a guy cut me off, stopped in the middle of the road, got out and yelled at me about my driving. I couldn’t believe it. All I could think was, “How can I model for the kids in my car a positive way to handle a volatile situation?” Then, when it was over, I let them talk about it a little, andnsome of us shared it with mom who wasn’t there, and then we moved on. I said, “It was scary, but we are all safe and it’s over.” Getting obsessed with something like this can be very detrimental to our human ability to get back out on the road and go where we need to go, figuratively and literally.

Realize most things are out of your control. We love to think we control things, anything, everything. The reality is, we control very little and even what we do has outside influence and factors that can easily derail our control. Life is a constant learning process, and the more we can realize and accept that, the more benefit we will get from the experiences we go through.


As you can see, I’m right in the middle of figuring this out. Some of you are farther along then I am, and some could offer a fresh perspective or story to open my eyes to other possibilities. Take a minute and share this or reply back and let us know what insight you can offer so we can all keep living life better.



Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.