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A New Focus Pt. Two: …And One Big Mental Weakness

10/18/09

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[Part one: A New Focus Pt. 1: My Top Two Mental Strengths…]

And that brings me back to a key weakness of mine–details. Nine out of ten times when I fail at something, it’s because of a failure with details. I have trouble noticing them, retaining them, remembering to check on them.

The other day, I went out of my way to make sure I’d taken care of all of my work commitments before I went on vacation. I felt pretty good about myself, that I was being responsible when it was truly inconvenient. One of the things that I had to do was significantly modify a file and send it to participants of a class I’d taught. I made the modifications, wrote an email to the participants…and then sent it with the original, unmodified file. Such an easy thing to correct, but it just wasn’t my natural inclination. You can excuse that once as a simple mistake, but it was an embarassing one, and it happens much too frequently.

I contrast this with my girlfriend, Ginny, who is excellent with details. She remembers the exact time when a flight we are taking is going to take off or land, the names and occupations and histories of people we meet. More deeply, she cares about getting these things right, in a way that’s similar to my concern with the structure of a class I’m creating. I care when I mess up because of my weaknesses, but it’s a chore to me to focus on getting them right. I look at her and people like her as something of an alien phenomenon. They are doing something different from me–I have some inklings as to what it might be–but I don’t know what that is clearly. And I definitely have a long way to go toward mastering it myself.

[Ginny says that I am blowing this out of proportion, though she would agree that it’s not my strong suit. Fine, I’ve been concerned with it for a while now, and it’s still not a strength. That’s frustrating, and I want to fix it.]

[Now she feels weird that a stray comment she made is ending up in the blog. That’ll teach her not to think!]

So that will be my focus for a while: how do you train yourself to be strong at details? There are a lot of related topics; including habit-building, memory, aligning your emotions with your goals. I’m looking forward to it and to moving forward with a clearer sense of purpose.

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