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Pulling Focus and Life Choices

Years ago in film school, I learned a camera technique called “pulling focus”. Basically, you make a choice to focus the camera on an actor or object. Then, during the scene, you change the focus to another actor or object in the frame or picture for dramatic emphasis. That’s “pulling focus”. It can be a very effective way to call attention to an important object or action that a character is overlooking. We, the audience, know that the character has missed something. We also know the object or action is important since good filmmakers never waste time photographing things that aren’t relevant to the story they are telling. And often that “thing” has a profound impact on the main character’s life.

Like that main character, we all fail to notice things that could have a significant influence over our lives. For me that “thing” was positive accomplishments or what I call the “good things” in my life. From an early age I feared insignificance. I thrived on praise and accomplishment and would go to almost any length to get a pat on the back. Deep down, I felt flawed and a bit worthless. I wasn’t gifted in athletics, so I turned to the arts. What better place to be noticed than on a stage, right? But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to be cast in a major role. All I focused on was the lead I didn’t get. It wasn’t enough to be in an elite choir group. I was more focused on the fact that I didn’t make All-State Choir the first year I auditioned.

And so it went year after year after year from adolescence to adulthood. I became more and more critical of myself and others with every passing day. I grew bitter at all the little injustices and the things I failed to accomplish. Complaining became a way of life for me. Nothing was ever good enough, including me. Then I noticed something. There were an awful lot of good things in my life. I was married to an amazing woman who loved me in spite of my negative behaviors. I had five wonderful daughters who thought the world of me. And despite the odds, I had managed to make a living working in Hollywood. The list of accomplishments and blessings went on and on as I “pulled focus” and discovered the good things in my life.

Was it easy? No. I still fight to keep my focus on good things. We live in a world obsessed with the negative and pulling focus away from all the dark and destructive elements in our world can be a real battle. But we are the camera operators. We choose what we focus on. And ultimately what we focus on has a tremendous impact on our mood, our satisfaction with life and the influence we have on others – for good or for bad. To paraphrase a best-selling book, where your treasure or focus is, “there will your heart be also.” What will you focus on?

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