Chapter 10: When It’s Okay To Take Your Eye Off The Ball

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “keep your eye on the ball.” In sports, it tends to mean exactly that—keep your eye on the ball! Outside of sports, it’s a metaphor for staying focused on your goal or task and not on the myriad distractions bombarding you.

Generally it’s an excellent rule of thumb to follow. But let’s say another, equally important ball bounces into the picture. Which ball do you keep your eye on?

Meylyne faces this dilemma in this chapter. Up until now, her goal (aka her ball) has been to find a cure for Prince Piam so that she may return home. But when she discovers that Glendoch’s guardian has been poisoned, her friends are convinced that they must abandon their search for Piam’s cure to find a cure for the guardian instead. Meylyne is torn. Piam’s cure has been the object of her desire for so long that it’s hard for her to switch tracks.

At this point, she could dig in her heels and say, “No—we came on this journey to find a cure for Prince Piam and we must finish what we started.” I don’t think she could be blamed for wanting to stay her course. She’d be keeping her eye on the ball, right?

But we’re also taught that we need to be adaptable—to shift priorities when needed.

So which is it? Does Meylyne keep her eye on the ball or adapt to her changed circumstances?

What would you do?

In her TED talk, “When Plans Change,” Zynara Ng speaks eloquently about the benefits of adapting. In her talk, she describes how she had a plan for what she would do when she graduated college. Her goal was to be an actress but when she didn’t get a part in an important play, she chose to consider other options. Because of this, new doors opened to her and she ended up on an entirely different path—and a perfect path for her.

Then again, if you watch the movie “La La Land,” you’ll get an entirely different perspective! In this story, the main characters take risks, endure humiliation and heart-wrenching failures and even sacrifice their love for each other in relentless pursuit of their goals. They end up achieving them—illuminating what can happen when you keep your eye on the ball.

So how do you decide which to do?

In Meylyne’s case, the choice isn’t so tough. One choice clearly has bigger stakes than the other. It’s when both options seem equally good (or in some cases, bad) that the choice is much harder.

In my experience, the answer is two-fold. It lies partly in the journey to achieving your goal. If the day-to-day activities involved in pursuing your goals are enjoyable, you’re probably on the right path. It’s okay if it’s hard work—hard work is necessary for big achievements. But it shouldn’t suck day in and day out. If it does, maybe you’re pursuing other people’s dreams that you mistook for your own.*

That happened to me once. I moved out to San Francisco with the goal of becoming a fashion designer. As soon as I started Art School however, I discovered that my dream had a flaw—I was not particularly good at art and I certainly didn’t love it! After much agonizing, I abandoned that path and as I pounded the streets of San Francisco looking for work, I wandered into a staffing agency. To my surprise they offered me a job as a recruiter. I took it. I loved it. And I’ve been at it ever since!

This brings us to the second part of the answer, which lies knowing what your ultimate goal is. In my case, it wasn’t just about becoming a fashion designer—it was about fulfillment. Understanding that, even on a subconscious level, made it clear that I had to switch tracks. It’s the same for Meylyne. She doesn’t just care about curing Prince Piam. Ultimately, she wants to get home. Ironically, keeping her eye on the ball actually requires her to be adaptable!

How about you? Are you currently pursuing a goal? Tell me about it—I’d love to hear from you!

*Note: I have very different feelings on the matter of school. School should not be quit under any circumstances. If you hate school because it’s too hard or you’re being bullied, there are options for you, even if you’re convinced there aren’t. Please write to me and I’ll point you in the direction of some excellent resources that have helped others like you!


2 Responses to “Chapter 10: When It’s Okay To Take Your Eye Off The Ball”

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