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Deciding what needs our attention is an important skill in any situation, but particularly so when things are difficult.

The risk is that we can get stuck on one thing, simply because it is the thing closest to us and, to quote a bit of a cliché, then we “can’t see the wood for the trees”. When we are under pressure we dive in and focus all our efforts on the immediate needs we have identified. This makes us feel better by temporarily allaying our anxieties because we are now mentally occupied by taking action.


“Where our attention goes, our energy follows”


This immediate response can of course be helpful when we are faced with a matter of life and death, but usually, and thankfully, the situations most of us face in the workplace allow for a few moments’ thought, before immediate action is required.

The skill is to take a step back and reflect on what would be the overarching headline that the details feed into. If this feels overwhelming at first, a helpful way to ‘see’ the big picture is to imagine how you would briefly explain the issue and its consequences to another person.

Stepping back to gain a wider perspective may influence us to shift our efforts and focus on something more important, perhaps even helping us identify the real issue lurking behind those immediate needs.

Taking a big picture perspective also helps us when we are inundated by requests or emails from others, which can distract us from completing the most important task on our to-do list.

A bird of prey looking for food is a great example of this behaviour. It knows to fly high when it needs to hunt, giving it a wider perspective. From 10,000 feet it can see the possibilities, understand the lie of the land, and observe things that it could not otherwise see.

But for us humans, taking the big picture perspective is a skill we need to learn and practice.

At Elemental Wellbeing it’s this approach that underpins the performance models we use from our partners at Gazing Performance Systems – shifting our gaze from the immediate to a wider perspective, then once we have clarity, we can get back to the task in hand. Tools and diagrams often make situations easier to grasp and can bring clarity to our understanding.

Consider this:

  • Pause, and take a step back. Jumping into a complex situation is seldom the best approach.
  • Look at the situation from the big picture perspective and consider what is the real issue that needs to be addressed.