Stay Centered

cyclone-62957_640As hurricane Irma approached the coast of Florida, meteorologists tracking the storm noticed something peculiar on the radar images. In the eye of the hurricane, were birds – lots of birds. Entire flocks were just flying along, seemingly unaffected by the devastating winds and rain surrounding them.

It seems this is not an unusual phenomenon. Radar imagery from past years show the same thing, flocks of birds moving in tandem with a hurricane by staying close to the center. They aren’t in distress at all. They’re simply going about their business in the midst of chaos. It seems that birds who can’t escape the storm instinctively move as close as possible to the center.

Smart birds.

There are so many times when I feel like I’m caught in a storm. My plate is overloaded, demands on my time come from all sides, and I feel stressed. There are a few things I can say “NO” to (the equivalent of avoiding the storm), but often I can’t. I have to endure the storm until the winds die down. Perhaps, instead of fighting against the storm, I should act more like these birds and move closer to the center, where it’s calm.

My center is my core purpose. It’s my mission – the reason I’m here. I find the closer I stick to my central goal, the easier it is move forward. Any time I allow myself to drift away from the center, I wind up struggling.

We see this reflected in a number of ways. The automotive industry has been trending toward smaller, simpler vehicles because they are more affordable and easier to maintain. Tiny house communities are popping up all over the country as people look to simplify their lives and remove the stress that comes with managing a larger home. Even software companies have shifted to producing simple apps that focus on doing one or two things extremely well.

It’s not unusual for a corporation to diversify in an attempt to spur rapid growth, only to find things spiraling out of control. Those that survive usually do so by trimming off business lines that don’t fit with their core mission. They move back to the center.

We humans have a way of complicating things. We’re continuously looking to do more, be more, and achieve more. But every time we add something new to our to-do list, we take away from our ability to do any one thing well. The more we become a “jack of all trades,” the more we become a “master of none.”

The tension that scenario creates knocks us around. It drags us down and makes us feel like we’re at the mercy of our circumstances. We find ourselves in a hurricane. Making progress is hard because of all the extra demands pulling at us. So we hunker down. We do our best to check things off the list and ride out the storm.

But if we’ll just stay centered, we’ll not only survive the storm, but thrive despite it. By keeping to what makes us great (as an organization, a team, or an individual), we can move forward even as others battle the winds around us.

So, what’s your center? What are the things that you and your team should really be focused on? What needs to be let go?