How To Focus In Instead Of Out

Getting back on track after feeling like a failure is easier to do than you might think. These three words create positive thinking and can change your life.

We spend a lot of time watching volleyball games. “A lot of time watching volleyball games” means “it’s a good thing we really like the kids and parents and coaches” because they’re our people now. As parents, we cheer and sigh and cross our fingers. We fill water bottles and pass granola bars and hug for all the right reasons–triumph, comfort, encouragement. But it’s these girls’ coaches who stand on the sidelines and try to in-the-moment predict exactly what their girls need to hear. It was while I was watching this in-the-moment-ness happen that I heard the three magical words that our coaches found when they dug deep. They’re the three words that led our girls to a win and that I think they just might be the secret to helping anyone win–or get–what they want.

When our kids get involved in a lot of anything, we begin to share them. I’ve been on the other side of this as a teacher, and I can confirm that when you could swear that it seems like your kids’ teachers or coaches care about their success and happiness as much you do, it’s because they really and truly do. Our kids’ other parents see them in different situations and in different ways than we do, and can, indeed, sometimes instinctively know exactly what to say in the heat of things to get the win–the grade, the learning, the hit.

The thing about parenting, is that we do this in-the-moment decision making about a million times a day–when our kids ask us tough questions or make comments or decisions or arguments that we think require a little finessing, a little parenting. And like coaches, we usually can’t pause time to confer with someone else to figure out what best practice would be in that moment. In retrospect, sure. And way before the issue or problem comes up, absolutely. But in the moment, we have to dig deep in the way-back crevices of our hearts to what we believe to be true and then we have to spout it out and cross our fingers that we were right; this was what they needed.

But the thing about watching a lot of volleyball–or a lot of anything where these other parents are–is that you’re privy to what someone else says when they dig deep. And if you’re lucky like me, your kids’ coaches will yell loudly enough for you to hear from the bleachers and you can learn it for yourself, too. Tuck it away in your pocket to pull out as what you know when you need it for parenting, or for yourself.

A few weeks ago, the girls were having a tough game. A few dropped balls here and a few missed serves there meant they were down in points. From the bleachers, the parents knew enough to cheer loudly and sigh quietly. But I noticed a disconnect in our reactions to some of the girls’ plays and that of the coaches. When the girls would pepper the ball back over the net, as parents we would be visibly, and loudly, relieved. No dropped balls here. But the girls’ coaches were giving just as much, if not, more direction when they’d do this. When I tuned into their words, I heard these three: Play your game.

They didn’t want the girls to get the ball over the net in one hit, they wanted them to do the three hits they’d been taught. Those three hits equal success in a game. When the girls would do their practiced plays–whether or not they resulted in a point–the coaches had nothing but cheers for them. While from the bleachers, it looked great to get a quick hit over the net, this threw off the team’s rhythm and rarely got them what they wanted in the long-term. What the coaches wanted to see was the girls focusing more on themselves than the other team. Instead of reacting to the other team’s moves, they wanted them to play their own game.

So the girls lost that game, but they spent next few practices honing in on each other and what their game looks like. And this weekend, every game they played followed the exact same pattern: they started off down in points and ended up winning–every single time. I’m not saying they didn’t drop any balls or miss any serves. But I am saying that even when they missed, they focused back in on their own game and they got what they wanted.

When I look at going after what I want, I know that when I stay focused on my own game, what I want and what I’m doing to get it, I do well. It’s when I get derailed by someone else’s success or moves or plays that I falter both in confidence and in wins.

Sometimes we do things as reactions to others’ success. But that’s not where winning lies. The path to winning, to getting what you want long-term, is …

Focus in.

Be you.

Know your game.

Remember that other people’s wins have nothing to do with your losses.

Do your moves.

Do them again.

Go back to your plan–every time.

Ready position.

Play your game.



galit-breen-buzzfeedMy story was on Buzzfeed this weekend. I can’t even. Staying my course after being cyberbullied has brought a world of goodness right to me. My book, Kindness Wins, is still an Hot New Release in Parenting Teenagers and is available for preSALE on kindle right now. If you don’t do kindle, you can get a FREE kindle reading app to use on any device right here. Start here: Kindness Wins



apple-sliceErin Loechner of Design for Mankind wrote a stick-to-your-ribs good post about not seeking out words or experiences or people who make you feel less than. We can be on separate paths and yet, in her words, share the same sun. It’s a lovely read an an excellent reminder that other people’s wins have nothing to do with our losses, that no one is being them AT you. Start here: The Apple Slice and Social Media Envy



things-i-cant-sayLiving by our hearts and surrounding ourselves with people who will not only listen, but will do the same, is a tried-and-true path to success. Surround yourself with good people, they’ll become your lift. Every Wednesday Shell of Things I Can’t Say hosts a weekly linkup called Pour Your Heart Out. It’s a golden writing space. You can find out more about this light, and join in with yours, on Shell’s blog. Start here: Pour Your Heart Out


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  1. I needed this reminder this morning. Thanks, you :)

  2. Ooooh, yes. I’ve been feeling lost – for multiple reasons. I didn’t think I was looking at other people so much – but perhaps I am. I have lost my focus on ME for sure… thank you so much. Beautifully said, as always!

    • I love everything about your note here–but the big ‘ole capital letters in ME–yes! That’s so it, isn’t it? Cheering your game on from here, sister!

  3. I’m going to roll that one around in my head and remember it for a while. Thanks. (I’m also working with “love, not fear.”)

  4. This should be my new motto: Play Your Game. You’re so wise, Galit. I love that it relates to so many things in our lives.

    • Ohmyheart, how honored would I be if this became your motto?! Love you, sister, for all of the goodness you bring right to me! xo

  5. I so needed to read this. I’ve been having a tough time recently & I think a lot of that is bc I was looking for someone else to fix some things & not doing what I do. Not following my heart. Not playing my game. You have a true gift with words & observations–I truly admire you. :)

  6. Sage advice that we all often forget. Thank you for the reminder!