Focus Development: Lessons from the African Bush

By Carl J de Wet

Lions bring excitement to the African Bush. These enormous cats are amazing athletes and the ‘the Lion hunt’ is very much part of living in the wild. The story of the prey that escapes the kill is also a riveting one. We can learn focus development from both the antelope and the lion.

The African Bush tells a story of ‘fight or flight’ and survival. The amazing part of the story is how quickly these beautiful animals recover from the incident and get back into the zone.

The Focus of the Antelope that Escapes

To anybody watching, the antelope that has narrowly escaped from a lion seems to return to the herd and settle down as though all is forgotten, and nothing has happened. Research indicates that the antelope will find safety under a shady tree and shake intensely for a few minutes to release the adrenaline and anxiety before returning to the herd. This research is hardly surprising as my knees would also be shaking uncontrollably after escaping a hungry lion. Interestingly therapists and their clients have followed the wisdom of mother nature by evoking a self-controlled shaking and using this process to reduce chronic anxiety and everyday stresses.

The point is, although we all process our emotions differently, we all need to learn to deal with our negative emotions when a threatening event occurs.

A number of focus development techniques include:
• Meditation and prayer
• Mindfulness exercises like taking a few deep breaths to assist in the letting go process
• Visit a therapist to be coached through some techniques

The antelope’s ability to move on is the envy of any stressed executive because living the corporate life is not unlike the African Bush. Like the antelope, we do not know when that career-threatening event will happen or where it will come from. Although threatening events are out of our control, we can control is how we react to and manage the situation afterwards.

Angry outbursts in the workplace certainly won’t help us move ahead in our careers. Like the traumatized antelope, life’s adversities happen to everybody and when it does negative emotions will rule the moment. When this happens we need to get back into focus to be productive and to express our position calmly yet assertively. This increases the team’s performance, and our own freedom to find inspiration for solutions to corporate challenges. So be honest about feelings but be rational in the way we express them.

People with high EQs quickly notice when they are out of the zone, or in the wrong zone, and seek safety and comfort beneath their symbolic trees to regroup and get back into the zone. They deal with their negative emotions immediately after an attack and only return to the symbolic herd once they know they are strong enough and calm enough to move on from the event. Often, they’re even smart enough to anticipate and avoid situations which may make them angry and frustrated.

As always, we need to listen to both sides of the story, and the lion also has a story to tell.

The Focus of the Hungry Lion

When an antelope gets away, the lion doesn’t have feelings of grudges and revenge. The lion does not scheme and plot on how to get that specific antelope next time.

No, the lion moves on and finds easier prey. Why?  The lion needs to take responsibility for the situation and get back to focus on hunting … or starve. A hunt expends a lot of vital energy and skill which the lion cannot afford to waste on secondary motives. The lion also knows that if injured during the process, the injury will affect the ability and performance to hunt for food in the future. The lion cannot risk exhaustion and injury that comes from a pointless battle.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet

There is power in acceptance and in letting go without being distracted by thinking. Like the lion, we must move on quickly from thoughts of excuses, blame and resentment because our attitude will be detected and could easily result in our career being impacted.

It is all about focus development, getting back into the zone and harnessing our emotional energy to create capacity for performance. And soon be back on the road to success.