The importance of focusing on the here and now

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Clint "Q" Hinote
  • 3rd Fighter Training Squadron commander
"What you don't want to do is stay up at night game-planning against ghosts."

That's what a highly successful football coach had to say on the eve of the national championship game when asked about his team's preparation. His point was that he couldn't allow himself or his team to worry about all of the bad things that might happen -- things that they had no control over.

Instead, he stressed the importance of focusing on the things they could control that would help them get to their goal of winning the national championship.

For those of us who are pilots, this is a critical habit to develop. I've never flown the perfect sortie. Something always happens that detracts from the overall performance. We can't fly around worrying about the bad things that might happen, however.

We have to focus on the here and now and do the things we need to do to be successful, like flying the right formation, making the proper radio call, turning to the right navigation point, configuring the aircraft, or executing the attack. When something bad does happen, it's vital that we put it behind us and focus on the things we can control.

This is also an important skill for success in life. There's only so much over which we have control. We can always fall into the trap of worrying about the future -- the next upgrade, the next job, the next assignment, etc.

But the truth is that we don't have a lot of control over those things. We do have control over today's activities. We can show up to work with a positive attitude, we can diligently do our jobs, we can treat people with respect and we can love our families. The best part about this is, as we focus on the things we need to do to be successful today, our worries about tomorrow often turn into pleasant surprises.

This is not to say that we don't prepare for the future. There are things we need to do today to be successful tomorrow. For example, if you're taking a test, instead of worrying about it, take that energy and focus it on preparation. Find out about the format of the test. Study the material. Practice answering test questions. Do all of this in time to get a good night's sleep.

When test time comes, focus on each question, answering it to the best of your ability. If you don't know something, put it behind you and move on to the next one. Don't grade yourself or worry about the overall result until you've completed every question. When you turn the test in and receive your grade, celebrate if things went well, but always focus on what you can do to improve the next time.

It might interest you to know that I'm trying to practice what I preach. As I write this, I'm at Luke AFB, Ariz., re-learning how to fly the F-16 after 10 years away from it. It's hard work to be in "student mode" again and learn all the things I need to know to be successful.

If I think about all the stuff I don't know or the many tests and rides that lie ahead, I can get very worried and frustrated. Each day I've been trying to focus only on the things I can do to be successful. So far it has worked for me and I know it will for you as well.