“Head up! Head up!”
I feel like I heard this constantly as a young hockey player, whether it be from a coach, a teammate, or my mom and dad in the stands.
First I learned how to skate, then how to skate with a puck (while staring at it intently), then all of a sudden we were asked to keep the puck on our stick without looking down at all??
“Head up! Head up!” was shorthand for “Stop having a staring contest with the puck and look around you!” What seemed impossible as a 5 or 6 year old turned out to be essential.
What happens if you can’t keep your head up while handling the puck?
As you can see, being able to skate and stick handle while having the awareness to see players and the ice around you wasn’t just important; it was imperative. It was the difference between being effective and a trip to the ER (I learned this the hard way a couple of times).
As with hockey, the concept of awareness is essential to overall success in life.
I’ve read many personal growth and development books and most of them have the theme of “putting in the work” and “maximizing your effort” to enjoy the splendor of success. What I don’t see enough focus on is being able to combine this work ethic with optimal awareness of life around you.
How effective can you be as you bust your ass without ever looking up to see your surroundings? How can you avoid potential mistakes or missteps if you’ve got your blinders on?
In hockey, if you have your head down without looking up, you’re sending out an invite to the other team to knock you clear into next week. Also, by keeping your head down, you may miss an open teammate, or an opportunity to help your team.
In life, by burying your head in your work, your inflexibility puts you on a one way track to potential pain and discomfort in your relationships, your business, or your health. If you have your head down for too long as you work hard towards your goals, you could miss valuable opportunities to help yourself but to also help the people around you.
I’m certainly not implying that working hard isn’t important, because it is. I’m just suggesting that the amount of blood, sweat and tears you put into reaching your goals should equal the amount of awareness you develop along the way. Often times the windows of opportunity in this world are minuscule. You can’t see them if you’re not looking. If you build in the appropriate systems to develop some awareness of the things around you, these windows of opportunity will seem to grow and show up more often.
So rather than being blindsided by failure and “unavoidable” mistakes in life, keep your head on a swivel. It won’t slow you down, it will more likely project you forward. You can’t control all of the events in life, but you can certainly control your ability to see them coming.