Appreciation & Mindset: focus

A few years ago, Hans and I were between our old house and new digs. Construction delays on our new place meant moving into a hotel.

What was originally supposed to be three months turned into six. That’s 173 days. But who’s counting.

That’s where these two stories begin: We were 63 days into our extended stay at the hotel.

And I’ve never been more clear: What you focus on is what you get.

You see, I can tell two stories of the extended stay hotel experience. Both are true. But only one is energizing.

Story #1

The first story recounts two people living in only 303 square feet.

Once upon a time, they encountered…

  • a heroin overdose across the hall
  • being moved multiple times for maintenance issues
  • what sounds like bowling balls dropped repeatedly on the ceiling in the wee hours
  • a week-long WI-Fi outage
  • the never-ending hum of expressway traffic outside the window
  • fitness center privileges suddenly and mysteriously being revoked
  • a bathroom light that sounds like a jet engine
  • the upstairs neighbor bowling at midnight again
  • a power outage…and then another one
  • water splashing from the toilet bowl with each flush—even with the lid closed
  • repeated billing errors
  • a box of half eaten chicken bones sitting atop the stairwell trash bin…for days
  • window screens with gaps big enough to let in bugs (or small birds, for that matter)
  • a phone that works about half the time
  • $4 investment to do a load of laundry
  • the sound of those thudding bowling balls again

…and so the story goes.

Story #2

The second story is also true. But this one focuses on the connected togetherness of those same 303 square feet.

Once upon a time, we:

  • used our new digs as a clean slate to keep the TV turned off and the conversation turned on
  • spent more time reading and enjoying great books
  • grinned and giggled while sitting at the tiniest table, knees touching, eating a simple dinner prepared on a two-burner cooktop
  • revived working out together, something we’d stopped doing years ago
  • really appreciated the few creature comforts we’d brought with us and treasured how they made a room into a home
  • looked forward to strolling to Whole Foods in the evening for sushi or a decadent dessert
  • planned fun-filled weekend jaunts in and around the city, figuring if we live in a hotel we’re going to act like we’re on vacation
  • reveled in the amazing water pressure (When trying to be positive about the hotel stay, I wrote Yelp reviews in my head about the joy of great water pressure.)
  • enjoyed watching awe-inspiring cranes almost daily in the nearby lagoons
  • embraced that 303 square feet is more than enough
  • practiced not sweating the small stuff, reminding ourselves most things really are a First World Problem

What’s the focus?

Focusing on the first story, I feel frustrated, irritable, inconvenienced, drained.

Living through that focus felt like a day half-lived, squandered. As if I’ve made my serenity about all the external instead of that quiet place inside.

It was never more clear: The kind of day I experience depends not on the facts of the day, but which facts I choose to focus on.

I was by no means perfect during our 6-month hotel stay. Some days all I focused on is the bathroom outlet not working.

But day by day and moment by moment, I would gently focus and refocus. I wanted to make sure my focus allowed me to tell the kind of story with a happy ending.

Sure, your day is made up of external factors and situations beyond your control. But where are you focused? Could you tell a different story if you focused differently?