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Obsession…I Mean, Intense Focus

By Andrea Rediske

Like millions of others around the globe, I was entranced with the Olympics this year. Each night, I sat down to several hours of TiVo’d events, marveling at the athletic spectacle. Almost as much as I enjoyed seeing athletes compete, I enjoyed watching the athletes themselves – their toned, muscular bodies competing at the highest pinnacle of athletic prowess. Having trained for and competed in a few sprint-length triathlons, I am slightly aware of the amount of work that it takes to get into shape for the events that I have competed in. It takes hard work and dedication to make it to the gym every day, sweat, strain, and push yourself past what you think is your limit. Now, multiply that many, many times, and you have an idea of what it takes to become an Olympic athlete. I realized, as I sat watching these amazing specimens of humanity, that these people did nothing else but train for their sport. All day, every day, for years and years – they swim, bike, run, jump, dive, throw, and stretch themselves to their very limit, only to do it again the next day.

One of my favorites to watch (next to Michael Phelps, of course) was Dara Torres. 41 years old, the mother of a two-year-old, and she was competing against – and many times beating – women less than half her age in her FIFTH Olympics. Hooray for Dara! As a mother of three approaching 40, she inspired me. The Olympics are not only for the young and perky! I can have a body like that when I’m 40! I watched a few of the human interest stories about her, and I realized how she did it – she has “Team Dara” – a team of 6 – 8 people dedicated only to her and her training. She has coaches, trainers, massage therapists, people who stretch her, knead her muscles, cook for her, clean for her, and of course, help care for her daughter. I thought to myself, “If I had ‘Team Andrea’ maybe I could have a body like that and a few Olympic medals to boot!” I can’t imagine having the luxury and the help that it would take to train for that kind of an event. My life is too full of cleaning, cooking, chasing, diapering, and all-around mothering to hone my body into Dara’s goddess-like shape. My 2 hours at the gym a few days a week is all I get. What would it be like to be able to have that kind of intense focus?

The only thing in my life that has ever come close to that kind of intense focus was my mission. On my mission, I had only one goal: to bring souls to Christ. All of my time, talents, effort, blood, sweat, and tears were dedicated to serving Christ and my fellow man. My focus was clear, my goals were singular – missionary work and nothing else. It was kind of liberating to know that what I was doing at that moment was the most important thing in the world, and it was what Christ would be doing if He were on the earth. As a sister missionary, I realized that my mission was the only time in my life when I would have an inkling of what it might be like to be a General Authority – to have my whole life dedicated to the Lord. Like an athlete, I was in training every day, all day, and by the end of my mission, I had finally gotten kind of good at it. When I came home, I felt at loose ends – I had all these great missionary skills and not many places to use them. I had some goals, but nothing as concrete as missionary work. I floundered for a while after my mission because I no longer had the “missionary mandate” – sure, I could serve the Lord in other ways, but my focus had changed and diluted somehow. I had to think about school, work, and dating. I was no longer putting my whole effort into one thing.

So, back to the Olympics and obsession intense focus. As I sat on my couch, eating Cheesy Poofs and thinking about “Team Dara,” I wondered, what would I do if I had the freedom and means to focus on only one thing? What if money, child care, housing, bills, and all of the other distractions of my life were taken care of and I could focus on one thing, what would I do? For me, the answer was easy and entirely selfish: Fencing. After my mission, I began fencing and competed in a number of national events. I was obsessed…I mean, I had an intense focus on fencing for a number of years. I loved it, but I also realized that at some point I had to finish school, get a job, get married, and be a responsible adult. Part of me still misses it every day, and I wish I could go back to it, but my money and time are not entirely my own, and my focus has changed. Although I love my husband and children, I love my life and everything I am involved with, if I had the money and the time, that’s what I would do all day, every day, as much as I could.

What would you do?

About Andrea Rediske

(Blog Team) is the proud mother of two living sons, aged 9 and 7, and Ethan, who passed away in early February 2014. She is currently working as a freelance science writer and blogger and will begin a PhD program in Science Education at the University of Central Florida in Fall 2014. When she's not juggling the laundry, her writing work, and the busy lives of her little boys, she likes to squeeze in a triathlon now and then. Also, her husband rocks.

25 thoughts on “Obsession…I Mean, Intense Focus”

  1. Not fair! I don't want to pick one. 🙂

    But if I had to choose, I would be a concert pianist. I almost majored in piano, but completely bombed the audition. Without warning, and it was the most shocking thing of my life. I had never NOT bombed an audition, competition, etc. Later I realized I wasn't supposed to do it. And hindsight has taught me why.

    (P.S. But the other one? I would be a writer and write hundreds of books in years instead of decades.)

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  2. I would just focus on school. It (as many of you know, I'm sure) is very difficult to go to school when one has children, a marriage, physical limitations, and well, no money. If I could, I would get my PhD straight through without once turning back to see if everything was alright. Ah, that would be nice. Until that time, I'm on the 20-year plan. 🙂

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  3. Dude. My comment was all wrong. I think it's because I wrote it right when I woke up.
    Let me try again.

    I bombed my audition without warning and it was shocking; I had NEVER bombed an audition or competition. Ever. I won scholarships and scored at the highest levels, and so when I humiliated myself in front of those admission judges, I didn't know what to do with my life. Luckily, I found out sooner –rather than later –as to why.

    And yes, I would write, too.

    There. That's better!

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  4. I would travel. No question about it. Travel the whole world–sometimes with my family, or just my dh, and sometimes by myself, and sometimes with a friend or two.

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  5. I wouldn't just need all the temporal things taken care of. I would need time. I can't just focus on one thing because I would love to do just about everything. I'd need a few millenia. I'd like to travel the world and take a month in each counrty. I'd like to go back to school and get a degree in some five or six areas. I'd like to learn to build a house and all the furniture in it. I'd like to finally get in shape and keep it that way. There just isn't enough time. Thank heaven for the eternities, right?

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  6. I have often wondered how things will work in the eternities — wouldn't it be great to have all the time you need to get really good at one thing, and then once you've mastered it, move on to something else?

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  7. I would be the world ice skating champion, and also the world rollerblading champion. I've only ice skated once in my life, but I JUST KNOW I COULD BE AWESOME, if I only had the chance to devote my life to twirling. I feel it in my bones.

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  8. Do we have to pick one?

    I would be a singer . . . some combination of Barbra Streisand in her early days and Sarah Brightman.

    and/or be a world traveller, learning many languages, maybe get a PhD in some multi-cultural/anthropological field.

    It kind of depends on the day what I'd choose, I think. And I know there are other dreams that flit around in my brain.

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  9. Just one thing?

    I'd be a kick-butt runner. Not just a mom who runs when she can fit it in, but someone who actually has time to run 80 miles a week, strength train, work on the core, sleep and eat like I should, and replace my shoes before they start to fall apart.

    Or I'd be a writer. A good one. One who gets novels published. Not that I have even an iota of an idea about what I'd write.

    Or I'd do a PhD and give it my all. Not my quarter or even my half. Which is all it will get if I ever get around to actually trying to start it.

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  10. My focus would be psychology. I'd be there with Maddison, get the PhD without looking back. Then I'd go on to practice, changing people's lives, helping them change and when they change it brightens a whole corner of the world. It is kind of like the mission thing – changing lives. I've seen people struggle to live the gospel but because of serious mental illness and suffering after effects of abuse they really couldn't. Even those first few simple steps of the gospel were overwhelming to them because of their emotional pain. It would be great to help people like that get to a point where they could live the gospel if they chose it.

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  11. Since I'm starting my PhD in about two weeks, that is what I'd definitely love to focus on. Or reading lots and lots of books. Or cooking–I'd love to learn how to be a fine pastry chef. The truth is, though, I really like having lots of different things in my life.

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  12. I've been feeling the same pulls!!!

    I'd Study Constitutional Law … [total geek admission]

    Perfect my piano skills… write music… study every language everywhere…

    And work out & get into this perfect little Amazon shape – I want to get really good at running, but that's "a few" pounds away, LOL.

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  13. I think I may be incapable of intense focus. I often joke that I have ADD of housework, but I'm starting to wonder if it might be true.

    I'd really like to try fencing though.

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  14. Definately can't pick one. It is my nature to obsess for a while about something then move on to another obsession. That might fit in with Dalene's comment about ADD 🙂 Today, it would be quilting/sewing and genealogy. Tomorrow, who knows.

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  15. I would go back to school forever and ever. I would be an eternal student, and I would get degree after degree, just for fun. In all kinds of things: one for all the Romance languages, plus a degree in Classics, plus maybe an Asian language just for fun. Then I would do music, maybe. That would be a stretch, but hey, still fun. And history, of course.

    And I would write along the way.

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  16. Kannie, i'm with you. I'd go back to Law School. I wouldn't ever practice law, but I'd love to actually enjoy my ConLaw class for the pure joy of it. I'd probably take some History classes too. A secret desire of my heart is to be Provo's Norm.

    (Is anyone even going to get that? Does anyone remember Norm?)

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  17. I'd finish my bachelors degree, and get a masters and a PhD (I'd need to use that money to either by a dissertation or to find some really smart people to get my brain to funcion that well, but you said money was no object). Then I'd work as a clinical social worker. It's my dream. Seems so weird that this is what I aspire towards…

    But first, I'd become obsessed with art and art history and travel the globe to admire all of it.

    And just before that, I'd lose about 50 lbs. with whatever help money can buy me.

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  18. Justine, baby, I hate to burst your bubble, but it was CLIFF from Cheers who was stuffed with useless facts, not Norm. Norm was the chubby drunk who never wanted to go home to his wife, Vera.

    I'd want to train therapy dogs, and also train dogs for little doggie Olympics. Not exactly a huge contribution to the world, I know, but have you SEEN those doggie athletic competitions on Animal Planet? They totally rock.

    I'd also love to be somebody like Cesar Milan, or, like the program I just saw at the doctor's office, 'The Bear Man of Kamchatka." Working all the time with animals would be pretty cool, I think. I even considered being a vet, until my brother talked me out of it.

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