I must acknowledge immediately that I do not count cooking or baking as personal strengths or talents. As a result, when the holidays roll around, I get a tad nervous about what dish I will be asked to make for potluck gatherings. I count among my close friends some pretty darn good cooks so the bar (at least in my own mind) is high.
One of my assignments this year was to make a banana cream pie. I was delighted as I happen to really love banana cream pie (bcp) and I naively thought “how hard can this be”? I snagged a friend’s favorite bcp recipe and dove in excitedly. Fast forward, I pulled it out of the refrigerator on Thanksgiving and it would be best described as banana cream soup. It sloshed around in the pie crust and suffice to say that it could only be consumed with a straw. Wait! What?
I was defeated and frustrated. It was until later that I began to reflect on what had happened to my pie and what I might learn from this embarrassing moment. I took out the recipe again to review and realized I had cut a few corners, made some incorrect assumptions, didn’t have all the equipment necessary (like an electric mixer!), and more. I missed the details.
The first episode on a Netflix series called The Mind, Explained https://www.netflix.com/title/81098586, centers on focus – and why keeping sustained focus on anything is more challenging than ever with so many distractions and our tendencies to multi-task. The good news, research tells us, is that we haven’t lost our ability to focus, we are just really out of practice. At any given moment we have a bunch of programs running in our minds:
- Finish the report
- Do the laundry
- Book a flight
- Make a banana cream pie
The key to focus, experts say, is to keep one program, and only one program, running as long as possible. It turns out that 90 minutes of sustained focus is what most people are capable of. Reflecting on the bcp debacle I recognized that I was pulled out of focus several times by phone calls, my dog needing to take a walk, etc.
All of this to say that my early New Year’s pledge is to dramatically improve my ability to focus in 2022. Attempting to prepare a new dish or dessert, learning a new skill, mastering Excel, planning a vacation, grasping new technology…requires focus. AND you gottawanna.
With this in mind, I attempted the bcp again. This next time out, it was excellent, I must say. Here’s what was different:
- I made sure I had everything I needed laid out in advance
- I read the recipe through several times ensuring I would not miss the details I had first time out.
- I employed a coach (my sister) for guidance.
- I was patient and took it very slow
And all of this extra time and focus not only made for a great pie, it was a more enjoyable and rewarding experience. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is a time of the year when things tend to slow down a bit. Take advantage of that opportunity and reclaim focus. Good things will come.