“Target fixation is an attentional phenomenon observed in humans in which an individual becomes so focused on an observed object (be it a target or hazard) that they inadvertently increase their risk of colliding with the object.”
This concept is often associated with driving. As in, trying so hard to not run into that barricade that you inexplicably do. It is also associated with the desire to purchase something. Once I started to permission myself with the idea that I might one day own a Jeep, it felt like every other car was one. I have heard similar things from those wanting to buy a house or get a motorcycle.
It is also associated with seeing the best or worse in other people. If you believe others are generally up to no good, they will confirm it for you every time. If you believe there is the possibility and reality of good in others, you will find it as well.
The lens you look through determines what you see.
Television is a mine field for our family. With most of the stuff produced with a decidedly Christian worldview being of such poor production quality, we’ve turned our attention toward the things that aren’t explicitly Christian, but consistent with our beliefs. This allows for powerful conversation within our family to confirm and cement our values.
A friend recently recommended “The Kindness Diaries” on Netflix. Season 1 is 13 episodes of approximately 20 minutes each. The shows protagonist operates with a simple belief that despite all the war, pestilence, and hatred in the world, there is the capability of kindness and goodness in everyone. It can be found anywhere.
Although a retired wealthy investment banker, he left his wallet behind and is traveling the globe, surviving only on the kindness of strangers.
Despite the incredulous thoughts of others, he is fixated on the idea that the kindness of strangers exists everywhere. As a result, he is finding it.
It is unorthodox, haphazard, and glorious. And my family can’t get enough of it. There is also a beautiful way that he rewards the kindness of strangers at the end of each show. It is stimulating some great thoughts and ideas around our house.
You could apply the idea of target fixation to almost anything. “Glass half full” people maybe aren’t naive and insipid, but possibly just more hopeful and expectant. They aren’t imagining things that aren’t there, but possibly identifying the things that some of us just can’t see.
This comes up with clients from time to time. Sometimes a leader gets so exasperated with another that there is seemingly no goodness in them at all. We start with reminding them that we are all created in the image of God. We were placed here to uniquely offer an aspect of God’s glory that no other creature can. Identifying that glory and unique identity in another can bring healing, unlock glory, and truly change a person.
Isn’t one of our objectives as a leader to find the ultimate value in others? Isn’t our ultimate purpose as a leader to help others awaken what is most profound, unique, and valuable in those we lead?
- Where are you targeting your fixation?
- Are you looking for the good in others or are you assuming the worst?
- What lens are you viewing the world through?
- What does largely seeing the worst in others say about the way you feel about yourself?