In my business coaching practice, I have learned that one of the differences between inexperienced and experienced business owners is how well they manage the their peripheral vision and adjust to what they see. Said another way, the key to success is how they keep their eye on the daily responsibilities while staying aware and focused on the marketplace and their long-term vision. Here is an example that I read recently, and excepted, that is very illustrative.

How Peripheral Vision Leads to Long Term Business Success

In just about all sports, the player is always looking forward and not at what she is doing. In basketball, the experienced player does not watch herself handle the ball. Rather, she looks down the the court at where she needs to go or to pass to. The player’s field of vision is not the few feet in front of her, but the whole field before her and beside her. The more of the court the player can see and keep track of, the greater are her abilities to avoid opponents, plan a path through the field, and anticipate the movements of others. The distance and amount of territory the player can keep track of is called the visual field. This requires the combination of two distinct skills. First the player must look farther ahead than her immediate surroundings. She has to look where she wants to be, not where she is. Second, even though the human eye has a narrow field of focus (only a small portion of the eye is in focus) the player must be able to distinguish activities in those areas that are not currently in focus. These skills are critical in business also. It should be apparent how they would apply to a complex barrage of distractions in the ongoing operation of your business.

There is a tendency to focus with tunnel vision on what is right in front of you. This is a natural reaction. The amount of information the leader is thinking about can be overwhelming, and it is easy to become visually fixated on what is happening in front of you. Looking ahead requires even more input. At first, it can be very difficult, but as the leader develops skills into second nature habits, he or she can spend more conscious time expanding their visual field.

An everyday example of these skills at work can be drawn from the scenario of trying to walk through a crowded sidewalk. Whether you are conscious of it or not, you brain tries to anticipate the movements of those in front of you. By gauging the rhythm and timing of your speed along with the speed and position of others on the sidewalk, your brain calculates when and where openings should appear that you can walk through. In order to make the calculations in time to be useful, you must look at a certain distance ahead of where you are. If you were to look at the ground, or only a couple of feet ahead of you, you would frequently bump into people. You achieve a certain level of movement and anticipating your environment’s changing conditions, while keeping tabs on your immediate surroundings through peripheral vision. Your body responds automatically by adjusting the speed, and position as you dodge the people around you.

As a business owner and executive, you are forced to constantly judge where you are at in the marketplace, your team’s performance, and your plans & goals. There is an incredible amount of data to process and decisions need to be made quickly and thoroughly. Under time pressure, the natural tendency is to revert back to the ingrained habits that you had when your business was small and you were less experienced. In most cases, this was as a single proprietor, or technical expert, and suggests that you might do what a neophyte basketball player does….you carefully watch the ball bounce as you dribble, instead of watching the entire court. As your experience grows, your ability to navigate and react to the traffic on the busy business sidewalk becomes more natural, much the same way that you learned as you grew up. I believe that improving your peripheral vision is a key to your long term business success.

Keep your head up and stay focused on the whole court in front of you. Anticipate what will unfold in the near and short-term. Practice your cross-over dribble without watching your feet. You know what I mean!

If you want to work on your skills, I am the coach that can help you get the most out of your game. If you are interested in learning more, download my new eBook “The 10 Critical Responsibilities of a Business Owner.”