Tales, Trolls, Tribulations: How To Keep Your Focus When Everyone Is Losing Theirs


No, I am not going to get political here, but let’s face it: Our Facebook and social media feeds and television stations have been filled with politics, politics, politics. If you have any kind of an online following, it might be so tempting to jump into the fray and either share the vitriol or climb upon a soapbox or make disparaging remarks to those you consider friends, but have differing opinions.

Step back. Walk away from the keyboard before you hit the “enter” button. Re-read what you’ve written. Is it worth it? Do you need to be involved in the online conversation — whether pro or con — on the topic at hand? I will tell you that it has been extremely difficult for me not to spout off on many of the social commentary pieces I’ve read. I have to stop myself when I want to take to Facebook and rant and rave about something that I feel to be an injustice or to support something about which I believe.

There are topics I just avoid. My family and my closest friends know my feelings on politics, religion, specific dog breeds and a whole host of other items about which I am passionate. Feta, anyone? Ask my family how I feel about THAT!

How to Keep Your Focus (even when everyone else is losing theirs)What’s a passionate person to do? How do you deal with Internet trolls? How do you share your tale in a way that doesn’t invite anger and bias (unless that’s what you’re going for)? What topics are near enough and dear enough to your heart that you feel you simply cannot sit quietly by without making a comment? Think long and hard about your comments. Remember everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. You don’t have to agree with fellow pet professionals if you want to be friends with them, right? If you don’t agree with something they say, chalk it up to “Differences make the world go round.”

Grab your favorite beverage and settle in… this could be a long one!

Tales, Trolls & Tribulations: How To Keep Your Focus When Everyone Is Losing Theirs

Talk it out. We don’t have to agree on politics… or feta… to be friends, right? Sure, I may never have known your feelings on either until I saw or read something you’d posted. I’m shocked! Appalled! I NEVER figured you’d be “that type of person”? What?! Someone with different views than your own? Before you lose your mind and cut ties with this person–who could have been a lifelong friend– step back and ask yourself:

  1. Does this really matter?
  2. Isn’t he or she allowed to an opinion different than your own?
  3. What if that person shunned you because your opinion differed from theirs? Hhmmm food for thought.

You don’t have to respond to their comment. No one says you need to attend the upcoming Feta Rally (whether pro or con), right? Agree to disagree.

Is it really worth it? Have you ever heard the Serenity Prayer? In part it reads: “Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference…” When everything around you is chaos, do you have the power to change it? Are you destined to be in the midst of the maelstrom? Are you putting yourself in the middle of something which you cannot change?

I’m not saying you need to roll over and accept bad things. What I am saying is, “I, Robbi Hess, cannot change the fact that it is snowing and so cold it makes my face hurt when I go outside. What I can do is dress for the weather or stay indoors.” See where I am going with this?

As my mom always said, “Pick your battles.” If I had battled with my children over every little thing, I wouldn’t have had the power to battle on the things that truly mattered to me. Socks on the floor? Annoying as hell, but I can live with it. Staying out past curfew and worrying me to death? That cannot pass without consequence.

Focus on the positive. A breast cancer diagnosis turned my life upside down. My life after BC is different than my life before BC. I realize that things can be a whole hell of a lot worse than they are right this very minute. On April 9, 2012, at 4 pm, my life and my world were completely changed. On April 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm, I could never have imagined the changes that would be wrought in one tiny minute.

There are so many negatives that you could focus on, but why would you? Why not focus on the positive? Believe me, I did not get all Merry Sunshine overnight–it was a long road, but now I know that if I look for negatives, they will be right there. If I seek positive outcomes I find many more of those.

Where do you want to dwell? In the positive or in the negative?

10 ways to keep focusOne foot in front of the other. If you work with a team there will be times when the team mentality is panic; this is especially true when a deadline is looming. Hey, I am a solopreneur and there are times when my mentality is panic; multiple deadlines can do that to a person.

What to do when panic sets in:

  1. Take a step back
  2. Re-evaluate the situation
  3. Write down all of the tasks and deadlines
  4. Make note of everything you need to do to meet the deadline
  5. Break the big item down into smaller bite-sized chunks, time-block each project
  6. Get to it
  7. Ask for help if you need it

Will this matter one, three or five years from now? If you find you can’t separate yourself from a situation, ask yourself that question. Will it truly matter in the future? When you’re in the midst of crisis, it is hard to take the long view, but if you can train your mind to think this way you may be able to distance yourself from the current or ongoing drama and know that in a few years — or maybe in a few hours or days–it won’t matter. Water under the bridge.

Be yourself and be true to yourself. None of this post is to say you need to change to suit those around you. You don’t. You need to be true to yourself. The best way to do that is to know yourself and know your convictions. As I’d mentioned, there are specific things about which I will not write and foods I will not eat. Regardless of a potential opportunity, if it is about something that I know is not me, I politely refuse.

I don’t have to explain myself. I can simply say, “That you for that opportunity, but it isn’t something I feel comfortable writing about, promoting or eating.” Short and simple.

Look for a win-win. Not every situation will be a win-win and that’s all right. If you take the time to at least seek one out, you have done your best.

Language matters. Think before you speak. Use the word AND rather than BUT. Consider these sentences. “I know you love feta BUT…” or “I know you love feta AND…” The BUT sounds like you’re angling for an argument. The AND makes it seem you are considering the person’s point of view, appreciate it and appreciate it. You can diffuse a lot of situations if you simply replace AND for BUT.

Distance yourself. There will come a time when you just know, no matter what you say or do, it’s never going to be a good situation. You can distance yourself from it and move on.

You may need to step back from a friendship or a situation for a time. If that’s the case, accept it and move on. Remember the Serenity Prayer? See if it applies in this situation.

Take care of yourself. There have been many days in recent weeks when I simply don’t want to scroll through my Facebook feed. It seems to be filled with anger and angst. I don’t want or need that in my life. I will post a picture of my kittens or Henrietta. I may interact in groups or I may just focus all of my online efforts on my client work and not interact with anyone on social media.

I know that caring for myself means I need to walk away from social and from negative people. I don’t need to announce that fact. “Hey everyone, you’re making me crazy so… tootles.” What do I do? I just do nothing. When I am uncharacteristically quiet on social, my close friends will call, text or send a message and ask if I am okay. I’ll either let them know what’s going on or I will answer, “Everything’s fine, thanks for asking!” I tend to keep my own council in many instances.

Self care means sipping tea, cuddling my kitties, walking the dogs, listening to my favorite paranormal radio station and just getting away from it all even if I am not leaving my house.

What do you do when everyone around you is losing their focus? How do you keep your sanity in the midst of chaos? I’d love to know your coping mechanisms and your strategies for keeping your focus.

Robbi Hess is an award-winning author, full-time writer, newspaper columnist, writing coach and time-management guru. She works with bloggers and solopreneurs and blogs at All Words Matter.