This is June, possibly the biggest photo month of the year. Between graduations, weddings, vacations, and Father’s Day gatherings, cameras are snapping right and left. Articles about how to take great pictures abound, and Instagram and Facebook fill with happy faces celebrating great events.
It’s so easy to take a zillion shots on our cell phones, then delete the fuzzy or crooked ones from our camera roll. But we’ve all experienced the disappointment of an otherwise perfect shot—the one capturing a baby’s broad smile, or a returning missionary’s hug—that just isn’t in sharp focus. And you can’t restage the moment; the camera was simply focusing on a hand or a tree in the background. Even before the magic of cell phones, we coped with blurry shots from time to time.
But today I invite you to consider the blur of daily living. And I don’t mean the mad dash we all seem to be in. I mean those days when you can’t lock in a crisp, happy mood– those times when you feel yourself slipping into discouragement, or even just doldrums.
We all have ups and downs, even the most cheerful of us. We see our days rolling on without getting closer to our goals. Conflicts arise. Loved ones disappoint us. We disappoint ourselves. Bad news comes. Sometimes it seems as if it’s a constant battle to adjust the camera lens and keep our world from melting.
And there’s actually a photographic, three-word solution: Check your focus. I’ve found that when I’m sliding into a negative attitude, losing motivation, or even indulging in a giant pity party, the reason is always the same: I’m focused on myself. If I flip it around and focus on helping those around me, Bam! Life is good again. The focus is sharp and the picture pleasing.
If this sounds too easy, I invite you to try it. The next time you notice your mood dropping, stop and intentionally see if you’ve been focusing on the wrong thing—yourself. I recently saw a quote by rapper and movie star Will Smith: “If you’re not making someone’s life better, you’re wasting your time.” He makes a good point. When we are outward-focused, genuinely trying to help someone else, we’re finally focused on the right subject, and we feel fulfilled. There isn’t room for self- pity. We discover a little ember of joy, and by serving, we fan it into a flame.
One of my favorite quotes is by Mahatma Gandhi: “Whenever you are in doubt, recall the face of the poorest and weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore to him a control over his own life and destiny?” This complete focus upon others brings our own view into beautiful clarity. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that picture.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books are available here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.