There’s nothing like doing something “stupid” to help you focus.

What do I mean by “stupid”?

Well, it’s those things you do that are unnecessary and kind of inexplicable. Making mistakes you rarely make. Making an “own goal”.

Here’s a recent example of how this works (and how it can work out):

In last week’s basketball tournament, my husband’s team was favored to win (he’s the coach).

Within the first 5 minutes, his starting point guard – the one who runs the plays and handles the ball – picked up 3 fouls (5 fouls means you’re out of the game, and games last 40 minutes in the UK, so this was bad news). Another starting player also picked up her 3rd foul within the first 7 minutes. Doubly bad news.

These were silly fouls that served no purpose, and put a real dent in the team’s ability to win.

He pulled them out of the game for quite a while until the other team not only caught up but raced ahead by 6 points. Then he put the two of them back in.

You could tell immediately that these two players were now focused. They were out there to “get it done” (to quote Olivia Pope from TV show “Scandal”). Our team pulled ahead to win by 22 points. And no more fouls from either player.

After the game, we talked about how sometimes it takes making a really dumb mistake to get your head back in the game. Literally, in this case.

In your career, this same kind of “complacency”, “fuzzy thinking” or being “too relaxed” can cause you to make comparably stupid mistakes.

When that happens, you’re allowed to beat yourself up about it, but only just enough so that you’re shaken out of complacency mode and into focus mode. That’s the space where you can do your very best work and perform to your potential.

Of course, it’s best to skip the mistakes and go straight into focus mode. But in real life, that’s not always going to happen.

So when you find yourself in that inevitable human moment of doing something dumb, make use of that “wake up call” to help you focus, dig yourself out of the hole you’ve put yourself in, and win.

How do you bounce back from those momentary lapses? What experiences can you share that might help someone get back in focus mode?