My soccer coach used to run us to death. He’d have us sprinting up and down steep hills…carrying a teammate on our back. “What am I, a Navy SEAL?” I remember thinking to myself. When we finished we’d be exhausted. We’d put our hands on our knees and drop our gaze to the ground. Our coach didn’t like that.
“Heads up! Heads up!” he would scream.
I never understood why it was so important to keep our heads up, but eventually I learned why. In an actual game, we were bound to get exhausted. And if our habit was to look down when we were tired, we might miss the opportunity for a crucial pass or a game winning goal.
In my professional life, I’ve often found myself exhausted after a long day. Walking home I’d drop my head, looking at the sidewalk for most of the way. This, I came to realize, was an indication that I was lost in thought. I was thinking about a deadline, or a conversation I had, or a conversation I wanted to have. I wasn’t present. I began to notice this with other people. When they’re looking down, they’re lost in thought.
So I started looking up on my walks home. I’d notice the sky, the clouds, the color of the buildings. I noticed things I’d never noticed. Just by looking up, my entire state would change.
Heads up! Heads up!