I can see it off in the distance, a green arrow light. Chances are that it will change to red by the time I approach. It’s a welcome change for me. In fact, it is one of my secrets for overcoming distraction.
Perhaps after hearing this you are feeling the same way my travel companions did when I tried to share this with them. You may be wondering what I’m talking about. My kids and I find ourselves on the same road often. About half way to our destination we come to a large intersection where we are consistently invited to stop and wait at a red light. At first we wondered if there was a shortcut or a faster route. Maybe there was a way to avoid the light?
Isn’t that what we spend much of our day doing? You move to the fast lane of traffic and try to find the quickest line at the grocery store. You look for time saving measures and try to multitask. You hurry or worry or deflect. You find yourself drifting off to this or that unimportant task. You find yourself drifting off into email or sucked into the web of social media. Journalist Oliver Burkemann said,”Your attention is being spammed all day.” We are distracted.
When we’re distracted, we’ve moved away from our intended plans or path. It’s a little like being lost. You are not focusing on what you need to do or where you need to go. When you’re distracted you are aimless and don’t have a clear sense of purpose and power to guide you. I find that the opposite of distraction is connection. When we are connecting with our plans and our goals we are moving forward purposefully. We can also connect our purpose to our source of power. That’s why I have come to love the red light at that busy intersection that comes my way nearly eveyday. It invites me to stop and connect with my source of power and purpose. When the red light appears and the brakes bring me to a stop, I pause and connect with God. When my connection with Him is secure, my focus changes. When I am connected with God, my pace of life changes. I am no longer hurried. The blur of distraction that conceals our focus begins to lift. I am suddenly able to notice the sun coming up or realize the blessing of my travel companions next to me. The process of connecting with God and trying to take my life into His gives me power and purpose.
I find that the opposite of distraction is connection. When we are connecting with our plans and our goals we are moving forward purposefully.
The challenge is we tend to be creatures of habit. Somehow we keep finding ourselves lost in distraction. How can we connect rather than drift into distraction?
First, to experience change, we need to figure out why we are distracted. We need to learn our triggers and the reason we are prone to wander into distraction. Bob Goff suggests: “If you’ve ever lost your keys, you think to yourself: Where was the last place I remember seeing them? Let’s say you’ve lost your sense of joy. Think to yourself: When was the last time I felt joy? If you have felt distracted, ask yourself: When was the last place I felt undistracted?” * As you realize the answer to these questions, name the specifics. What was it that made you feel connected, focused and beyond distraction?
Often distraction can be a habit. It’s easy to turn to a screen, an unimportant task, food, or our favorite go to escape. Distraction can be a way to avoid feeling bored, lonely, unsettled, weary or uncertain. It’s important to try to pinpoint when and why we disconnect and fall into distraction.
Once we understand why and how we are distracted we can put some things in place to keep ourselves on the right track. Here are some ideas:
Slow your pace. Embrace the red light or the Do Not Walk sign at the intersection. Welcome the opportunity to stop and reconnect with your source of power throughout the day. Take the stairs and intentionally take one step at a time to slow your pace. You can pray as you go.
Turn to nature. Step outside. Look out the window. Glance up at the sky. Change your vantage point and allow it to broaden your perspective.
Find small ways to be present in the moment. For example, place both hands around your coffee cup or water bottle.** As you hold the cup, remind yourself that God is holding you. Turn to Him and reconnect your life to His. Life is lived in moments. Make the most of each one.
Do something. Often taking action helps us reconnect with our purpose. If feelings of boredom, loneliness, or uncertainty are driving you to distraction, finding a way to connect with people through kind acts or meaningful service can be helpful.
Rest. Rest is a vital part of self care and also a way to practice letting go. Sometimes we can become distracted by busyness, overthinking, or perfectionism. We need to rest physically in order to be our best self and we can also practice resting in God’s care and timing. This will not only help with distraction but also with worry. We can let go and rest.
Have a plan. Decide how you will intentionally connect with your source of power so you can live undistracted and with purpose.
The process of connecting with God and trying to take my life into His gives me power and purpose.
The experts tell us that we make 35,000 decisions a day. That means there are lots of opportunities for distraction. There is something we can do to help ourselves. We can stay connected to our source of power and purpose.
Help me, O God, to make the connection between your life and mine, between what you are and what I am, between what you do for me and what that enables me now to do for others, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Eugene Peterson, Praying with the Psalms
*“We are Living in a Time of Epic Distraction: Best-Selling Author Bob Goff Has the Tools to Help Us Get Back to What Really Matters” by Stacey Lindsay
** James Catford inspired this.