4 Steps to Defeating Distractions

distraction“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5

I love this passage from Scripture, because it strikes a chord in me that resonates deeply: I have a hard time managing distractions. I don’t know if my shortcoming is a result of training myself to multi-task (which demands that my attention is spread out over many areas at once – a behavior common to many entrepreneur-authors), or if I’m not mentally disciplined enough to shut out all the noise outside (and inside!) my head.

Either way, I know I need help, and this verse from 2 Corinthians offers a powerful strategy to not only strengthen my focus, but to stamp everything I do with the likeness of Christ.

Step 1: Identify the pretensions in my life.

Pretensions are claims to importance or merit. In Matthew’s gospel, the parable of the workers in the vineyard serves as an example of pretension: those hired early in the day believe they merit more pay than those hired last. Yet the landowner makes it clear he is acting justly by paying the agreed amount to his first employees, while still acting generously to those who came last. When I think I ‘deserve’ more, am I subscribing to pretensions or conventional notions of worth, instead of relying on the goodness of God? Does that pull my focus from what God wants and cause me to obsess on what I think I should get?

Step 2: Demolish the arguments that oppose the knowledge of God.

Wow. Demolish. I’m reminded of the Egyptian army chasing the Israelites into the sea. Only when that opposing force is utterly destroyed can the Israelites move forward with confidence. Do I demolish my distractions, or continue to look back at them, handicapping my ability to set my focus on God?

Step 3: Take captive every thought.

In our information-rich world, it’s easy to let my attention off-leash. I need to be bold and exercise my God-given power to choose what I will think about. That’s not to say that distraction can’t be positive – we all need a break at times from purposeful activity and thinking in order to recharge ourselves and give our minds space and time to rest and play. But excessive distraction denies us the chance to focus on the meaningful work God calls us to in our lives. Do I accept responsibility for what I think, or do I give my thoughts permission to rule me?

Step 4: Make every thought obedient to Christ.

The only way this happens is by knowing the Lord, which means making it a priority to spend time in prayer, reflection, and reading God’s word so He can shape you into His own image. I’ve found that even brief amounts of time dedicated to building my relationship with God have a big impact on my daily routine and help me to stay focused on His priorities. Do I ask Christ for help when I am distracted?

What Scriptures help you battle distraction?

Living on Easy Street

Photo/TaraRossBut easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. (Phil. 3:19 MSG)

I used to think that I wanted to live on Easy Street. You know, where you could have anything you want, anytime you want it.

Thankfully, the Lord knows what I need, and it’s not always the way I want.

In fact, I’ve noticed many people who seem to enjoy all the material possessions that they want, but they lack what they really need. They may even boast that they “have it all.” But a closer inspection might expose the truth about their situation. Many of them pay a big price for riches, fame, and beauty.

Dead-end street. I’ve discovered that there is much more to life than focusing on myself. Talk about a dead-end street!

What if I could attain all the world has to offer? Can I take riches and fame with me when I die?

What if I could have a dramatic makeover and become the most beautiful woman in the world? Could I maintain that beauty forever as my body ages?

What if I wrote a best-selling book? Would that be enough?

Would any of those successes last for eternity?

Priorities. What do I need to focus on in my life? If I knew I had only a short time to live, how could I determine my priorities?

No one really wants to consider these provocative questions. But often, I need a reality check, so I can bring my head out of the clouds to focus on the right things.

So, I’ve decided not to dream about Easy Street any longer, because the most important things in life are not just about me.

Wisdom. Every stage in life brings new challenges, changes, and blessings. But not everyone gains wisdom with age. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (Jms. 1:5 NIV).

Do you need wisdom as you face the unfolding challenges of your life? Are you struggling to define your priorities and set goals? Would a new directive for your life help?

I’ve chosen to stop desiring Easy Street and focus on a new vision with an eternal purpose.

… there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him (Phil. 3:20-21 MSG).

How did you determine your priorities this year? How has your focus changed over the years?

Photo/TaraRoss

Just Look at Me: Encouragement for the Highly Distractible Writer

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When my sons were toddlers, they were so easily distracted (look: a squirrel!) that I often knelt down and gently placed my hands on their cheeks to help them listen.

“Look at me,” I’d say, waiting until their eyes met mine. Then I asked them, “What did Mommy say?”

Lately, I’ve felt God kneeling down, kindly pressing His hands to my cheeks. “Look at me,” He says. It’s not only a call to attention, but to single-minded devotion.

“Yes, Lord, ” I reply, taking my eyes off Facebook, Pinterest–even the Wordserve Water Cooler–and focusing on Him.

I feel Him kneeling down when I get jealous about other writers’ accomplishments; when I spend too much time clicking and too little time praying; when my tendency to compare Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers distracts me from the reasons I write.

Last week, I let Satan discourage me. Look at that author, he said. She’s your age and has written twice as many books as you have. Plus, she has a radio show, and her speaking resume is much better than yours. 

I started to get insecure, until I remembered the Lord’s hands on my cheeks. “What did I say?” He asks.

“Just look at me,” I respond.

I get it, Lord, I really do.

However, it’s hard to keep my focus when I am required to use social media for my part-time editing job. Plus, our post-recession world of high technology and low discretionary income means that book publishers’ marketing budgets are shrinking, while editors’ expectations are rising.

Sigh. This business is not always good for a highly distractible author…and yes, the apple does NOT fall far from the tree. (Look: a new webinar on building your tribe!)

I know I’m not the only author who struggles with this. Or at least I hope I’m not. So, let’s lean in and focus on our Parent’s eyes for a second.

“Do you hear what I’m saying?” God says.

When we spend time with Him, and hear His perspective on this crazy profession He’s called us to, we realize that He has uniquely called each of us to a highly specialized path.

I don’t have to be like anyone else. Although God calls me to work diligently at my craft and creatively tell people about my books (not for my glory, but His), I shouldn’t obsess about numbers, lists, or honors. All that leads to a place called “Crazy-ville.” And trust me, I can get there on my own.

My fellow scribes, God is calling me–and you–to be faithful and obedient:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33)

Just look at me, He says, and write what I’ve told you to write. Write out of the overflow of our relationship, and trust me for everything else.

As a friend says, “God’s got this.” We can trust Him. After all, those heavenly hands on our cheeks are nail-scarred…from His scandalous, all-consuming love for us.