It's important to realize that when you set goals to accomplish something, that there will almost always be distractions that are going to arise.
Even those who consider themselves to be very self-disciplined, are not immune to distractions. As Christians, if we are going to be successful in our goals, we must learn how to stay focused in the midst of a distracting world.
What are Distractions?
The Webster's dictionary defines the word distraction as follows:
"distraction" - something that directs one's attention away from something else
Simply put, distractions are meant to shift our focus. Therefore, when it comes to working towards a goal of any kind, overcoming distractions is very important.
Keep in mind that not everyone is distracted by the same things. For example, having the television on may be a distraction for some. While others actually concentrate better when there is background noise.
It's also important to note that distractions are not always blatant or obvious. In fact, very often they can be rather subtle.
Other distractions are unavoidable, as they may come in the form of unexpected circumstances that are beyond your control.
And sometimes, there are what we call "good distractions" that are actually beneficial for you and maybe even necessary.
Sources of Distractions
Distractions can come in the form of people, things, specific places or environments, circumstances, thoughts, or temptations. Let's look a few sample scenarios:
You decide to go back to school to get your IT certification, and a good friend you haven't seen in years, moves to your area. Distracting you from your studies, you start hanging out and even getting drunk 3-4 times a week. Then you get your first semester grades, which show you're failing half of your classes.
You finally decide to quit your job so you can put all your time into developing your own business. But then, you get a job offer from a company offering you $10K more a year than what you were making. Distracted from your actual goal of working for yourself and earning six figures, you take the job offer instead.
You decide to write a book with the vision that God gave you. You receive negative feedback after discussing the idea with a few family members. Negative thoughts overwhelm your mind, and you never pick up a pen again.
You decide to start a blog, but every technical issue imaginable arises. Distracted by discouragement, you give up completely.
You set a goal to lose 20 lbs. and have your diet plan and exercise routine all mapped out. But your roommate is constantly filling the fridge with snacks and coming home with fast food. You give in and gain 20 lbs. instead.
You're studying for a your insurance license, but also have a newborn in the house who never sleeps through the night.
You're saving for a new car, but for the last 3 months, random emergencies keep popping up that deplete your savings.
You see distractions can come from all angles. In ways we least expect, from people we don't expect, at times we aren't expecting. And they can end up costing us time, happiness, peace, relationships, money and success. #distractions #stayingfocused #inthemirrorofGod
Distractions are inevitable. So what can we do to ensure we are not only ready for them when they come, but know how to overcome them as well?
8 Ways to Stay Focused and Overcome Distractions
Regardless of what your goals or plans are, these 8 tips will help you to stay focused and overcome distractions along the way.
1. Identify What Distracts You
You MUST start by identifying specifically what it is that distracts you. As I mentioned earlier, not everyone is distracted by the same things.
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) says: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
In order to fix the problem, we have to identify the problem. And we do this by identifying everything that hinders or distracts us from our goals.
Is it TV, electronics, social media, a significant other, laziness, lack of zeal, clutter, co-workers, background noise, hunger, your kids, or too many tasks?
Even if you have to do an audit on how you spend your time for a week, you need to determine what is distracting you and causing you to be unproductive.
2. Eliminate & Avoid Whatever Distractions You Can
Not all distractions are physical things, but once you identify what your distractions are, start by eliminating the ones that you can. When it comes to spiritual goals and growth, the bible tells us that we simply need to "get rid" of some things:
Ephesians 4:31 (NIV): "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."
In the same way, we need to start getting rid of things that distract us.
If your goal is to lose weight, you need to throw away the junk food! If you're distracted by the TV unplug it! Turn your cell phone completely off! Anything that is physically stealing your focus, get rid of it! Or at least turn it off or put it away while you are working at your goal.
If certain people or places are a distraction - avoid them! You may need to temporarily block that friend who constantly texts you throughout the day. Or stop hanging out with your negative cousin.
Or if you're like me, you need to avoid going to Walmart sometimes, because it distracts you from sticking to your budget!
3. Change Your Environment
Sometimes to overcome distractions we have change our environment. This could mean staying where you are and making changes or adjustments to your current environment in order to make it a "distraction-free" zone.
If you're like me, clutter can be a distraction. So if your work area is messy, clean it up first.
If you are doing home workouts, you probably don't want to do them in the family room with the super comfortable reclining couch.
There are other times, when changing your environment, could literally mean, going to a different place altogether.
Mark 1:35 (NIV) says: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Depending on what you're trying to accomplish, sometimes you may need to get up and go somewhere else. If we can't adjust our current environment, we may need to find another place to go that will help us be more productive.
You need peace and quiet? Go to your local library. You need to free your mind to allow your thoughts to flow? Take a walk or go for a drive. You need advice? Go visit a like minded person or mentor where you can get positive feedback and support.
4. Have a Daily Task List/Schedule
Even if you are opposed to making a list or having a schedule, it is unavoidable if you want to truly stay on task and accomplish your goals. A verse I like to keep in mind is:
Colossians 3:23 (NIV): Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
In other words, once I set a goal to accomplish, I need to do everything I can to get it done. And when you work at something with all your heart as if working for God, that includes putting in some effort EVERYDAY to get to that goal.
Here are a few tips for daily task lists:
- Realize you can't conquer everything in a day. It helps to break things down into smaller, more attainable daily tasks.
- Tackle hard tasks first, so you get them out of the way. You will feel so much better when the tasks that you least want to do are behind you.
- Always set a time limit or deadline. Something that should only take an hour, should not take you all day to complete.
Never confuse being busy with being productive. We can fill our days with "looking busy" by doing stuff that doesn't matter or is a waste of time. That's not productivity. However, a good solid hour of time focused on something that gets you closer to your goal - that's productivity. #productivity #distractions #stayingfocus #inthemirrorofGod
5. Monitor Your Thoughts
So often we are our own biggest distraction. Sometimes its what is going on inside our heads that is stealing our focus. Stress, worry, anxiety, fear, doubt, anger or frustration can easily set in and distract us.
We have to constantly monitor our thoughts and feelings to ensure we are focused and staying positive. Negative thoughts can be detrimental in so many ways. Not only will it steal our focus, but it leads to physical issues as well - headaches, sickness, fatigue, depression, and other things.
This is why it is very important as Christians to spend time reading God's Word daily. External distractions are one thing, but its those internal distractions that if we don't get a handle on, can cause us the most harm.
Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) says: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
We all know that nothing we set out to do will just fall into our lap without any hard work. And it can become even harder once the various distractions start to come our way. But if we stay focused on God, by reading His Word and talking to Him constantly in prayer, He can help to free our mind from negative mental distractions.
The last thing we need is to allow our thoughts and feelings to distract us and sabotage our goals.
6. Reaffirm Your Goals Daily
A big part of staying focused and overcoming distractions is reaffirming your goals daily. If we lose site of what we are aiming for, we set ourselves up to fail before we even get started.
This is where affirmations, lists, post-its and visions boards come in to play. Having a visual reminder in front of us daily helps to shift our focus back to where it should be when we do get distracted.
A great illustration of this, is a passage where Moses was teaching the Israelites about the importance of learning the Word of God:
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NIV): These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
The Israelites as a nation had one main goal: to serve God! A big part of accomplishing that was to learn and obey His Word. And to ensure that they wouldn't forget, Moses instructed them specifically on how to go about learning God's Word.
He told them to talk about God's commands wherever they went, to tie them as symbols on their hands and foreheads, and to write them on their door frames. In other words, set up reminders all around!
With all the distractions we will encounter, we will have to constantly remind ourselves of what are goals are.
When tempted to eat that bag of chips, you have to keep telling yourself what weight you want to get to. When tempted to take $50 from your savings you have to look at the picture of the car you want on your vision board. When everyone tells you that you're crazy for thinking you can start your own website, you have to cling to Scripture and positive thoughts, and push yourself to keep working through your website startup checklist.
Staying focused and overcoming distractions REQUIRES reaffirming your goals daily. #stayingfocused #distractions #inthemirrorofGod
7. Beware of the Devil
From a spiritual perspective, the devil is always looking for a way to distract Christians from serving God. The bible tells us to be alert for this very reason.
If the devil can manage to distract us with temptations and problems, he will keep us from being productive and accomplishing what God wants us to do.
And of course, the best way to stay alert is to stay focused on God and His Word. When you do this, you equip yourself to resist the devil and he will literally leave you alone (at least for now).
James 4:7 (NIV): Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Just like all other areas of our Christian lives, if we want to truly stay focused on our goals and overcome distractions, we must incorporate God first and foremost.
Especially when you set out to do something God called you to do. You can count on the devil to try his best to slow you down or even cause you to quit altogether.
8. Recognize and Take Advantage of "Good Distractions"
Lastly, it is very important to recognize and take advantage of "good distractions" when they come.
Good distractions are those that steal your focus in a positive and healthy way. They can even revitalize your energy, allowing you to refocus with a clearer mindset. These good distractions typically come in the form of a taking breaks to do something that will give you a positive boost.
Examples include: meditating, taking a walk, singing a song, laughter, writing, listening to music, eating a snack, reading, playing with your kids, etc.
Staying focused and overcoming distractions doesn't mean all work and no play. It means doing what needs to be done to accomplish your goals, while also allowing room to regroup as needed. In fact, it is in our best interest to allow for good, healthy distractions.
Let's look at one final passage of Scripture:
Luke 10:38-42 (NIV): As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha had purposely invited Jesus to her home. But, she was so caught up in doing housework, that even when he arrived, she didn't even stop to spend time with him. She even got upset with her sister Mary who did stop everything to give Jesus her undivided attention.
Jesus in turn rebukes Martha for being distracted in the wrong way. Yes, the work she was doing was important and needed to be done. But in that moment, spending time with Jesus was more important.
Don't get so caught up in your goals that the goals themselves become a distraction from what is MOST important in your life - God! #distractions #focusonGod #Godfirst #inthemirrorofGod
It's Never Too Late to Get Back on Track
At one point or another, all of us are going to get distracted. The good news is that its never too late to get back on track and redirect our focus to our goals.
Even if we let our distractions steer us off course, ruin relationships, set us back months or years with our goals, cost us our money, our jobs, or our peace - God is still there for us! He is there to give us the strength we need to try again and move forward.
But, as we move forward, let us not repeat the mistakes of the past. Lets seek God through His Word and prayer, so that with His strength we can implement these eight strategies to stay focused and overcome our distractions.
Lets start being the productive, successful Christians he has called us to be!
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