I find one of my most frustrating attributes is how easily distractable I am.
Whether it’s scrolling social media when I’ve set time aside for prayer and to read God’s Word. Or due to having multiple windows open on my PC and flitting from one thing to the next as I manage the various people/initiatives/projects that I’m involved with. Or just an over-active mind mulling over my to-do list so disturbing my family time and keeping me from restful sleep.
In trying to multi-task (something I’ve written about elsewhere) I can compromise my effectiveness and run the risk of doing multiple things badly.
These are fairly superficial examples. There are more nefarious distractions that each of us faces. We can pursue a business opportunity that “seemed too good to be true” because it was! We’re asked to join a board or committee for something that seems a worthy cause but begins to pull us into multiple meetings that don’t fuel our passion. Even some relationships can be distractive as they absorb an inordinate amount of our emotional energy. We get distracted as we pursue multiple good things at the expense of relentlessly pursuing what we’re called to do.
This is something I constantly need to be reminded of. In a world of so much need and opportunity, I can’t be the answer to every problem. The danger is that if I try and accomplish too much, I won’t end up accomplishing anything effectively. As I’ve entered 2024 which promises to be one of my busiest years in quite some time, I’ve been reminded of the powerful force which is focus. And that I need to force myself to focus. That’s why focus is my word for the year.
This is primarily true in my Christian discipleship. I simply have to keep the main thing the main thing. My key Bible verse for 2024 is 2 Corinthians 4:2:
…we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God
The distractions we face as Christian leaders include a propensity to self-indulgence, the pursuit of popularity, and empire-building. These are very real threats that all Christian leaders face. And we’re not going to combat them by engaging in mind-over-matter, positive thinking, or pop-psychology. Our human psyche is far too weak and susceptible to sin. Rather, we need to focus on the truth of God’s word which reveals to us Jesus Christ, the perfect example of what godly leadership looks like. As we focus on him, then we are transformed into leaders who can reflect his glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).
And inasmuch as we focus on Jesus, so we become clear on what our calling and mandate is. As servant leaders, we serve our teams and our organisations by ensuring we don’t become distracted from our specific purpose. Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, says: narrowness is the way… our choice is not to focus on the narrow, but to narrow our focus.1
These are the thoughts I’ve started 2024 with. To manage this busy year, I need to keep my focus. As you can imagine, the following words of Richard Blackaby struck me between the eyes when I read them on the Biblical Leadership website early in January:
“One of the keys to effective leadership today is staying focused on what God has called you to do. It’s easy to become so fixated on what others are doing (or not doing) that you fail to complete the assignment God has given you. As you get older, you may find that God reduces your commitments and activities so you have time to focus on your priorities. We need to invest not in what we can do but in what we must do.”2
I’m sure we all read this and agree with these sentiments. In a complex and busy world, we need to focus. But how do we put this into practice? How do we avoid the nefarious distractions that will cause us to invest our time, effort, and resources in the wrong things?
I’m open to suggestions!
But I’ll try and give some practical input on this in part 2 so watch this space!
- Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, page 31. ↩︎
- https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-are-distractions-impacting-your-life-and-leadership/ ↩︎