Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reflection: A Whirlwind Couple Of Weeks And Maintaining Focus On Goals

Like the photo above, the last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. I have almost constantly on the move. To give some idea, I have been in five countries, four different time zones, and in 20 different towns including four national capitals. Much of this time I was in areas with poor internet connections, and when I did have good connection it was very limited in duration. In spite of best intentions to keep up the practice of blogging, I have fallen a bit behind in my goal, but the goal is still there. And that's exactly what I'd like to write about today--keeping focused on goals. Although the past couple of weeks have been quite full, it doesn't change the fact that I want to write more consistently. It just changes the rhythm of that writing a bit. In fact, it changes the rhythm of a few aspects of life, from fitness and faith to sleep and and diet.

I believe in the modern era, it is quite easy to be distracted and deterred from goals. Maybe it has always been that way, but I can only reflect on what I have witnessed in my lifetime. I have watched as television increased from 13 channels to hundreds of channels of highly specialized entertainment. I have witnessed the computer emerge from a tool for basic word processing and electronic mail to millions of websites and and endless array of media from the written word to photo, music, and video. In addition, there seems to always be something happening--sometimes it is a really good thing and sometimes it is a tragedy, but regardless, the changes disrupt rhythm.

This kind of disruption and distraction requires something of us if we ever want to get anything done. All of us, were created for a purpose, and I believe we have an incredible contribution to make to this world. But to accomplish that purpose, we need to develop some muscles that distraction can either work to weaken or it can be the very training ground needed to see our goals through. Here's how I see it. Distraction gives us the opportunity to develop our resolve, to refine our intentions, and to hone our will.

I don't think it is incredibly difficult to come up with goals. Many people set goals each year at New Year's and at other times, but we don't necessarily stick with those goals. Sometimes our circumstances become overwhelming or our goals are unrealistic. But in my experience, most of the time, when folks don't attain their goals, there is a lack of while or intentionality to blame. Sleeping an extra hour is much easier than working out. Driving is much easier than walking or riding a bike. And then there are the little distractions that emerge. Every week, we all receive various communications that require mental energy for processing and responding (emails, phone calls, videos, links, texts, bills to pay, etc.) and have various forms of entertainment vying for our attention (games, movies, sporting events, etc.). At the same time we have our goals to accomplish.

What I have found to be helpful is to carve out some time during each week to rest, reflect, and reset. In the Bible, this time is called sabbath. According to the Torah, observing a sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. In our modern world, it seems like the only one we feel a freedom to ignore. If we choose to completely ignore. If we choose to ignore the commandment about stealing or murder, we run the risk of going to prison. If we choose to ignore the commandment about sabbath, we run the risk of wearing ourselves out. Sabbath does not protect us from distractions and sabbath does not help us stay disciplined with regard to our goals. It is quite easy to spend a time of sabbath distracted as well as any other day.

But, in my experience, what sabbath has helped me do is create a moment during the irregular rhythms of the week to reset. But even sabbath requires a degree of intentionality. If I am not resolved to spend a period of time to rest and refresh myself, I will allow distractions to saturate and deter me from my goals. I even try to instill a little mini-Sabbath into each day. If I don't do this, I find myself constantly in a state of reacting, and it seems much like I'm swimming upstream against strong currents making little progress.

Separate from this foundational practice of rest and refreshment, I strive to make time each day to review short-term goals, and each week or month to review longer term goals. This practice of review helps me to keep focus, see where there may be challenging patches, and keep moving forward toward goals. But, even with these practices in place, without resolve, determination, and discipline, goals are not realized--but these practices help to strengthen that resolve and determination. If we are disciplined in these basic goals, it helps us to increase our capacity for realizing other goals.

As each of us enters a new week, we know the distractions will be coming. We know there will be crises to encounter, hiccups in our schedules, and other disruptions to overcome. May we each work to strengthen our life rhythms, our resolve, and our intentions so that when the distractions come, we will be ready, we will be focused, and we will continue to move forward taking ground toward our goals.

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