I recently heard someone say that “focus is the new IQ.” We have so many things coming at us in a day that sometimes it’s hard to focus on one thing and be productive. It’s so easy to let distractions keep us from our purpose.
I remember watching a track and field event one time and seeing two runners who were neck and neck toward the end of a race. Just as they approached the finish line, the runner who was barely in the lead turned his head to glance at the other runner. I suppose he wanted to see how close his competitor was.
In that millisecond, he slowed his stride and lost the race. He hadn’t realized the other runner was only inches behind him. His purpose was to win the race, but when he took his focus off the finish line to look back, he lost the edge.
There is something to learn from that runner. First, run your own race. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. The race the other runner is running isn’t your race. He isn’t called to do what you’re called to do, and vice versa. If you get distracted by someone else’s race, you’ll lose your focus and it may cost you, like it cost that runner.
The second point to learn is that you can’t take your eyes off of the finish line. There are many things—good and bad—that will come along every minute to compete for your attention. Stay focused.
Is There a Pickle on Your Pants?
I once heard a story that illustrates the concept of distraction and keeping your eyes on what’s really important. The story is about a man who ordered a hamburger at a drive-up window of a fast food restaurant. He received his food and drove away, unwrapping the burger and beginning to eat as he pulled his vehicle onto the street.
He hadn’t gone far when he took a big bite and a pickle squirted out of the burger. It plopped onto the leg of his pants. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
With one hand, he gripped the steering wheel. With the other hand, he grabbed a napkin and attempted to remove the pickle before any juice soaked into his pants. He just about had the pickle when he glanced up at the street. Suddenly his heart was in his throat. While his attention had been diverted to the pickle, his car had veered into oncoming traffic, and a semi-truck was bearing down on him.
With his adrenaline pumping like crazy, he grabbed the steering wheel with both hands and jerked his car back into his own lane, just milliseconds before impact. The near-miss shook him so much that he had to pull over, and that is when he heard the Lord speak to his heart, “Son, keep your eyes on the windshield, and don’t focus on the pickle on your pants.”
The man knew instantly that God was telling him something important about life. There will always be “pickles,” little things that happen every day that clamor to grab your focus and distract you from what really matters.
Maybe the distraction is your social media notifications, your to-do list, your co-worker annoying you, or a traffic jam making you late for an appointment. Maybe it is something bigger such as disease, economic troubles, or a bad report. It used to happen to my students at Bible school. They left their homes and forsook all to come to school, but then they got distracted by roommates, jobs, daily chores, or irritating people.
You have to deal with details in life, but guard against letting them fill your view. Instead of getting distracted, be like Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says He endured the suffering of the cross by keeping His eyes on “the joy set before Him.” There is joy set before you too—your calling and purpose here on earth, and eventually, your place in heaven. Focus on those things! Don’t let the pickles on your pants take all your attention. As the saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
When I find myself in a pickle-on-my-pants moment, I ask myself: “Will this matter in ten years? Ten months? Ten days? Ten hours?” If the answer is no to any question but the first one, it is not worth much attention.
Yes, you have to take care of things as they come up, but at the same time, don’t take your eyes off the windshield. Keep your focus on what really matters.
This is an excerpt from Karen’s book “Why God Why: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.” Read the first part of the book here.