With most states enacting stringent laws on distracted driving, awareness of the dangers of trying to multitask behind the wheel of a 1,000-plus vehicle are commonplace.
The role of distractions in other parts of life might not be so apparent, yet those impediments to goals, sleep, health and many relationships can sneak up on us, some quite silently, and derail our progress as surely as distracted driving can leave car and driver wheel-spinning in a ditch.
Writing is the classic example of a pursuit that is fraught with distractions that can make goal achievement impossible — if you let them. New topics for this column, for example, invariably pop up just as I’m writing the current installment.
Health conditions carry their share of distractions. That twinge, that hiccup — might these be something new, part of something I already know about, or something benign? Did the doctor really mean, “All’s well,” or is he or she just trying to cushion a future blow?
Living our faith does not make us immune to distractions. Prayer can sometimes become a tug of war between the desire to be silent, focused and calm, and all of those ideas and worries that immediately clamor for attention when we settle ourselves into the pew or quiet corner of the house.
Distractions can be internal: ideas, emotions or other intrusions from the depths of our hearts and minds. They can be external, too: the phone, the door, the co-worker, the pet, the billboard. Any of these or other sights and sounds can jar us from the direction we want to go in and send us off on yet another tangent.
We can never do away with distractions, but we can strengthen our ability to manage them before they manage us.
Those new writing ideas, for example, will come in handy — at the right time. So, I store them in a file where they can stay until I’m ready to tackle them. Caller ID is a useful device for screening unwanted calls, and its companion, voicemail, is also helpful.
Filtering distractions through our list of goals and priorities helps cut down on the number and kind of detours we allow.
Will an extra trip to the store help or hinder our timetable for finishing a home-based project? Does visiting multiple websites about one topic really help us resolve a question? Will chewing on something worrisome aid or act against our prayer time, when we hope to hear by listening to God’s response about the same worry?
Some distractions are blessings in disguise, especially when they take us out of ourselves and put us in the path of someone who needs our help or remind us of the awesomeness of God’s creation. Stress-relieving distractions are wonderful, too — a dog that bounds up with a ball at just the right time, for example, or a spouse who says, “You’ve been working very hard. Let’s just take a walk for a while.”
To better respond to the good distractions and resist those that deter us from accomplishing a goal or completing a task, I find great guidance in prayer. Of course, if the prayer is distracted, I have to step back and work on my focus!
But, generally, prayer can center my thoughts and help me discern what is most important to pay attention to that moment, that day. It’s what I call a “spiritual deep breath” that brings renewed perspective and calm.
As summer wanes and we look to a busy autumn and winter, we undoubtedly have goals we’d like to accomplish. Forewarned about those ever-present distractions, we can approach each goal with renewed resolve, and, fortified with prayer, we can take an evermore direct route toward achieving each goal!
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103