Two months ago I wrote down the three words that serve as this post’s title: Don’t Lose Sight. I do things like that occasionally when a random thought comes to mind that might serve as the basis for a future blog post. Then I let it simmer for as long as necessary until it’s fully cooked in my mind and it’s time to pull it out of the oven. This one has simmered long enough.
Unless you are in the most simple and casual of environments and lifestyles, chances are fairly good that you have many things clamoring for your attention. Between work, family, other relationships, basic survival, education, entertainment, hopes, volunteerism, taking care of material possessions, discovering and living out one’s perceived purpose in life, and who knows what else, most of us do not lack for ways to invest the 24 hours we are given daily. In fact, many are challenged to decide what doesn’t get done on a long to-do list. What are the mandatory tasks versus items that will have to remain on the wish list?
When so many competing tasks vie for our attention, it is frighteningly easy to get distracted and off course. It is simple to lose sight of the goal, of those things which are most important, and to wander off in some other attractive direction until we look up one day and realize we are no longer remotely close to heading in the direction we set out to follow.
When I consider the competing opportunities for involvement in my life, I am on one hand blessed to have so many interests and opportunities and ways that bring joy and gladness. On the other hand, there are more of those available than time and physical limitations allow, so I must constantly prioritize and say “no” to some things that I’d really like to do.
The biggest single consumer of my time is my work, understandably, and that won’t change. Still, I strive to limit it to the 50+ hours per week I average, even though there is always much more to do. I set ambitious goals at the start of the year about reading and blogging and exercise and living out my faith – goals that at a high level exist to strike a healthy balance between body, mind and spirit. Here at the mid-February point, I’m a little behind in some of those goals, so the challenge is not to stress about them, but to bite off daily what is reasonable and carry on without such goals becoming a burden that weighs me down and has the opposite effect from what is intended. At least I know the answer should someone ask me to take on more right now: the answer is a resounding “no” until something else comes off my calendar.
Being busy does not guarantee that one is doing things that are meaningful and worthwhile. Being busy may impress some onlookers, but it probably doesn’t impress the family member who feels neglected, the coworkers who aren’t seeing the results needed for the team, the neighbors or friends or passersby who feel invisible due to your lack of acknowledgement and attention, those in your community of faith who see you burning a candle at both ends but who don’t see much lasting light and warmth from your efforts, or the God who gave us life and is waiting for the time, worship and attention He deserves.
Being busy is tiring. It is wrong to equate busyness with fulfillment or effectiveness. It is better to do a few things really well than to do a mediocre job on many tasks. It takes discipline and guts and wisdom to learn to say “no” to some things so that you can say “yes” to the most important ones, and do them well. That is an ongoing learning experience for me that I don’t expect to master once and for all this side of heaven.
So what do I need to do? I need to think daily about what is most important – not just what appears to be urgent. I need to remind myself of my core values and principles and act accordingly. I need to take positive action daily to live out those priorities and be willing to say “no” to opportunities that would be a distraction, be they pleasant and desirable or not. I need to keep focused on the primary goal, on the prize. Perhaps the same is true for you as well.
Don’t lose sight.