The last two years have been full of noise for me. Yet, in the midst of it all, I became the CEO of two companies I am immensely proud of; one of which is everything.church. God has used this season as a constant lesson of how to stay focused when life is trying to pull me in many different directions. So I wanted to share the five things I believe God has taught me about focus during this time.
First, let me paint a backdrop for you. This is some of the noise I’ve dealt with in the last two years.
– I had my identity stolen by an individual that used to volunteer at a church I was with. This required law enforcement to get involved, as well as the hiring of multiple attorneys to clear these issues up and make sure they don’t happen again.
– I made an out-of-state move, completely uprooting my family and colleagues to plant everything.church in a financially healthy community six hours away. Moving is one of the noisiest things in life.
– I was in a wheelchair, and using a cane, for the better part of a month this past summer because of a shattered bone shard in my hip.
– I’ve been searching for a new church home in our area, and that’s no easy endeavor when you’ve become accustomed to one place for so long.
– The gentleman who stole my identity became so upset over losing access to his fraudulent accounts and credit cards that were opened in my name that he took to the internet, telling bogus stories about everything.church and myself in hopes that he would be able to avenge himself.
In a nutshell, there has been much more noise than music in recent years. Still, I didn’t let that stop me from continuing to do the work I was made to do and accomplish the goals I set out for myself. Things are going splendidly despite all the distractions, and these are the five things that made it all possible.
– one –
keep an updated list of big and small picture goals
Every productive person uses some to-do list to guide their days and weeks. However, there is an immense benefit in keeping a list of small picture and big picture goals as well. When I’m distracted, I can look in one place and see the commitments I’ve made to myself and our customers; this keeps me focused time and time again.
I use an app called “Trello” for this. I have one big picture list and one small picture list. For example, right now I have an item on my big picture list that says “Launch new affordable consulting service in 2017.” While, on my small picture goal list I have an item that says “Write a post about ignoring the noise in life.” These aren’t daily to-dos. They’re goals that represent things I would like to accomplish.
At any time, I can glance at these lists and be reminded of the work I am most passionate about and most committed to doing. If you don’t want to use an app, that’s alright. Use a journal or something like that. I even know folks that put little post-its on their bathroom mirrors. The point is that you never lose sight of your goals.
– two –
let other people block out the noise on your behalf
It is incredibly tempting to micromanage every last detail of the work your team does. This is why I had to learn to give up doing things perfectly and adopt a new motto for empowering others. “It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be right.” You can’t teach someone to be perfect, but you can teach them how to do something correctly.
Giving goals and objectives away to other capable people on your staff or volunteer teams can block out a lot of the distractions that come your way. There’s a caveat here, though. If you stay too involved, despite empowering others, you still hear the noise even if you’re not doing the work. That’s why I had to learn to let go and trust that God made other talented people besides myself. 🙂
The more I gave stuff away, I noticed the roar of the noise became more tolerable. You would be surprised how a simple repetitive task that you do every day can bring so much distraction into your life. Even empowering others to do the little things can help you stay focused on the road ahead.
[Tweet “You can’t teach someone to be perfect, but you can teach them how to do something correctly.”]
– three –
stop living life like it’s a competition
I know I’m not the only person that can waste an hour of time at the drop of a hat looking at what everyone else is doing. This is a trap! It doesn’t matter what someone else’s church is doing. It doesn’t matter what someone else’s business is doing. All that matters is what you’re doing right now.
Do you believe you’re doing good work? If so, strive to do better work tomorrow. Not better work than someone else, but better work than you were doing just one day earlier. Everyone has a backstory that tells how they got to where they are today. You don’t have their story; you have your own story. So instead of trying to skip ahead to where they’re at, ask yourself where you’re called to be. Then man your post proudly. Progress and success will come in time.
As a matter of fact, I get frustrated with those I work with when they become concerned with the work others are doing. Churches need our help, and there’s plenty of work to be done. Just remember, no one has a monopoly on life change but Jesus.
– four –
eat healthily and exercise
Apart from the obvious physical benefits, I tend to notice that healthy eating and exercise create a sense of clarity and regime. When I’m committed to eating healthy and staying active, an internal clock sets in that allows me to keep constant tabs on where I am and where I ought to be. When life gets noisy, this is a great way to focus on what matters the most. Your temple can be a powerful place if you care for it like the treasure it is.
You don’t have to go on a mega diet or start body building. Take a daily mile walk after lunch. Stop eating fast food. Take small sustainable steps that will help you stay focused on mission in the midst of all the noise. I also tend to notice that I make more informed and patient decisions when I’m active and eating healthy.
Let’s just be honest here, Christians love to eat. Whether it’s a wedding, a funeral, a baptism, or a meeting, there’s going to be at-least coffee and doughnuts.
– five –
spend more time alone
The thing about leaders is, they’re constantly surrounded by people. After all, a leader in an empty room doesn’t do much good for anyone. This is why I’ve found the need for time alone to be one of the least recognized and met needs of any leader living a noisy life. For some people, an hour alone would do them a world of good. For others, a day may be more appropriate. I don’t know much how alone time you need, I but I do know you need it.
I need a good day to myself every few weeks to be at my freshest. I need this time to recognize changes and evolutions in myself, and to hear the still small voice of God. I need this time to rest my brain and listen to God speak about the future. I have found that this is easily the best way for me to be prepared for anything. Spending some time in solitude and prayer is one of the best ways to stay focused in the midst of all the noise.
So whatever the noise may be in your ministry, don’t get distracted. Stay focused on your objectives and keep changing the world.