I recently read a proverb that says, “Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
What does that look like, practically speaking?
Well, when I go to the grocery store, I’m faced with hundreds of choices about what to put in my cart, what to stock in my refrigerator and, ultimately, what to consume. Unfortunately, my decision-making abilities are severely impaired when the scent of cookies wafts in my general direction, luring me down the aisle where Little Debbie snack cakes and Chips Ahoy seem to be waiting for me!
Similarly, every single day I’m faced with hundreds of choices about which voices I’m going to allow to speak into my life and dictate the direction I go. I’m faced with decisions about what I’ll pay attention to and pour energy into. If I’m unprepared to make a wise decision—if I don’t have a plan—I’ll always be afraid of making the wrong decision and I’ll end up distracted, listening to dozens of voices that may not present the healthiest choices. Distractions make me a consumer of the world rather than a contributor to the world. But the contributors are the ones who change the world.
If everything flows from our hearts, then whatever we put in our hearts and minds will inevitably influence what we do and how we live. If we feed our souls garbage, or unhealthy distractions, we’ll live our daily lives without discipline or direction. When we’re unprepared or don’t have a plan, we can feel overwhelmed and will be much more likely to put unhealthy choices into our carts, or into our hearts, because they appeal to us in the moment.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
What is a better way?
Making a Distraction Action Plan
Instead of trying to ignore the inevitable distractions that pop up throughout my day, I can combat them by taking these actions:
- Identifying my default distractions
- Having a decision-making strategy
- Equipping myself with a list
Identify Your Default Distractions
I believe one of the smartest things we can do is make the effort to become more self-aware. When we understand ourselves, we can get to the root of why we do certain things rather than treating the symptoms with quick fixes or to-do lists we rarely get to.
We all have our strongholds, the distractions we default to when our days overwhelm us. Even a moment of satisfaction can be long enough to fool us into thinking we’ve found what’s best for us. The praise or affirmation we get by taking on a whole slew of commitments can make us feel significant, even if those commitments ultimately distract us from what’s most important. The entertainment or affirmation we get on social media has the power to numb our minds to what’s troubling us, but it also numbs our hearts to what God is trying to tell us.
The danger of getting into default mode is that it’s essentially a passive mode. The more distracted we are, the more passive we’ll become. The more passive we become, the less passionate we’ll be, leaving us unable to pursue the purpose we’re made for and unable to see clearly, running about aimlessly as we try to prove ourselves instead of pressing into the lives God made us to lead.
That said, self-awareness is key to overcoming every distraction.
Know yourself. What distractions do you default to when life overwhelms you or when you’re faced with a tough decision?
Step one is to inventory the damaging default distractions taking up space in your life so you can create the necessary disciplines to combat them.
Have a Decision-Making Strategy
I think sometimes we forget that distraction is not limited to social media or television. Distraction is being preoccupied with anything outside our priorities. It is time spent on miniscule tasks and unnecessary commitments that do not help move the needle in the direction we are trying to go.
I attended a conference a few months ago, and one of the speakers, who is now a dear friend of mine, taught the audience about a simple tool to use when making momentary decisions. This tool is called the 10-10-10 rule.
The whole concept is simple. When you’re faced with a decision about what you’re going to spend time on or commit to, ask yourself these questions:
- What will be the consequences of this decision in ten minutes?
- In ten weeks?
- In ten years?
If I say yes to something (even something small) that seems great in the moment but isn’t really the best for me long term, I’ll probably feel great about it in ten minutes but not so great about it in ten weeks. I might even regret it in ten years. It all boils down to drawing a decisive line by asking, Will Future Jordan be happy that Present Jordan bought Little Debbie cakes and Doritos? Or will this only make Present Jordan happy?
Next time you’re tempted to divert your attention from the project you’re working on to check Instagram or to take on another commitment because you don’t want to let your friend down, try using the 10-10-10 rule to guide your decision-making process.
Make sure the big and small decisions you make are good for both Present You and Future You. When you do that, you’ll set yourself up for a life full of what you’re actually made to do.
Equip Yourself with a List
Each daily decision we make has a greater effect than we think because small decisions add up. The individual trips down the cookie aisle may not be too destructive on their own, but week after week they’ll add up, and the effects on my health will be noticeable. The same is true for other distractions—and lies—we allow into our lives and make room for in our hearts. Having a guide to keeping an eternal mindset when momentary distractions begin to sneak in is important.
What if we did the same thing in life? What if we had a list of what’s healthy for our hearts? What would our lives look like if we woke up each day with a simple, tangible list of the directives we’ll allow to guide our hearts?
That list would guide wiser decision-making, prepare us to face distractions, and allow us to walk boldly in the direction of our destiny.
I encourage you to keep a simple list and to weigh against it all the demands, decisions and distractions you’re faced with each day. This isn’t so much a to-do list as a to-be list that will guide you to be more focused, rather than distracted with unnecessary commitments.
Each daily decision we make has a greater effect than we think because small decisions add up.
Once you’ve identified your default distractions, create a list of intentional directives that will replace those defaults you turn to. Then dedicate yourself to those directives. This intentional list will help you become who you were made to be.
Sometimes when I’m bored, my default distraction is social media. Looking at what others are doing causes me to lose sight of where I’m heading. So I put bigger guiding goals on my list: “Be present in your marriage,” “Know God and make Him known,” and “Lead your team and work well.” I set these guiding goals, or directives, as a lock screen on my phone so that I’m consistently reminded to refocus on what matters most.
Every time you begin to feel overwhelmed with options, check your list. Ask yourself, Who do I want to be, and how does this specific decision support or stifle that bigger goal?
If that small action or choice doesn’t support the woman you want to become or align with the bigger guiding goals written on your list, set it down, sister. And don’t feel guilty about it, not even for a second.
As founder of the SoulScripts shop, host of the SHE podcast, author of OWN YOUR EVERYDAY and someone widely recognized for her tagline, “Your Brokenness is Welcome Here,” Jordan Lee Dooley has become a go-to source that thousands of women around the world look to for daily inspiration in their faith, work, relationships, and everyday life. Embracing her Indiana roots, Jordan shares a simple life with her husband, Matt, and their dog, Hoosier. Get to know her at JordanLeeDooley.com.
Adapted from Own Your Everyday: Overcome the Pressure to Prove and Show Up for What You Were Made to Do. Copyright © 2019 by Jordan Lee Dooley. To be published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, on May 14.