Friday, June 22, 2012

The power of focus

The idea for this post came from a John Maxwell blog posting.  I will be sharing his article later today on Twitter, but for this posting I want to concentrate primarily on how this applies to bivocational ministers.  Sometimes, with the various demands on our time it's hard to maintain focus.  So many things demand our attention that we can get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent.  It happens to me, and I would guess it happens to you.  Some of this goes with the territory of being in ministry.  You may have your day planned out until the telephone rings and changes everything.  Some things do require our immediate attention, but my experience has been that the list of those things is not as long as some people would like us to believe.  When I worked in a factory I used to keep a sign in my work area that said "Your lack of preparation does not constitute an emergency on my part."

My hope is that you live your life with certain written goals that you want to achieve.  The key to achieving your goals is to work on them nearly every day.  Without focus we will find that we may go weeks without ever doing anything that will help us accomplish even one of our goals.  Chasing after the shiny things, the urgent things, can keep us from doing the most important things.

This past weekend one of my grandsons and I were talking about this.  He wanted to know how I managed to write books and do the many different things I do.  I shared with him one of my beliefs: You get done what you spend time doing.  The person who sits for eight hours in front of a television has accomplished eight hours of TV watching.  If that was his goal then he should feel good about that, but if he had other goals for his life then that eight hours might have been better spent working on one of those goals.  I talked with this grandson about the importance of goal-setting and gave him the method I used, and then I gave him a goal.  We were going to see them again on Wednesday, and I asked him to take one of his life's goals and follow my goal-setting method to write out the goal and what he needed to do to achieve it.  He showed me his paper on Wednesday, and it was very good.  Whether or not he is able to achieve it now depends on his ability to focus on that goal.  He has a good sense of what he needs to do; now we'll see if he does it.

This is true for most of us.  We usually know what we need to do to achieve the things we want to achieve in life.  It's a matter of focus.  Can we ignore the many voices asking us to do this and that in order to concentrate on the most important things?  Can we focus long-term on the goals we believe God has given us?  To the extent we do so we will achieve those goals, but if we allow ourselves to be easily distracted by less important things we will probably come to the end of our lives and ministries disappointed.

Let me end this post with one suggestion.  As a bivocational minister you will often be pulled in many different directions.  Wherever you are, be there.  In other words, if you are meeting with a member of your congregation, be there for that person.  Don't just be present physically with your mind elsewhere.  Always focus on the task at hand.  The most important place you can be is usually where you are, and the most important thing you can be doing at a given moment is often what you are doing at that time.  Focus on what you are doing, and then when you move to the next task or event focus on that.  Such focus will help you be much more effective in all your tasks.

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