I’ve got to get focused on this project.
I set down my pen.
What usually works isn’t working right now.
I lean back in my chair.
And that’s okay.
This situation is different.
Several major projects are all due at the same time, and every single one is now or never.
I could say “no” to some of them.
Honestly, though, I don’t want to. I don’t want to miss out on any of these exciting opportunities.
I want to move forward with every single one.
When You Just Can’t Find Your Focus
Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation: You’re trying to make progress, but your brain can’t focus because it’s going in a dozen different directions at the same time.
In my situation, I had pushed myself to do the work—even though I really wanted to do anything but this type of work in the moment.
I went through all the usual techniques that typically help me focus:
- I took a walk.
- I turned off all distractions.
- I set a timer.
But all of my fail-safe strategies failed.
The harder I tried, the muddier my mind became. I couldn’t make myself make progress.
Or even get started.
Which was crazy. These were projects I really wanted to accomplish, and I was grateful for the opportunities.
At the same time, they were demanding tasks for me. Each project involved writing. And not just ordinary writing, but the most challenging kind of writing where every word mattered.
I needed a new strategy.
What Made the Difference
Here’s what worked for me:
- I used pen-and-paper, which forced me to slow down.
- I limited my work to what would fit on one page, which narrowed my focus.
- I quickly skipped over anything that wasn’t the best fit, which gave me momentum.
- I saved ill-fitting ideas for later projects, which kept me from getting bogged down.
What made the difference?
My mind stayed focused on one task at a time without getting distracted by “Shiny Object Syndrome.”
This may be a challenge for you, too.
Combining strategies you don’t typically put together will help you find your focus.
How to find what helps you focus
Learning to combine old strategies in new ways is a valuable skill.
You already do this in the kitchen when you tweak a recipe — trying a little of this, a little of that, until the flavors blend together just so.
Here’s how to combine strategies to help you quickly find focus:
1) Make a list of the typical strategies that help you focus.
(For ideas, download your free “5 Simple Ways to Quickly Find Your Focus” checklist.)
2) Check any strategies that usually work for you.
3) Circle any new strategies that intrigue you.
4) Combine several different strategies into a new “recipe.”
5) Now, experiment with it.
How will you know that you’ve found the right combination of strategies?
You’ll start to feel unstuck. You’ll get going again.
As you gain momentum, you’ll make great progress.
All because you finally found your focus.
Question: What’s one strategy that helps you find your focus?
Mary Lou Caskey trains Christian coaches and communicators to influence hearts through the power of story. If you want to become a transformative storyteller, connect with Mary Lou and get her free quiz, “Is It the Best Time to Share a Personal Story?”
My first child’s high school graduation brought up a whole new set of fears and stress in me. Have I done enough to prepare her for adulthood? Will she make wise choices as she steps out from under our roof and into a world full of options? Will she be able to hold onto her faith in college—at a time when many young people discard theirs?
Her graduation felt like a defining moment in my parenting. I knew I’d done all I could to train her well, to prepare her for success. But now, facing what felt like a Parenting 101 Final Exam, the stakes were high. I didn’t want to fail. I certainly didn’t want my precious daughter to fail.
This tension bubbled up in the days leading to her graduation. Of course, she was dealing with her own emotions surrounding this milestone event and pulling away from me, busy preparing for adventures to come. I was grieving the upcoming loss of her daily presence, knowing before long she would move from our house and pursue her education.
The entire month before graduation was crammed with activity. Prom, sports banquets, end-of-the-year awards, ceremony rehearsals, all mixed into a swirling vortex of angst. So many events, so many decisions.
As graduation neared, our relationship, normally characterized by mutual love, respect, and lots of laughter, became contentious. This culminated in an angry verbal exchange as we walked through the campus parking lot on our way into her Baccalaureate ceremony. I can’t remember what precipitated the argument, but I remember how I felt. Off-balance. Overwhelmed. Defeated.
I had let stress and fear steal my joy.
Have you ever experienced relational stress leading up to a milestone event? Have you allowed that stress to ruin the event for you? For your child?
Heightened emotions come with any life-changing event, but we don’t have to let them rob us of the joy of the occasion, whether it’s a move, graduation, wedding, or some other major event. We can have fun and create precious memories without regret.
When approaching a big event in your child’s life, you don’t have to get caught up in the swirling emotional vortex. You can cultivate peace through journaling or talking with a trusted friend. Speak with a life coach, counselor, pastor or mentor. Talking through fears and concerns with a mom who’s walked the path before you might mean the difference between white-knuckling it through the milestone and really enjoying it.
One of the most important things we can do to maintain our equilibrium during these emotional times is to get alone with God and pour out our hearts to Him.
Jesus demonstrated the importance of getting alone with the Father before ministry. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). As we prepare to minister to our children during their “big day” we can follow Jesus’ example.
Last year my son graduated and this year my youngest daughter will graduate. I’ve learned a lot going through this letting-go process. I’ve learned to be intentional about processing my emotions. I’ve learned to carve out time in the busyness to be alone in the healing presence of my Father.
Are you facing a milestone event?
If so, how will you cultivate peace and plan for fun as you prepare for the event?
Elizabeth M. Thompson is a writer and speaker who loves helping women develop meaningful spiritual lives. She and her husband have three children and will soon be empty-nesters. They live, bike, kayak, and hike along the American River near Sacramento, CA. Prayer is her passion. For a free download of “Jumpstart Your Stalled Prayer Life” go to her website: www.ElizabethMThompson.com.
“I keep asking God, ‘Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it’!” My friend Lynn* has devoted years to following God’s call on her life.
But now, she’s at a crossroads.
“I’ve been crying out to God for direction,” she tells me, “and I have assurance that He is with me. But I’m not hearing any clear next step from Him for this new season. I feel stuck.”
Lynn knows, in her head, that there’s no perfect step-by-step plan.
“I just wish I knew for sure what to do next,” she sighs.
As we continue our conversation, I realize she’s afraid. She’s afraid of taking risks, afraid of messing up at such a pivotal time.
She wishes she could get absolute clarity and direction before taking her next step.
But so often we don’t find clarity and direction before taking action — we gain clarity and direction by taking action.
The One Thing You Need to Clarify Your Current Calling
Do you sometimes wish that your current calling came with exact details of what to do? Maybe a step-by-step plan so you know for sure you are following God’s “perfect” plan for you life?
Maybe, like my friend Lynn, you’re trying to navigate a life transition, all by yourself.
The problem with this approach? We quickly become isolated without even recognizing it. We get stuck in our own heads — ideas, options, and worries swirling wildly around — until fear takes over and paralysis sets it.
For my friend Lynn, her next step was to connect with a group of her Like-Minded Peeps.
And if you want clarity about your current calling, you need to find your Like-Minded Peeps, too … people who achieve what you desire to accomplish.
The Power of Finding Your Peeps
The rewards of connecting with your Like-Minded Peeps are numerous.
- You’ll replace confusion with clarity.
- You’ll exchange that stuck feeling for renewed energy, inspiration, and creativity.
- You’ll move beyond over-analysis as you watch others take imperfect action that leads to success.
- You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of new ideas.
But the benefits of finding your Like-Minded Peeps goes beyond you.
Collaborating with your Like-Minded Peeps won’t just add a little to your life; the benefits of mutual contribution and encouragement will multiply in everyone’s lives.
Best of all, you’ll be reminded of what is so easy to forget during times of change.
One Small Win: Your calling matters. You make a significant difference. Yes, you really do.
It’s time to find your Like-Minded Peeps.
Click here now to download your Free Cheat Sheet “3 Ways to Find Your Like-Minded Peeps.”
(*Not her real name)
Mary Lou Caskey trains Christian coaches and communicators to influence hearts through the power of story. If you want to become a transformative storyteller,to connect with Mary Lou and get her free quiz, “Is It the Best Time to Share a Personal Story?”
A fading New Year’s resolution
New Year’s resolutions can be a tricky bag of guilt. We are well-intentioned as we make plans for fresh starts in the new year, only to find these resolutions slowly fading away. Some have embraced choosing a word to focus on and even to study from God’s word. Amy Carroll shares today about the struggle she had with a Word-of-the-Year and how God gently used it to teach her in the midst of the fading New Year’s resolution.
Amy Carroll is a speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s the author of Breaking Up with Perfect as well as the director and coach of Next Step Speaker Services. Amy and her husband live in lovely Holly Springs, NC with a bossy miniature dachshund. You can find her on any given day texting her two sons at college, typing at her computer, reading a book, or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner. Share life with Amy at www.amycarroll.org and on Facebook.
I want it all
Saying I want it all sounds so worldly. We usually associate it with the wanting of money, a nice home, a great job, a fantastic husband, and loyal friends … the list goes on.
But what if “ALL” actually is the cry of our hearts to have all that God has made available to us — strength, hope, joy, love and peace? In this inspiring interview with I Want it All author, Gwen Smith, Kathi uncovers the passion behind I want it all and the promises found in the Bible for exactly that, ALL! Gwen shares the moment she discovered just where God was taking her with the writing of this book, as well as the pain of watching her father’s battle with cancer. Discover what ALL can actually look like in your own life.
Finally, we’d love to hear your thoughts on wanting it all. What does I want it all mean in your life and what can you pursue with even more purpose after hearing this episode?
This podcast episode reminded us a lot of an episode we did about more than a year ago with called I Want God.
I didn’t have my daddy leave me when I was a little girl, as Lysa Terkeurst recounts of her story in her new book Uninvited, but I have felt the slap of rejection.
The time when my seventh grade school friends planned a birthday party for everyone else, but not for me.
The time I blew it with a close friend, and I asked, “Do you still love me?” And the answer was, “A little less right now.”
The time I was passed over for a job that I felt capable to do, in favor of a younger, more talented woman.
Slap. Slap. Slap. Long after the red mark of the blow faded, the impression on my heart lasted.
With each new rejection, I made a mental note on how to never let it happen again.
So in junior high, I went on those before-school walks with my friends around the block taking covert puffs of cigarettes. I wouldn’t inhale because that would give me lung cancer which was deadly. But I pretended and puffed, earning my inclusion in the group.
I learned not to upset anyone so as not to have their love withdrawn from me. I learned to be likable, amiable Emily, becoming adept at people-pleasing.
I stopped putting myself out there for jobs I thought I could do, because there was always someone else who could do it better than me anyway.
Lysa writes, “Rejection isn’t just an emotion we feel. It’s a message that’s sent to the core of who we are, causing us to believe lies about ourselves, others and God.”
My lie was that I better blend into the crowd to be liked and accepted. That I better never tick anyone off, or I would never be truly loved. That I needed to try harder or else I would never be worthy enough to fulfill the dreams God gave me. The burn from the slaps in my past never fully healed because I kept rehearsing the scenes over and over, believing their stinging truth. I was now my own worst enemy.
I was the one rejecting myself, no one needed to do it for me.
I remember sitting at a conference with inspiring speakers. My usual M.O. means mourning that I’m not like these speakers. Oh, I’d like to be like them – inspiring, motivating, educating, but I realize I am not up to par with them. And probably never will be. The negative talk hisses, “I’m not educated like they are. I will never be able to do it as well as them. I am not equipped or connected. I just don’t have what it takes!”
During worship time, God whispered as if He sat right beside me. “Emily, what you are moaning about is sin for you. You are staying stuck in the belief that you are not enough. You think this is a belief about yourself, but it’s really what you believe about me. You believe I am not enough for you.”
“Oh, Lord, no!” was my first response. “You are sovereign, all-sufficient and every other praise adjective I was taught in Sunday School.” Yet He showed me I honored Him with my lips, but my actions showed otherwise. When I constantly let rejection define me by belittling myself, comparing myself and trying hard to be perfect, what I was really doing was telling God His approval was not enough. That what He made when He made me was obviously not good enough.
In fact, I was the clay, smashing my vessel and fisting it to God, “Not good enough! Remake me!” And The Potter takes that lump, with my uncertainties and insecurities and says, “You are my workmanship. I knit you together perfectly. I chose you as my own before the foundations of the world. When I made you, I declared it good, VERY good even. I bought you. With a heavy price. I made you enough already. When will you confidently believe it?”
I know you have your stories of rejection too. Just think back to junior high, the hotbed of so much rejection. Have you carried those wounds through adulthood? Have you let them define you? Tell lies about you? It’s funny how we try so hard to find approval in the ones who rejected and hurt us. Isn’t it enough to know the Creator of the Universe believes we are enough?
Lysa observes, “People can’t fix from the outside a perspective that needs to rewired on the inside.” Not admittance in the Cool Club or perfectly performed responses or acquiring the best suited job. None of that tells us we are enough. So it’s useless trying so hard to make it so. But there is a salve to heal the hurts of rejection. It’s turning to the Truth, running to the Life to show us the Way.
I confessed the lies I believed about myself. But I also had to confess my lack of faith in my Father. His Word is truth and He’s says we are cherished and approved! Do you know how healing it is to accept God’s approval and quit chasing after the world’s?
“Lies flee in the presence of truth.” Tune your heart to believe a new truth: You are accepted, for now and forevermore!
*All quotes taken from Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst.
Emily Nelson is part of the Kathi Lipp ministry team. More about her can be discovered and loved at her website, www.beyondtheredchair.com.