What is it about squirrels that are so distracting? I mean, really. Are they that cute that they demand our immediate attention? Does the sudden appearance of them startle us? Can the fun way they hop through the grass or scurry around the base of a tree just mesmerize us? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that every time I see one it steals my attention for a brief time, or longer. I know that my dog can’t seem to bark enough at them. I know that people will drive their cars dangerously around one to spare its life.
As I was growing up, I remember my mother asking me frequently to go “pick up” my room. What she wanted me to do was to pick up all the toys, clothes, and other miscellaneous items I used during the course of the day and put them back where they belonged. What really happened was that I would pick up a toy, put it away. Pick up my socks, put them with the dirty clothes. Pick up another toy, and promptly sit down to play with it. A half hour later, my mom would ask , “Are you picking up your room, Joel?” Quickly putting that toy away, I would respond, “Yeeeessss.” A few more items later, I found myself engrossed in another toy. This is how I feel much of this past year has been like. I mean, just a year ago I sat down with pen and paper in hand to set my goals for the year. As I look back at what I did not accomplish, it begs the question – Why? It wasn’t that I didn’t accomplish anything. I just didn’t accomplish enough. I blame being distracted.
Distractions are not always bad. There can be good and even great distractions. Like, the ball you see bouncing out of the corner of your eye while driving, indicating that children are potentially in the road or soon will be. Or, maybe you are at the store and you see your old neighbor John who is visiting from out of town. Regardless, you take a brief change of direction or break from your current action…you are distracted. I have been distracted by good, bad, and just downright ugly distractions this past year. I would venture to guess that you may have had your share of distractions, too.
Good distractions – Distractions that add value or joy to your life or the lives of others. They may even promote your goal in the long run or present more opportunities for success.
Bad distractions – Distractions which divert you away from your goal, making it more difficult to accomplish. These distractions can happen only once, but are generally more frequent.
This new year I would like to avoid or overcome as many bad distractions as possible. I find that the prophet Nehemiah was a boss when it came to overcoming distractions. So, here are a few principals I will utilize this year as I set and accomplish goals:
- Prayer! (Neh. 1:4-11) Before Nehemiah even began rebuilding Jerusalem, he spent time in prayer. He renewed his relationship and the relationship of Israel, a re-commitment of sorts. Part of God’s plans for us is a growing relationship with Him. Without that, we have failed before we even begin.
- Asses the goal. (Neh. 2:11-18) Is it attainable with God’s help? Nehemiah had to understand the extent of his desire. He knew that with God’s power it would be accomplished. Sometimes, we do not rely enough on God’s power, so we get distracted early. Other times, our goals are so large and out of God’s Will that we just won’t accomplish it.
- Gather the right resources. (Neh. 2:4-8) Nehemiah knew he could not provide all the material needed alone, he had to get help. Some of our goals for the new year include personal finances, so, we have acquired Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to help keep us on track. Find someone who has accomplished the same goals and utilize them as a resource.
- Expect distractions and prepare. (Neh. 6) As word got out, that the enemy kingdoms tried to stop the work. Nehemiah prepared the builders by placing a tool in one hand and a weapon in their other. What squirrels are going to distract us this year? Will they be the same or different? We must distraction proof our plans as much as possible and rely upon God to help us prepare.
- Know your enemy. (Neh. 6) Nehemiah’s enemies tried many times to discourage him and the workers. We all have the same adversary who will try to distract us, he has been doing since the Garden of Eden. But, what we will not expect is the other people in our lives who may serve as discouragers, whether inadvertently or purposely. We must be peaceful as a dove but wise as a serpent in determining whether these people are good distractions or bad, and then not let the bad get us down or of track.
- Stay on track. (Neh. 6:3) Nehemiah never lost sight of the goal to rebuild the wall. To do that would be a huge loss of time, resources, and the trust of a nation. Even if we the only ones counting on us to accomplish our goals, we must keep to it. To avoid distraction will build trust in ourselves and others around us.
- Celebrate each goal, no matter the size. (Neh. 8:13-17) The people celebrated when the wall was finished. We must celebrate our accomplishments, no matter how small. It builds momentum and strengthens our desire to see our other goals finished. I think I am even going to plan the celebrations as I plan my goals.
God purposes for us to succeed (Jer. 29:11). Not in everything, but in everything He puts our hand to. Satan purposes to distract us (1 Pet. 5:8). Not in everything, but in everything that would accomplish God’s will. This year I pray we will accomplish all God sets us to do and not be distracted by the squirrels that cross our paths.
I didn’t cover them all. What are some other ideas we should consider when “Squirrel Proofing” our goals for the new year?