When Good Distracts Us from Great

Right now, ask yourself, “What do I really want in life?” Take note that there is often a difference between what we are striving for and what we really want in life. There are so many good things that can distract us from great things. How do you know if what you are striving for is what you really want? 

To find out what you are striving for, you ask yourself, “What do I spend my money, emotions, and time on?” 

If someone showed you a bank statement, but instead of your expenses it listed what you spent your time thinking about, what would it look like matters most to you? These questions can give us helpful clues as to what is most important to us, but what we really want can also be hidden under the busyness and chaos of life.

I recently had an experience that illustrates how we can become distracted by the busyness of life and forget what’s important. My wife and I are having our first child in September which carries with it significant excitement along with some pressure. The past few months have been riddled with questions like: will it be a boy or girl, is she healthy, how big is she, and what is she going to be like when she grows up? But, since September, I have also started shopping for things. This new phase of life led me to spend a significant amount of time thinking about buying a house, a car, and appliances that might make our life easier. If I stopped there and took an inventory, if I looked at what I spent my money, emotions, and time on, and then asked myself what it looked like mattered most to me, the answer would be conveniences that reduce discomforts and worries.

I know my life would be more fulfilling if I spent more time rejoicing in the wonderful blessings I’ve been given rather than wishing for more. When I ask myself, “What is it that I really want?” it doesn’t take long to uncover that the car, house, appliances, and whatever else I might be spending my time thinking about will make my life easier, but what I really want is much deeper and richer. I want more than avoiding discomforts and worries.

In this case, what I really want is for my daughter to be a giving, caring, and bold person. I want to create a million good memories with her and the rest of my family. I want her to know that she was loved by family and even more by God. And if I take my life as a whole, I want to have helped others. I want to have worked hard and have enjoyed my work. And, I want to have spent as much of my life as possible with those I love. All these goals are simple (not necessarily easy), attainable, and inexpensive. 

It’s amazing when we think about what we are striving for – often good things – they are many times unattainable, ambiguous, and expensive. And those goals by default will put pressure on us, stress us out. When those goals are not in check, they can steal the joy from the great things in life. They might sound like; I want or would like a “nicer” car or a bigger house, or more of something. The problem with that goal is it’s unattainable, ambiguous, and expensive.

Here are some practical steps to make sure you don’t lose sight of what is most important in your life:

  1. Ask yourself, What are you striving for? Figure this out by asking yourself how you spend your time, effort, thoughts, and emotions.
  2. Ask yourself, What do I really want in my life? And I think the more important question: “Is that all?” until you come up with a goal and a purpose that you are convinced is worth your time on earth.
  3. When you are asking yourself “What do I really want?”, separate what you write down into two columns: a good column and a great column which is reserved for what matters most to you. Beware of the good things that might be distracting you from the great things.
  4. Write down what you really want, keep asking yourself that question, and remind yourself of the answer daily, weekly, and monthly. Create a habit of being intentional about everything you do and making sure you are serving a worthy purpose.

Life is short, and it goes by fast. Know what you really want in life, and don’t let yourself forget it.

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