Focus plays a vital role in both photography and life. The question is…if your life were a photograph, what would it look like? What would be the focus?
Would it look like this?
Or maybe this?
Would it include these things?
Would it be a picture of your office, your co-workers, your bookshelf, your television, or even your spotless home?
I want my picture to look something like this:
I want to focus on my family and my faith, so why do I feel like the picture of my life right now looks more like this?
I feel like I have been too caught up in the “thick of thin things,” causing me to lose focus on the things that matter most. There are a million things competing for my attention at any given moment…so many distractions…so many GOOD things to do, and not enough time to do them. Sometimes my priorities get all out of whack because I fail to make deliberate choices that keep my main goals in focus. Instead, I find my attention getting swept up by rather meaningless pursuits that suck up my time and keep me from making real progress. Instead of focusing on the ways in which I can accomplish my goals, I spend too much time scrolling through news feeds on social media. Instead of being truly present for my kids during the few short hours that they are at home with me each day, I find myself reading emails, texting, working on the blog, checking social media, and being otherwise disengaged from the real work of parenting.
Although my daughter is known for her dramatic flair, in a spell of frustration earlier today, she emphatically exclaimed: “Mom never has time to help me.”
My first instinct was to call her bluff, knowing that she can be dramatic, especially in times of heightened emotion. However, her comment also hurt because it was a reality check. Is that really what she thinks? Does she see me being too “busy” with my computer or phone to help her? Although a certain amount of busyness comes along with having five kids, am I too consumed with non-essentials to be truly present? Will my kids get to a point where they no longer ask for my help because they believe that I am too busy to give it? Do I tell them through my actions that my blog, my social media presence, or my phone is more important than they are?
Perhaps I do, even though that is NEVER my intent. It is just so stinkin easy to be sidetracked in this age of information, social media, and the Internet, where countless worthwhile causes are constantly calling for attention. There is never a shortage of things to do…GOOD things, but do those good things deserve priority status in my life, or are there other things that are perhaps BETTER, or even BEST? That is the question that I keep asking myself, even though I already know the answer. I know that I should be more engaged in my family, and less distracted by technology. I feel the stinging rebuke from Gordon B. Hinckley, when he pleaded with us to:
…Work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it…
I cannot really say that I am working on my parental responsibility as if everything depended on it when I am checking Facebook or Instagram instead of listening to my son who is trying to get my attention, looking at a screen instead of at my daughter who just wants me to watch her climb the big tree in the front yard, or texting a friend instead of talking to my teenager who had a rotten day and needs some validation. I cannot constantly tell them to “give me a minute and let me check this one thing…” and then expect them to know that I always have time for them when they need me.
It is time for me to re-evaluate my priorities…again…because I have been here so many times before, made changes, and then slipped into old habits all too quickly. I need to remember, as Greg McKeown said in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: (Great read, by the way.)
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
Someone else…or something else (ahem…technology…)…
I don’t know about you, but I want to be in control of my priorities. I want to wake up every morning, determine the very most important things for me to focus my time, energy, and resources on…and then DO THEM before wasting my time on other things that have no lasting value. I want to follow this advice from a very wise man:
If my family is the “main thing,” then I will need to make some tough decisions about what things need to be put on the back burner to keep my family in focus. That might mean that I only write on the blog once a week instead of twice or three times. It will probably mean that I will not spend much time on social media. (I already took Facebook and Twitter off my phone.) It will probably mean that my phone will find a home out of sight when my kids are home from school, or that I might not return text messages or emails right away. It will definitely mean that I will spend at least one morning every week at the temple, which always helps me to gain greater perspective on the things that matter most. I am still trying to figure it all out, but I know that I want to make real progress in the few areas that I think are important, rather than simply treading water because my focus is spread out over too many things. I want my life to be a stunning photograph with a clear focus.
The beauty of this whole thing is that I get to choose what is important to me and prioritize my time accordingly, and so do you.
As the poet Mary Oliver wrote:
I am ready to choose…are you?