Every time I drive into downtown Apia I find my eyes being drawn to the two huge screens atop a couple of the businesses that are constantly flashing advertisements and tempting images.
I confess it is very hard to keep from looking at them despite the fact that there is nothing of real substance or interest being flashed across their screens. I wonder if they are as distracting to others as they are to me? Once it almost caused me to run into the car in front of me. This has made me think of the dangers of distractions. It made me remember something I learned way back in high school.
Not long ago I wrote about my high school English teacher and one of the lessons she taught us and tried to instill in our minds and heart. I have been thinking about another of the lessons on her list she had tacked on the wall that she wanted to make sure each of us learned before we left her class. That lesson was what she called “Yoda’s Advice to Luke.”
In George Lucas’ movie The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is with his Jedi master, Yoda, who is trying to teach him the ways of the Jedi despite Luke’s headstrong and willful ways. Luke is quick to give up and say things are too hard. Just when Luke is beginning to improve his Jedi skills, and have some faith in his potential to become a Jedi Knight, he sees in vision that his friends, Han Solo and Princess Leah, are in trouble. He wants to hurry off to the rescue. Yoda gives him this advice: “Tend to where you are.”
She taught us the importance of paying attention to where we are and what we are supposed to be doing. I have thought about my English teacher’s advice repeatedly over the years since high school. It has served me well in so many areas of my life.
It helped me when I studied at Brigham Young University in Hawaii and it would have been easy to go swim and surf at the beach instead of go to class. When sitting in class I would remind myself to pay attention and take good notes of the lectures and discussions. I would remember her advice when I was working on an assignment and distractions of basketball, movies, or hanging out with friends loomed. By remembering why I was at university and what my priorities were I was able to focus on my school work and finish school sooner than I expected and with better grades than I would have otherwise gotten.
Sometimes when I am with my kids I find myself with divided attentions and I have to remind myself to tend to where I am and to be mentally and emotionally present in addition to being physically present with them. Kids don’t stay young forever; every moment with them is precious. It makes me think of the saying, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” How often do we compromise the opportunities and responsibilities of where we are by focusing our minds elsewhere?
I remember the times when my presence was required for my boys to be entertained as we built towns with blocks and Lincoln Logs and then took dinosaur toys and went all Godzilla on our creations. Gone are the days when they would follow me around the house asking questions and relying wholly on me to make the sun shine for them. It has been a long time since my kids have relied on me to be involved to this degree. I am grateful for the advice to tend to where I am so that precious moments with them were not lost and won’t be lost in the future.
This advice has helped me in all my activities to remember to focus on the task at hand. It has helped me to give attention to what I am doing instead of starting something and not completing it, or getting distracted and taking a much longer period of time to accomplish something.
In our busy world, distractions are all around us; they clamor for our attention. The latest news and trends are thrown at us with alarming speed. Friends’ status updates on Facebook, the trending topics on twitter, texts, calls and emails can inundate us. Not to mention the noise of entertainment in all its forms. Each distraction enters our brains with the goal of capturing our attention.
As a result, we live distracted lives and our ability to focus, create, and accomplish suffers significantly. It is increasingly clear that distractions are not going away on their own. Instead, the responsibility is ours to live attentive, intentional lives in a world of distraction.
So how do we find a way to tend to where we are when there are so many distractions?
One thing that can make a massive difference is being able to eliminate distractions and tend to where we are is to turn off the screens (TV, phone, laptop, tablet, etc.) You’ll find your ability to get things done will improve greatly. You have more time to spend on building relationships and enjoying time doing things that are meaningful to you.
Take some time each day to go screen free. Eliminate the distractions. Tend to where you are.