What does distraction teach us about what we need to be happy?

I decided recently that I have probably earned a PhD in the art of becoming distracted. I’ll bet you know exactly what I mean. I have something I want to get accomplished that just might make a significant difference in the world, or at least my life, and of course that is when life bombards me with distractions.

They all seem so important. My daughter needs me. My grandkids need me. My husband, my friend….everybody needs me and by the end of the day everyone else’s needs got addressed except mine.

I was chatting about this with my new radio co-host (yes, there will be an internet radio program coming soon) the other day and realizing how easy it has been to make everyone else a priority over me. I’ve been looking at this and actively changing my behavior with concerted effort over the past three months and I have made some worthwhile discoveries.

When I fix other people’s problems I am very likely disempowering them. A few weeks ago, my daughter was chatting with me about a problem she had and because I didn’t want her to have to be in emotional pain, I was trying to figure out a solution for her. The problem was that the answer lives inside of her, not me, so my solution was missing the mark. At the end of our conversation she said, “I’ll figure it out, Mama. I always do.”

That’s when it hit me. She just needed me to listen for a bit and ask her a few questions that would help her get to her own solution. If she wanted my advice she would have asked for it. The best advice I really could offer, anyway, would be to remind her about the strengths I see in her and to help her consider ways she could apply her skills to find her solution.

Here is what is wonderful about helping people see their strengths: They have something to work with for a very long time! They don’t need your help as often! They feel empowered to solve their own problems! Cool, eh?

Now I spend much less time on the telephone now allowing myself to be so absorbed in other people’s lives. Getting involved in everybody else’s lives has been a great way to keep myself distracted from facing my own fears about doing what I am here to do. So, with fewer distractions, I am making more progress in my professional life.

When I encounter some inner resistance, instead of letting myself become distracted, I have been looking for ways to enjoy the next step rather than retreat into fear. “What would make this fun instead of scary?” I have been asking myself. Once I began looking for the joy, here was the next discovery I made.

I was allowing myself to become distracted by people because I love to solve problems and see people be successful. Can you tell I was school-teacher for many years? However, as a teacher I learned to help my students develop the skills they needed to meet their challenges. I didn’t try to do it for them. It seems when it came to my family and friends I was forgetting that their greatest empowerment would come through their own discoveries in solving their challenges.

The distraction seemed important because other people wanted to solve a problem in order to be more successful. Therefore, a deep need in me was being met through the distractions. That is why the distractions seemed worth the time. All I needed to do was make my own problem solving and success the priority, and because I enjoy the social interchange of problem solving, I also needed to invite help for my own challenges.

Well, as soon as I made myself a priority, I was tested. Of course I was tested. I had created a habit that needed to be broken and everyone else was just engaging with me the way they always had.

Instead of dropping what I was doing to help them, I scheduled a time to meet with them that was better for me, after I had completed my priorities for the day. In the meantime, they often figured out a solution on their own, and if they didn’t, they had more time to give it greater consideration before involving me.

Next, I opened my heart to receive help from others for myself—that would serve us both. Voila! Wonderful, talented people entered my life and together we are solving the growth challenges of New Dream Foundation, publishing a book, starting a radio program, sharing sound medicine…for my benefit, theirs, and a lot of special people we are privileged to serve.

There was a lesson in my distractions about what makes me happy in my work. The distractions were filling a need. All that had to be done was to fulfill that core need inside my work, rather than outside.

For prayerful inspiration about this topic: Trusting Spirit and You