Distractions getting you down?

If we are not alert and of sober mind, we are vulnerable to distractions. Those distractions get us totally off course, off track and depending on the distraction, it can take YEARS out of your life, keeping you stuck in that place. The place where you wake up, drink the same coffee and complete your day in the same way as you did yesterday. Letting yourself get distracted by behaviors that make us, oddly enough, feel comfortable, normal, and steadied.

Distractions Getting You Down? Do you feel like you can’t concentrate during the day because you are so distracted? Are distractions getting in the way of your goals?

These sound like the beginnings to a really bad, late-night infomercial. When I was younger, I remember the lady with the fluffy blonde hair on T.V. saying, “Do you want to make more money? Sure, we all do.” And then, I remember, she went through the long list of career options you could have if you just called the 1-800 number and chose to get your “career” diploma. I imagine that if you went through this program, you’d end up with some kind of certificate or even associates degree. Did this help a lot of people? I’m sure. Especially those who were wanting a night-school, but couldn’t physically leave their home because of a varying number of reasons.

How many types of “Sally Struthers” (aka the lady with the blonde, fluffy hair!) advertisements are there? Get your degree, live the life you’ve always wanted, buy this workout program and lose 50 lbs., adopt this rule to get this amazing outcome in your life!

The truth is that any one of these programs could possibly work for you and help get you where you want to be in life. But, the reality is that millions of people spent, likely, millions even billions of dollars and started any one of these programs. But, they didn’t finish. They got distracted.

In today’s world, we’ve given “self-help” a more fancy name: Personal Development (PD). I love reading about how to better myself. But, I get distracted with actual, real life. I get all fired up and then what happens? My life continues. I continue waking up the same way, drinking the same coffee, reading yet another PD article or book. And every day: I’m the same. Do I have more knowledge?

“The U.S. self-improvement market was worth $9.9 billion in 2016. It is forecast to post 5.6% average yearly gains from 2016 to 2022, when the market should be worth $13.2 billion.”

Click here for resource.

This personal development industry is HUGE! I do believe though, if we started realizing what our distractions really are and worked to delete them from our lives, the industry might shrink up just a bit or perhaps grow with a new genre: You’ve tackled your dreams, now what? What’s next?

I’ve mentioned before that I love self-help books and audio-books and even listed my current favorites in that blog post. I love learning new things about my career field, being a better human being, a better mom, wife, and, and, and. I like to read and listen to these because they are inspiring, make me feel hopeful and give me permission to feel like I can conquer the world! But, then distractions happen.

What are your distractions?

Let’s list the easy ones first.

The ones that we can clearly see throughout our day and if we give just a little bit of effort, we can stop these distractions. You don’t need me to tell you how to stop doing these things…you know how. You’ve read enough PD to get you through these!

Smart phones. Co-workers’ gossip. Procrastination or putting off a task that will further your productivity, only instead doing a task that lets you feel that immediate check-mark: cleaning the kitchen or windex-ing that one window that your dog breathes on and slobbers on when she barks (oh yes, the one that needs cleaning right. now.). Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Google. Kids. Drama in the office.

Now let’s list the not-so-obvious ones.

These are going to take action. Physical or mental. These are going to require you to dig deep into your habits and behaviors. You need to update yourself in order to get these distractions out the door. After the list, I’ll tell you what I’ve done for myself to “delete” these distractions.

Negativity. Nay-sayers. Internet Trolls. Addictions. Fear. Self-doubt. Rejection. Netflix, Amazon Prime or TV. Social media conversations. In the above “easy” list, I’m talking about the feeds, just scrolling and catching up on your “friends'” days. Here, I’m talking about getting involved in or fixated on conversations that are happening…local and national politics…really any conversation happening through comments that are nasty, ugly, demeaning and have gone way past the point of a simple opinion.

The real difference between the Easy List and the Not-So-Obvious list is really your mind. The latter gets in your head and can really destroy not only your ambitions and goals, it can destroy you as a person. The things on this list can destroy relationships, your family, and your career.

If you know me, you know I love my Bible. I love what I read in it and what truths God gives me to live my life. I understand that not everyone believes in God or has faith in anything higher than themselves. But, I do. If not for Jesus, I’d be so, so lost. There is no way I’d have any of the knowledge or wisdom or experience that I have today if it weren’t for him. So, let’s hear what He has to say about Distractions in just one little but mighty verse:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

If we break this down, first we see: Be Alert and of Sober Mind. What does this mean? Yes, we know that caffein and sleep can help us be alert. And, being sober, in our day-to-day thinking means saying no to anything that impairs our judgement – drugs, alcohol, medications not being taken as prescribed by your doctor.

But, think about my Not-So-Obvious list and why these things are so bad! What do you think surrounding yourself with negative thoughts, feedback, or external conversation does to your self-worth? It makes you negative! If you continue to allow nay-sayers to tell you how ridiculous you are, how your life isn’t what they envisioned, or even telling you how stupid and uninformed you are because of your beliefs about managing finances, abortion, or your marriage, then you ARE being distracted! (Side note: In another post, I will go through each of those distractions I’ve listed and give examples on how I’ve overcome some of them in my own life because if I don’t, then I’m just another personal development post without the follow-through!)

Those words can really start to dig at you and pierce you and can totally distract you from a simple task of getting on your treadmill. This treadmill that will allow you to accomplish your goal of losing weight. This goal of losing weight so that you can be the mom who plays with her kids, scores better on her cholesterol test and can go up a flight of stairs without being embarrassed at how heavy you are breathing. How many of you feel like exercising after you’ve been scolded or belittled by some stupid troll on the internet? Not me. Either I start to question my beliefs or I get so angry because of someone who I may not even know. And, don’t tell me: “Julie, those are just words. Ignore them.” I’m sorry, it doesn’t work for me. I replay those things over and over until they…devour me.

Delete. Block. Mute. Shut It Off.

Delete these things from your life. Do you know how many people I’ve blocked on social media? People I know and who are in my community and then people I don’t know at all. It’s not that I don’t care about them as human beings, it’s that I’m choosing to protect myself. I’ve lived too many years in a state of distraction. Block them so you can’t read the idiotic words they choose to write about other people – those words that fester in your mind for hours, days and weeks. Mute them in conversations. Or, take your social media off your phone. Just access it from your home computer. Let’s be real. We lived without Facebook over 15 years ago. You can go 5 days without looking at it. “But, it’s my job…” Yup, been there too. If that is the case, just do your job. You don’t have to go down the rabbit hole to do your job. You don’t have to read negative comments about something you support and love to do your job. Shut off the distraction.

Same with Netflix, Amazon Prime and TV. Are you getting almost addicted to shows? Do you watch 2, 3, 4 each night? That’s about 3 hours! What if you just stopped watching them? What would happen? The show would continue and you’d actually get something done. There is nothing about the shows that make you a better person. Nothing. If it didn’t exist, would you know any different? Let’s say you spent 2 hours working on your book or 1 hour working out each night instead of watching TV. In one “work” week, you’d have 5-10 HOURS under your belt. I think that is way better than being a sitting target for that lion who is waiting to eat you alive.

I believe in Heaven and Hell. I believe they are real places and the only way I’m going to Heaven is to believe in Jesus. Because of this, I know I have an enemy. And that enemy is the devil. And you better believe that I believe that he and his minions are prowling around waiting for every chance they can get to bring me down. How do I know this? Because it’s happened. I’ve been thrown off-track for years, I’ve invited that list of not-so-obvious distractions to live with me in my home and get comfortable with my family.

Going back to 1 Peter 5:8, the Bible doesn’t use the word weasel or even tiger. The Bible uses the word LION. Think of that power! Those claws, teeth, brute strength. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion…” Looking for what?? Someone to bat around? Someone to chase? Someone to trip? Someone to scratch? No. Someone to DEVOUR.

de·vour
/dəˈvou(ə)r/ verb

1. eat (food or prey) hungrily or quickly.

2. (of fire or a similar force) destroy completely.

3. read quickly and eagerly.

Dictionary.com

If we are not alert and of sober mind, we are vulnerable to distractions. Those distractions get us totally off course, off track and depending on the distraction, it can take YEARS out of your life, keeping you stuck in that place. The place where you wake up, drink the same coffee and complete your day in the same way as you did yesterday. Letting yourself get distracted by behaviors that make us, oddly enough, feel comfortable, normal, and steadied.

In my version of the Sally Struthers commercial, we would begin the same way (with an updated hairdo and slightly edgier power suit and definitely lose the glamour shots makeup look).

Do you want to make more money? Sure. We all do.

Just call this 1-800 number and we’ll hang up on you. Because right now, we’re going to list all of the things you need to stop doing. Right now, you need to stand up and start actually working on yourself. You need to take action Because you are in control of who you get to become.

Get alert and get sober.

You can read all the self-help books and personal development books that you can afford! But, if you aren’t keeping yourself alert and sober, you will fail. If you aren’t actually completing the actions, tasks, mental preparation it takes to get yourself to the promised goal of your current personal development program…you will fail. I’ve failed. I’ve read and read and then each night watched episodes of The Real Housewives, gone down the rabbit hole that is Facebook for hours at a time. Can you fit those things into your life? Of course! But, don’t let them be at the expense of where you want to be in a year. Stop the distractions. You DO have that power.

Julie N. Baker, May 2019

Perseverance

Always Something

Over the last week, we’ve been in the midst of something… challenging.  Our lovely home which is quite old (built in 1883) has been rebelling.  We had family in town for the weekend which more than douimg_2467bled the occupants of our Queen Anne style home.  Sadly our sewer system was not up to the challenge.  Shortly after the departure of our family, Julie says “do you smell something?”  We had just come back into the house from the front porch.  Our home is two floors plus an unfinished basement, the latter isn’t exactly a place you want to spend any more time then it takes to put clothes in the wash or move them to the dryer.

We made our way to the back of the house where the stairs to the basement are located.  Down we go.  We follow our noses into the laundry room, which happens to tie into the utility room where a sewer line penetrates the concrete slab and travels under the house to the main sewer line in the street.  Between these two rooms, there is a gap of maybe an inch and a half between two concrete slabs.  Gurgling up between these two slabs is the most putrid substance I’ve had the displeasure of detecting with my not overly sensitive nose.  Raw sewage.

I spend the next hour cleaning up the mess, bleaching, and otherwise trying to return the basement to working order.  Monday I shall call the plumber.

Monday sees the plumber come to our house.  They try in vain to snake the line 3 different times, each time the snake gets stuck and they just barely are able to recover it.  Let inform me that we’ll most likely need to have the sewer line to the street replaced.  Great.

We deal with a non-functioning sewer system(limping by) for the next couple days as the earliest they can start work is Thursday.  Thursday arrives and so do the jackhammers as they begin to break up the concrete floor in the basement exposing the long since broken clay pipe.Busted_Floor  At this point we need to be out of the house as we have no functioning drainage system, so we check ourselves into a local hotel.  We’re told that they are going to try to have us functional by the end of the day Friday.  Friday comes and goes, no working plumbing.  The issue is that the sewer line they had thought ran under the basement and out from under the front of the house to the street actually runs out the side of the house, under the very substantial driveway and then turns and runs right down the middle of the driveway.

At this point, they decide it’s easier and therefore cheaper to cut straight across the driveway and connect to the sewer line running down the middle of the side street. Road_Closed Sorry neighbors for the closed road!

We spend the weekend in the hotel and try to make the best of it.  Cramming our lives into one room while work pauses for the weekend.

Work resumes Monday morning with the driveway severed from the garage and a trench carved into the yard leading to the street which also now has a swath of asphalt taken from it.

Potty Time

By this time they’re able to give us one “working” bathroom.  I won’t go into all the gory details but we’re using the term working here pretty loosely.  The second bathroom is out of commision the kitchen sink and dishwasher are questionable as is the clothes washer.  And, lest we forget the house still smells like a weird mixture of dirt, musty basement, and, you guessed it… poo.

As it stands a week and a half after work started we’re still not fixed.  We hope to have work complete middle of the week.  Still to be done is the plumbing in the house, pouring the concrete back to fix our driveway and then pouring the concrete to fill the holes in our basement.

The Final Flush

I’ve had time to ponder our situation over the last few days, the frustration of it all.  The Inconvenience.  The smell.  The cost.  However, in the midst of all this, I’m reminded of how very fortunate we are.  If not for the love and support of our family and friends I don’t know where we would be in all of this.  Just when we think we can’t deal with one more thing you tap into that hidden reserve of energy to help you move forward.  When you’re at your limit and have had a terrible day, that one well-placed poo joke gives you a laugh and changes the trajectory of your attitude.  Most importantly our faith in the Lord keeps it all in perspective.  I know that as we hold fast and persevere we build endurance and strength that we’ll most assuredly need for the next trial.  There hasn’t been a hard day that’s been able to stop us yet.  I encourage you to stop and take a moment to consider all the things that you’ve endured and overcome.  What did you learn from those times?  How did it prepare you for the things you encountered in the future?  We may not be able to foresee the next plumbing disaster, but we can control our attitudes and that counts for a lot.

 

Saying Thank You

If you were a bride, you’ll remember your bridal shower. Everyone sits in a circle and your bridesmaid makes a “bouquet” out of a paper plate and all the ribbons.  And another bridesmaid writes down everything you received with the name of who gifted the much-needed crystal vase from your non-essential item registry (seriously, who actually uses their china more than once a year?).  And, please tell me you also had the more seasoned attendee who announced how many children you would have each time you snapped apart a ribbon.

The more you read about the life of Jim and Julie, you’ll learn that our marriage started out really rocky.  So, while most are blissfully in love with stressors being which flowers to choose as centerpieces, our troubles were a bit more heightened.  Nevertheless, I remember thinking that I had to get all of my thank you notes done after my shower.  To be honest, I don’t even remember if I finished all of them.  And I definitely didn’t do them within 3 months or any reasonable time frame.  I also remember writing thank you notes after my wedding, but I also remember agonizing over 1) what to write and how much to write to fill up the entire card 2) when to send them and 3) the money to pay for stamps.  I also remember thinking…what if I just don’t send them? Eek.

Ten years later, I can write an expertly crafted thank you note – handwritten, typed, and I could probably send it in smoke signals if I tried.

I’ll never forget my Nana (strong-willed Southern woman) telling me that if someone doesn’t send her a thank you note within two weeks of her giving a gift, then that person shouldn’t even bother sending one!

But, think about it!  Think about the last gift you gave to another adult.  You most likely gave the gift a good bit of thought.  With minimalism and the idea of less is more hitting homes, the last gift you want to give if something that will end up in their junk drawer or at the local thrift shop faster than two-day Amazon shipping. I don’t go all crazy on gifts, but I do spend a little more time than when I say, in college, gave a friend some Lip Smackers and Walmart jewelry (sorry friends!).  I spend time thinking about the recipient and choose something that fits their lifestyle and matches up with their interests.

I think of thank you notes as mini bridges for the overall relationship – anchors that connect you to this person throughout your life.  If you want your relationships to grow, then give them anchor points or meaningful connections that take little time and effort, but really mean a lot to the recipient.

In my profession, I send a lot of thank you notes.  And, I write them not only when my organization has received something of value, but I write when I feel I need to make a connection to show that this relationship is reciprocal. You can show your appreciation at work with co-workers and clients, with your family, close friends, and even acquaintances.

How to write a thank you note:

  • The note: I tend to choose thank you notes that reflect my style. I love simple elegance and also the color combination of black and white. I tend to buy Hallmark thank you cards and notes because I just like seeing the word Hallmark on my card and envelope – to me it means that I spent time choosing my note wisely.  Who knows if the recipient will even notice this!
  • The format and writing: You learned how to write a letter at school – you know how to do this. You’ll need the date (always date your notes!), a salutation,  a body, and a closing with signature.  The hardest part is the body.  But, the following are sure-fire ways I write winning and meaningful thank you notes:
    • Start with something that ties you to this person. Did you see them recently? Are they experiencing a heat wave in the ‘neck of the woods? Start your note off with a connection right away.
    • Thank them for precisely what they gave you – could be tangible or intangible
    • Write a sentence about how you’re using or enjoying what they gave you.
    • Close out your letter and sign it.  Use your full name if you don’t know the person well and just your first name if you have a close relationship.

I’ve included some samples below.

Pro Tips:

  1. Get your thank yous out the door within two weeks.  I have found that thank yous are best received while the person still remembers the feeling of giving you the gift.
  2. Choose a variety of note styles.  I prefer blank notes with a Thank You on the front.  I like to craft my messages and these aren’t anniversary cards to your significant other! I am a fan of these and these!
  3. Choose a few different sizes.  If you are sending thank yous to people who you don’t know well, don’t panic about filling up ALL the space!  Choose small note cards like these that encourage short, simple notes – these are perfect! If you know the person well, choose a larger format so that you can write more about your tie with them or expand on what this gift means to you.
  4. Not every gift needs a thank you note, in my opinion.  Did your two-year-old receive the latest Power Ranger or a Dora coloring book? Great! Thank the giver in person at the party.  I don’t think that children’s birthday gifts require a thank you note.
  5. Sometimes, a phone call is best.  If you haven’t spoken to the giver for a while, maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and verbalize your thank you.  And, in the case that you have waited a month or longer to send a note, a phone call may just get you out of that hot water with your Southern Nana!
  6. Don’t send a thank you note via email.  A handwritten note is like magic! An email is commonplace and while it works for a lot of relationship exchanges, a thank you note is not one of them.  You can write an email as a follow-up, but it speaks volumes when you also handwrite a note.
  7. Easy on the exclamations (!!!!!), especially in a business setting.  Use them sparingly and only if you think the other person would appreciate a little excitement!

Examples: (all handwritten on cards like these)

In response to your husband’s Aunt giving you a housewarming gift (don’t forget the date and bonus points if you include a printed photo of the gift in use):

Mya,

I hope you are enjoying your summer so far – we hope to see you soon! Your package arrived in the mail today – what a beautiful tea kettle and matching teacups. They are perfect in our new kitchen and I’m enjoying a cup of tea with honey IMG-4972 (1)as I write this.  You are so special to us and we thank you for thinking of us during our move.

Love you, Jim, Julie & Emily

In response to a client trusting you with their business (don’t forget the date):

Dear Patricia,

It was a pleasure to meet with you and Ken last week.  Our team cannot wait to start working with you and exploring ways to grow your customer base. Will be in touch about our next steps, but I wanted to reach out to share my enthusiasm and sincere appreciation.  Thank you again for sharing your business with XGN Business Group.

Sincerely, Julie

In response to your daughter’s grandparents who watched her for a week (pictured in the image for this blog):

Gigi and Papa,

You are such wonderful grandparents to Emily! Thank you so much for watching her last week. She really enjoyed her time with you – she will remember this forever. Love you both!

Love, Julie

In response to a co-worker who gave you a bottle of wine after you both just finished a major event…get that co-worker their own bottle of wine because they deserve it!

—Julie—

P.S. I’m currently using these as my thank you cards!  They are so ME and are so classy!