Evening sun setting view of still lake in Florida from the deck of a pontoon boat.

Distraction and Contentment

What You Pursue Can Change Your Life

What the heck, are you serious? These guys backed their car into the garage door? I don’t have time to fix this, I have to get to work. Then we have that school thing this evening at 7:00. I don’t know how I’m going to find the time to fix the door. Might as well call someone to repair it and just pay for it. The distraction of these thoughts continued along these lines as I tried to make it through my work day. Contentment and being productive were far from present for the day to say the least.

In Joyce Meyer’s book, Battlefield of the Mind, she challenges the reader to “think about what you are thinking about”. This was the main theme I took away and is something I strive to revisit more frequently the older I get. When I’m irritated about something and the distractions won’t go away, I’ll intentionally ask myself a few questions. What are you so pissed off about? Why does this thing (or person, or situation) bother me? My favorite go-to question: Will it really matter a year from now? The answer is usually “no”. I choose to let the distraction go and contentment returns.

Most times the question and answer sessions reveal trivial, petty differences. In those cases, drop it, move on with a shrug of the shoulders and a contented smile! Occasionally it’s something a little more significant, requiring a bit of effort to resolve. I’m gradually training myself to make a mental note to clear it up at the next opportunity and move on.

A dream is only a dream until your write it down. Then it becomes a GOAL! -Dwight Thomas

But let’s be real about this. There are significant issues or desired outcomes where a great deal of work needs to be done. My method has been to document the distraction in the form of a goal and put together a plan to pursue contentment. Write things down in a cellphone note, in your personal journal, or another appropriate place. In other words, be intentional about storing the distraction somewhere beside the forefront of your mind. Doing so has been quite liberating for me. The issue doesn’t magically go away, however, it’s documented in a tangible place to be dealt with in due time, instead of continuously distracting our thoughts and feelings.

Time to Get Squared Away, Shipmate

When I left active duty, I had a hard time slowing the ship down during my ongoing transition to the speed of civilian life. I was constantly searching for fulfillment, previously experienced frequently when things were moving at full speed in military life. As part of this search I pursued side hustles, rental homes, and a small business. All of which resulted in a large debt load. Eventually, I realized how these distractions resulted in a lack of meaningful time spent with my Family and close friends. I was voluntarily distracting myself from the important people in my life. It also became apparent these enterprises kept me filled with anxiety most of the time.

I had to “sailor up” and admit my challenges were the direct result of my own choices. I realized my path was heading in an undesirable direction. Long discussions took place and on New Year’s Day it was on. I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (for the third time) in a single day. The next day we compiled a list of all our personal and business debts to the penny in a spreadsheet. The final number went on a white board next to the desk, instead of hanging out in the form of worry and anxiety at the forefront of my mind.

Contentment Begins TODAY

On the same date I had started boot camp several years earlier, we began executing our plan to sell the small business and one rental house. We decided later the second rental home was also a significant distraction in our lives, and away it went. We’ve attacked our primary home loan with a vengeance the entire time as well. We plan to be 100% debt free by 24 months into our journey. Our number at the bottom of the spreadsheet is projected to be $0.00.

The elimination of these financial distractions in our lives has resulted in unforeseen benefits to our quality of life as well. As a result of the changes we’ve pursued, I’ve taken a renewed focus toward our Family and hobbies I enjoy. The Jeep has received some love and we take rides more often than we ever have. We’ve built a chicken coop housing five tenants and began putting out a garden again. I’ve been much more focused on our time together because my mind is no longer maintaining these distractions.

Distraction to Contentment- One Goal, One Step At A Time

The distraction in this case was focused on the personal finance side. I’ve used a goal setting approach to tackle many situations over the years with great success. The key is thinking about what we’re thinking about, then setting goals as a tool to achieve contentment. Which takes it off the forefront of our thoughts, and places it somewhere tangible to be dealt with accordingly.

The pursuit of a cheerful heart is a journey I’m glad to take. It’s the never ending pursuit of a life well lived that matters most, not the excessive accumulation of “things”. The further along we go, the more I’ve found I’m much more content with this simpler way of living.

What distraction do you have in your life that could be reduced or eliminated in pursuit of your own contentment? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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