Common distractions divert our focus--as simple as petting a kitty or walking a dog—and our attention is completely divested from what we set out to do; happens to everyone in various degrees. Some structured people attempt unsuccessfully to avoid urges, but spontaneous folk just lean back and enjoy the variety. A spontaneous friend says she regards distractions as comic relief. A busy mom recently described dashing into her bedroom to put folded clothes away and two hours later, she was still in there having been spontaneously motivated to straighten a couple drawers and rearrange clothing hanging in her closet. A chore is actually done better and faster when we are motivated, but Structured people decry being nudged away from their scheduled time-line agenda because they have to finish which may involve rushing or borrowing sleep time. The Unstructured or Spontaneous--who work better and faster under time-pressure are unlikely to scold themselves for anything/anyone which demands extra time.
A big boom outside or the smell of smoke are imposed on us demanding immediate attention. But most often, distractions either just happen or we are responsible for purposely creating them to pause our minds or rest our bodies after a tiring day or a tedious project. Others have shared that purposely playing a couple of distracting mind-games before retiring helps them fall asleep more quickly.
Impulses or impressions, a unique style of distractions, are upscaled, bigger—awesome--and at times mystifying in nature, frequently even touted as spiritually-inspiring and a lot more fun to rehearse. Have you received an impression of someone’s name invading your mind out of the blue urging you to make a phone call or visit? Then hearing the recipient declare: “You called or came at just the perfect time” classifying it ’in the spiritual realm’?
Years ago, on my normal morning walking route, responding to a strong impulse, I picked up a newspaper, walked down a neighbor’s driveway and rang the doorbell. I heard a dog bark and some shuffling. The opened door revealed a badly-stooped elderly lady leaning on a walker. “Good morning”, I said and introduced myself as I handed her the paper. “I’m so glad that you brought my paper,” she said. “I’m especially weak this morning and didn’t know how I would manage to walk up the drive to fetch the newspaper. I check the obituaries and enjoy working the puzzles; an important part of my day.” That was confirmation enough for me that I had been chosen for a special mission. I made a mental note to stop in again. Little did I know that three weeks later I’d see her obituary in the paper. Knowing that she felt great relief and a sense of wellbeing from a simple effort was gratifying.
Brother John shared that many times he has experienced feeling a push to stop by a church member’s home only to discover that that particular time was called “a perfect time” for their present needs. John recalled our home-town pastor preaching that those impressions are God-given appointments. That puts a spiritual spin on respecting impulses in order to help and encourage others.
After Jim and I retired, we took a trip hoping to visit former members of Cotton Valley mission in Verhalen, Texas. We were hoping to see the Bradley family who had moved to a new area and a box number was the only address we had. We pulled into a tiny filling station to get help. Jim asked the proprietor if he knew Bob Bradley who was a cotton farmer and now was a peanut farmer. “No”, he said. “Noone around here by that name.” We were disappointed and wondering what our next move would be, when a young man stepped up and said “I overheard your conversation. I know Bob Bradley. I’m Pedro”. We knew right away that this was Bob’s son whom we had known 30 years ago when he was 16. “This is the first time I’ve been in this station for weeks,” Pedro said, wiping his brow, “but for some strange reason I came today. Now I know why.” He was as happy to see us as we were to see him. Pedro brought us up to date on the Bradley family. His mother, Peggy and a younger brother had died. Then, he called his younger brother who lived nearby. “I have a surprise for you.” His brother arrived in about 15 minutes and was in tears to see us after all those years. He told us to follow him that his dad lived several miles from there in a place that’s hard to find. Bob was overjoyed and teary-eyed as we greeted one another. Jim and I marveled about the intriguing impulses that led to the reunion with the Bradleys and had no doubt that the Lord was at work.
Impulses/distractions/impressions/urges are a mixture of both pleasurable entertainment, ministry or perhaps finding something that we thought lost forever. I am reminded about our discussion on serendipity which means as we are working or on our way to some place and some unexpected blessing occurs that we had not even imagined, making our planned activity especially meaningful.
Clearly, there are benefits to following impulses as evidenced by the fact that nearly everyone experiences them occasionally. Our brains have limited ability to focus and we can’t pay attention to everything around us all at once so we must be disciplined to keep our mind centered on our goal. However, many have shared that some distractions actually calm their mind, giving a mental second-wind. Others use mind-less distractions to help them cope with physical, mental and emotional pain.
Classes are a type of helpful distraction verified by the following quotes: “I would be willing to walk if I had a partner,” I’d bike with someone or a group,” or “I can’t get motivated to exercise alone but going to aerobics or aquatics class makes it easier”. Soft-hearted Feelers usually prefer to have another person or two to accompany them. I remember when Jim and I played early-morning golf running into a friend who was walking the course alone. He’s an Introverted Thinking Intuitive in competition with himself, preferring silence and swiftness. So, knowing your personality type explains why you prefer or don’t prefer to do things alone.
Having a measure of control on distractions that inevitably cause us to rush to work, school or put pressure on our children is very wise. But at the same time, we want to respect our impulses and be open to commit to the extra time required if it doesn’t adversely affect another. We want to resist being daredevils in following wild impulses willy nilly, as Mom used to say. Or throwing caution to the wind, was another descriptive phrase I recall from childhood.
Factoring breaks into intense book work, writing, and other mentally and physically exhausting jobs relaxes and energizes the brain. I practice moving away from my computer every 45 minutes to take a brief walk, drink water and enjoy a snack.
Don’t underestimate the depth of importance of unplanned meetings and following impulses. Regimens are essential for our physical well-being, but impressions, urges and impulses are also essential to our emotional and spiritual growth. It is reasonable to conclude that Structured people are wise to be willing to put their schedules aside at times and the Spontaneous crowd to draw a little tighter rein on their discretionary time. But a major lesson is for all of us to be more generous with our time and to always be aware of those we meet or think about and encourage those who are having a difficult or sad time.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:17