Keeping the main thing the main thing.


“How do I keep my focus on what’s most important?”

“I want to get out of default mode where all I think about is what I have to do/study/plan to make sure I’m really making the most of my time here. College is so hectic and demanding of your attention and time that it’s easy to forget about the world around you and see the big picture.”

I totally get it.  Your “TO DO” list is 10 miles long.  You have papers, group projects, reading, clubs and organizations, leadership roles, internships, jobs, and more.  Not to mention you have friends you want to spend time with, maybe even a boyfriend you’d like to see, and let’s not forget taking care of yourself physically- eating, sleeping, working out.

It’s a miracle we get all of this done in a day!  But how do we keep our focus on what’s important?  Or–as some of my friends say–keeping the main thing the main thing.

1. You have to identify what’s the most important thing. So, what’s your main thing?

It doesn’t have to be ONE.  For me it’s my walk with Jesus and my relationships.  Relationships for me is a deep and wide category.  My family, friends, boyfriend, college students, high school students, coworkers… they all go in there.

I also don’t think you can have more than 3 main things.  Frankly, 2 is enough for me.  Whether it’s 1 or 3, you have to have the “main thing” easily identifiable.  Otherwise, you are are going to drown in the details while endlessly search for meaning.  And that’s just a horrible way to live.

2. You have to let go.

“One of my core fears is that someone would think I can’t handle as much as the next person. It’s fundamental to my understanding of myself for me to be the strong one, the capable one, the busy one, the one who can bail you out, not make a fuss, bring a meal, add a few more things to the list.” – Shauna Niequist. “Bittersweet.”

AMEN SHAUNA.  This is a reoccurring battle for me. I want to be superwoman and I want everyone to know it.  But the truth is, I have limits.  We all do and, frankly, I just can’t do everything.  In the same chapter of Bittersweet, Shauna repeats advice she received from a wise friend:

“And this is what Denise told me: she said it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about. ”- Shauna Niequist. “Bittersweet.”

So what are you going to give up?  What are you going to cut out of your list in order to keep the main thing the main things?  I’m honestly still trying to figure this one out.

3. And then you have to practice focusing on the main thing. Over and over.

So, this is the “easier said than done” part.  You have to start recognizing when you’re letting your to-do list dictate your life, your focus your priorities and you have to be intentional about realigning yourself.  When my to-do list gets overwhelming, I’ve trained myself to stop, take a moment , and ask myself “where is Jesus and where are my relationships in this?”  Again, I know what my main thing is.  It’s also never hard to find the main thing in my to-do list.  And then, when I reorient myself on the main thing, the details seem less overwhelming and more manageable.  And it’s easier to find joy in them.

Below is an entry from Jesus Calling that I keep taped to my desk.  I hope it helps you as you practice keeping the main thing the main thing!