Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Fathers and Fighting for Focus

Family Forte:  Fathers and Fighting for Focus
By: Topher Wiles

     I admit, I struggle with focus.  No, I’m not talking about the fact that my eyes now need a higher prescription contact lens (these things come with turning 40 right?).  By my focus struggle I’m referring to my difficulty in giving my priorities adequate time and attention.  Too often in life I find myself chasing white rabbits down tiny holes even though I don’t care anything for rabbits and I feel anxiety attacks in tight spaces.  In other words, I have to invest brain power to purposefully redirect my attention to what matters most.  I also know, I’m not alone in this struggle.  

     In a well-written article on I learned that 70% of our workforce feels distracted from their job, thereby reducing productivity and job satisfaction.  If you think it’s just a Millennial or Gen-Z problem, you might be surprised that the same survey of workforce found the younger generations only slightly more distracted at 74%.  What does all that mean?  According to the ancient Greeks, it was the human condition that caused us mere mortals to suffer with focus struggles.  You and I, unlike fabled Zeus and Hermes, are mere mortals and humans in a general struggle with distraction.  I bet Socrates and Aristotle would have struggled too if they had to resist binge-watching “Game of Thrones.” 

Welcome, mere mortal, to the human struggle. 

     Just as Dug the dog got distracted at the thought of a “Squirrel” in Pixar’s Up, so you and I are daily doing battle with forces that distract us from our priorities.  Yet, even mere mortals have weapons we can use as we go on the offensive against the distractions that wage war against us.  While there are many books written on the subject, let me just give you a rare dad moment of triumph to illustrate one weapon in our focus-finding arsenal.

     The moment ended with Micah, my energetic 5 year old, sweating, breathing heavy, and beaming a wide smile for hours.  The moment began on Saturday morning with me in a whirlwind frenzy getting ready for the day’s adventures.  Coaching a double-header basketball game in Cookeville was the start of the day.  I knew I had a meeting with a church member at lunch, a couple items to fix at the house, and a 5pm kayak rolling class back in Cookeville.  Combine that packed schedule with my meeting filled agenda from the previous Tuesday to Friday and I realized I hadn’t spent any time with Micah since Monday.  Yes, in five days, I really only saw my son in passing.

     Let’s get back to that childish beaming wide smile.  The only thing I really did to achieve that sincere broad grin that is blazoned in my memory was simply this.  I put away all distractions.  For one hour on that Saturday, I turned off my cell-phone, agreed with my wife that repairs could wait, then engaged in an hour of jovial focused frolicking with a boy who wanted nothing more from his dad.

     Our time at S. Carter Street Park in Sparta was awesome.  Micah squealed with joy as we played tag all through the play equipment.  He laughed as his small frame ducked under the bridges while my aging body had to run around to catch him.  He giggled as he zipped down slides with me tumbling after him.  He hugged me hard when I finally, sweaty and out of breath, touched his shoulder, yelling, “Tag, you’re it!”  For an hour, we played whatever Micah wanted.  We ran the trails, threw sticks off the bridge into the Calfkiller River, and bounced from one piece of play equipment to the other.  The best moment may have been when Micah kept shouting “Faster Daddy!” as I spun him on the single seat twisty pole in the middle of the playground.   I’m surprised he didn’t lose his lunch from all the laughing, sweating, and spinning he was doing.

     It wasn’t until a little five year old girl named Bella joined us that I realized how powerful a distraction-free focused moment can be.  The playground was full of beautiful fun-loving kids like Bella.  The playground was also surrounded with parents on benches thumbing through their cell phones, distracted from the beautiful opportunity that lay in front of them.  Bella, like other kids, began joining in on my play with Micah.  They jumped in on tag, rushed down slides, and giggled their way to fun with us.  It was when Bella asked me to help her on the zipline-ish apparatus that her dad on the bench finally took notice.  Moments later, my heart was glad as he too had put away his distractions and was frolicking on the playground with his little girl.
     If a satellite could make a heat map based on the glowing hearts of people that day, then S. Carter Street Park would have surely been the brightest spot on the map that hour as several teens, parents, and precious children all joined in the raucous play.  There is power in distraction-free focus on your priorities.

     I admit, I struggle with focus.  No, I’m not talking about the fact that my eyes now need a higher prescription contact lens (these things come with turning 40 right?).  By my focus struggle I’m referring to my difficulty in giving my priorities adequate time and attention.  Yet, I can tell you that even a mere mortal like me can battle back against the distractions of the human experience and enjoy the blessings that a corrected focus brings.  It doesn’t matter your age, gender, race, or ability, you too can start correcting your focus.   Begin with simply identifying where your priorities lie in life.  Then, make a purposeful decision to put away all distractions until your priority is clear in your view … and get ready for smiles that follow.  As always, let us know if we can lovingly help you correct your focus.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at CentralChurch of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,