The Danger of Too Many Pursuits
WE CAN LEARN from Solomon’s costly mistakes. The King of Israel desperately pursued several unrelated goals in a vain attempt to satisfy himself. Ecclesiastes 2:1–11 provides a good example of a leader who didn’t know how to get what he wanted.
By the time Solomon wrote these words, he had reached a high level of success—but still felt empty. He couldn’t put his finger on why fulfillment continued to escape him. Because he lacked focus, he searched high and low, experimenting with all kinds of goals, yet never achieved satisfaction. Sadly, he attempted to solve an inward problem with an outward solution.
The old axiom remains true: If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. This was certainly true of Solomon’s futile attempts to reach his varied goals. (He pursued eight goals in Ecclesiastes 2 alone!) So, what can we learn from this leader about focus?
- He pursued too many things in too short a time.
- He pursued the wrong goals to reach his desired outcome.
- His self-serving goals were all wrong.
- He despaired because he never identified what he really wanted.
A Checklist for Making Decisions
Solomon eventually did narrow his focus, but it took him a lifetime and an entire book to do so (see Eccl. 12). He finally determined what really mattered and what he really wanted.
How about you? Have you figured out your focus? How do you make major decisions? Do you have a way of determining your focus, based on what really matters or what really counts? Consider the following checklist as you make decisions about where to invest your time and energy. When faced with a decision, ask yourself:
- Is this consistent with my priorities?
- Is this within my area of competence?
- Can someone else do it better?
- What do my trusted friends say?
- Do I have the time?
When you say “yes” to an opportunity, get ready to focus. Make to-do lists. Set your priorities. Avoid clutter. Pursue excellence, but avoid perfectionism. Question everything. Work to prevent procrastination. Control interruptions and distractions. Use the calendar. Narrow your wedge—don’t try to do everything. That means you’ll have to say no to some good things. And how can you say no gracefully?
- Say no to the proposition, not to the person.
- Respond in terms that convey the best interests of the person who’s requesting your involvement.
- Defer creatively; suggest an alternative.