“The mountains are calling and I must go,” wrote John Muir in a letter to his sister.

Now, good old John Muir didn’t say, “The mountains are calling, but I just have to finish this TV marathon of ‘Frasier’ first.”


He clearly focused his priorities to fulfill his purpose, to do what he needed to follow his joy. He certainly wasn’t going to let any minor distractions clutter up his path.

The seductive power of distraction: I’ve been combating a tendency toward distraction lately, trying to manage my online presence. “Hey, people,  I’m over here,” while still trying to live a balanced life — a life that lets me walk through the woods, prepare nutritious meals, talk with, hug and snuggle those I love, and get in a bit of work and very important play every day.

That can be a pretty tall order when confronted with the “terrible twins” of distraction:

Mindless distraction: What about that last half hour you spent obsessively checking for Facebook notifications? It’s so easy to get lost in your devices, to push on past your stopping point for “just 15 more minutes.” (Oh, really?)

Overcommitted distraction:  Maybe you’ve said yes (and yes and yes) once again to helping out with that charity function, taking over that field trip, or, oh, yeah, laboring at home on that office project.

Whatever it is, you are petrified to say “No,” thus disappointing someone or being seen as a “bad” person. So you whip up your compromise “meal-in-a-box” for the kids and rush out the door to make your commitment.

However you used it, that collection of seconds, minutes and hours was unique. It was yours to spend and you will never get it back.

Did you use it on things important to you? Will you look back from your deathbed and see that as time well spent?

The power of clarification: Ask yourself these questions:

What is important to you? For me, time in nature is essential for my health.

What do you need to be healthy and happy? Family time, love, travel, financial security, your dream job, physical health?

How many of your daily activities help support the things most important to you?

You say you’ve been too busy to even set goals? Hmmmm. Sounds like a clear case of distraction.

Make a list — and check it twice.

Sit yourself down; no distractions; no leaping up to wash the dishes.

This is important: Really take the time you need. Write up a list of your mindless activities and (over)commitments, from checking your Facebook, to always saying “yes” to every charity function and event that comes your way. How many of these activities contribute to your goals and well-being?

Now that you’re clear on your priorities, which activities need a strict cutoff time? Which should be cut completely? Be ruthless.

If you can, consider removing the distraction completely. Take your apps off of cellular data access. You can’t use them except on wifi. Get rid of the video games; get rid of your cable subscription and your mindless TV watching. Substitute reading a good book or playing outside with your kids.

So, next time you find yourself mindlessly hitting the refresh button on that Instagram feed to check how many likes you got this minute, take a deep breath, put down the phone and pick up your list of goals.

Next time someone asks you to commit to something, realize that they are asking you to sacrifice a part of your life to their goal. How important is it to you? Are you willing to pass up chunks of yours and your loved ones’ lives to be a martyr to this particular cause?