Multitasking is a valuable skill. It helps us in our jobs, in managing a household, and in taking care of loved ones. Being able to do many things at once keeps the wheels of life in motion. However, when it comes to negative emotions, multitasking has the opposite effect. Letting our thoughts bounce between worries, stressors, regrets, and pressures keeps us frozen in place. We find we are so overwhelmed by these emotions that we can’t move forward at all. The wheels will either get stuck in place or run off the road entirely.
So how can we avoid this kind of unhealthy mental multitasking? A fun example I’d like to share is playing Mario Kart with my sons. I should start by confessing that I’m pretty bad at video games. I was amazing at Pac Man, Space Invaders, and Frogger back in the 1980s, but my skills got pretty rusty after that. So I almost never win a race in Mario Kart. In fact, just staying on the track is usually all I can manage.
These video games have a lot of sensory overload. Colorful animated tracks, a fun and lively musical soundtrack, and many characters crowding the track. And there’s a lot you can do on the way. You can pick up items and use them to sabotage other players or give yourself extra powers. You can take shortcuts. You can peek at the screens of the other players to see what they might be planning. Experience has taught me that if I try to do any of those extra tasks, I’m sure to crash, run off the road, or occasionally start driving in the wrong direction without even realizing it! For that reason, my strategy is simple – just drive. I keep my eyes fixed on the road and keep moving around the track, ignoring all the distractions along the way.
During times of stress or emotional overload, this is how I like to keep my eyes fixed on God. I ignore all the distractions around me and just try to focus on God’s presence before me. It doesn’t make the roadblocks or pitfalls go away, but it keeps me moving past them.
Author Steven Covey once wrote: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” For me, the “main thing” is my belief in a loving God who guides my journey every step of the way. Keeping my eyes fixed on that has been my best defense against mental multitasking.
Keeping your eyes fixed on God requires faith—a belief that God has a plan for your life and is working in your life for good. It requires prayer—a relationship with God that is active and alive. And it requires practice. Negative emotions are going to always be there to distract you and pull you further away from God, but with time and practice you can get better at not giving those emotions so much of your attention.
So the next time the race track in your mind is swirling with activity, remember to keep your eyes on the road and just drive.