Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Last week, during our Maxwell Leadership Virtual Summit, my very first lesson was on leading during a crisis. If you haven’t seen the video, I want to recommend you set aside some time and watch it on YouTube. It’s full of practical teaching designed to help you navigate our current situation. This week’s blog post is based on some of that teaching.


My friends, I hope you’re doing well. We’re two weeks into our national “social distancing” practice, and we’ve recently learned that the journey isn’t over. President Trump has extended the order to keep social distancing measures in place through the end of April in the hopes that our collective restraint and discipline will help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Things have changed for all of us, and we’re entering into a new normal—a day-to-day life that most of us have never seen before. We’re working and schooling from home, minimizing our trips out of the house, trying to figure out what our next steps will be. These are unprecedented times.

These are not times without hope, however.

We have an opportunity before us to reinvent and recharge ourselves, our families, our schools, and our businesses. We have the chance to make a little lemonade out of the lemons that we’ve been handed.

We just have to stay focused on the opportunity.

Of course, this is a time of great distraction. Maybe you’re at home with the kids, and you’re doing double-duty as both employee and teacher. Maybe you’ve experienced some cutbacks at work and are trying to figure out what’s next for you financially. Maybe you find yourself glued to social media or the news because you don’t want to miss the next big announcement. There are as many distractions as we allow our minds to discover, which is one of the key pain points during a crisis.

So how do we overcome distraction? With traction!

Traction is the opposite of distraction; traction means “to draw or pull,” while distraction means “to draw or pull away.” We find traction when we do things that draw toward us what we want in life and we find distraction when we do things that pull us away from what we want in life.

There are three main ways that distraction creeps into our lives:

  1. Mind Wandering – we lack mental focus and find ourselves drifting from thought to thought. One of the easiest mental rabbit trails we go down is wondering what might happen instead of paying attention to what is happening. We begin to imagine scenarios that have little foundation in reality.

  2. Negative Thinking – this is being preoccupied with everything that could go wrong. We begin to see the worst in every situation, choosing to focus on problems rather than opportunities. This kind of thinking creeps into our relationships and disconnects us from others, which only fuels further negative thinking.

  3. Uncertainty Anxiety – because we don’t know what will happen next, the burden of not knowing becomes an ever-present anxiety. We live in fear of the “other shoe” dropping, the notion that very worst is yet to come. If our current crisis has revealed anything about us, it’s our illusion that we can control everything.

Fortunately, there’s a traction for each of those distractions!

Here are three things you can do today to defeat distraction and move forward towards the life you want:

  1. Set a Focus – some productivity experts have suggested treating your days at home no differently than your days at work, at least from a priority perspective. You need to be intentional about what you want to accomplish each day, which means you need to set a focus for each day. It may even mean setting a focus for different times of the day—you might need to focus on taking care of the kids early, then focus on work during the middle of the day, and then refocus on the family during the evening. Do whatever will help you best but stay focused on productive things.

  2. Stay Positive – how we think determines what we see and do, so we need to be very intentional about staying positive during this time. That will likely require a change to your information habits—staying off social media during the day or limiting your news intake to the morning or evening—but it will also require talking to yourself when your thoughts turn negative. You will need to challenge the negativity by calling out the positive things that are also evident. Turning your thoughts to what’s good will help you reframe your thinking overall.

  3. Rest on Your Certainties – we may not know what’s going to happen from day to day, but there are things we do know, certainties that we must not lose sight of in our lives. I am certain that Margaret loves me; I am certain that leaders must offer hope in these times; I am certain that this too will pass; and as a person of faith, I am certain that there is nothing going on in life right now that is beyond God. Wherever you have certainties in your life, rest on those, because they hold firm even in chaotic times.

My friends, better days are ahead of us—we just have to hold on to hope and do our part to usher them in. I hope that you are doing everything in your power to honor the social distancing requirements where you live, and that you take seriously how your behavior impacts your community.

If you find your strength waning, I want to offer you one last bit of hope: for the next several weeks, I’m bringing you daily Strength Statements to help lift your spirits and turn your eyes towards hope.

You can find each day’s video here, or you can get them delivered to your inbox by subscribing to Minute with Maxwell. Each video is a brief, power-packed start to your day, and it’s my privilege to bring them to you during this challenging time.

Remember—stay focused, stay positive, and rest on your certainties. That will give you the traction you need to defeat the distractions around you.

15 Comments

  1. Ravi on April 1, 2020 at 7:30 am

    Vary useful and timely message . Thanks John

  2. Josephine on April 1, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Insightful piece! Set a focus. Stay positive. Rest on your certainties!

  3. I am going to pass this onto my students at Purdue. Purdue closed down face to face classes for the most part – converting courses to an online format . Many students elected not to return after Spring break and decided to participate in online courses from home. Those on campus are also doing online courses.
    So the timing of your suggestions is perfect! Thank you. Steve L.

  4. Maxwell on April 1, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you, John for let us having hope and faith during this time of crisis. I’m much impressed about the last three important topics;
    Set a focus
    Stay positive
    Rest on your certainties.

  5. Dan Williams on April 1, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you John. Very insightful. This is useful information. Thank you John

  6. Tyrone Jones on April 1, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you for this post. I especially appreciate that you have an action step for each type of distraction. I’m sharing this with my 3 children, 2 of whom have had their college careers disrupted and 1 who has had her senior year of high school all but cancelled. I think these straightforward steps will help us all navigate the loop we’ve been thrown for.

  7. Hany on April 2, 2020 at 4:22 am

    You always great John I am going to pass that to my team blessing upon you

  8. Richard on April 2, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Steve Leeker, I’m Richard, I’m a pre-college student. Currently, I run UP ENGLISH, which is a company that gets low-income students to quality English learning Education, exposing them to academic and professional endeavors.
    I would like to talk to you, can you please send me an email or you can leave your email here then I can contact you.

    Thank you.

  9. […] Read full Article Source link […]

  10. Jonathan Milam on April 16, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    This is very well broken down and laid out, John. I think we are more distracted now than we have ever been but how can we not be? There are a plethora of channels that are in our faces everyday feeding us with messages of fear and anxiety. Thank you for sharing such useful tools to fight against this issue. Best, Jonathan

  11. Josiah Ott on April 25, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    This was very helpful and insightful! I found the explanation of traction versus distraction very helpful, as I had never considered the relationship between them before. Traction is doing things that draw you closer to your plan and desire for life, or your purpose. What a great thought! It reminds me of something I was recently reading in a book called Teams that Thrive by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird. This book specifically targets church leaders, and they make the challenge that teams have to focus on their purpose as it is the invisible leader of the team (p. 85). The comments in this article regarding traction reminded me of this and the importance for all of us to have a purpose, or plan that we are aiming towards. All of your three points here are so good, but I especially like the second point on staying positive.I believe is so important during this time as there are so many things in the world that can bring us down. It’s a great reminder to think on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Phil. 4:8). Thank you for your work and dedication to serving leaders Dr. Maxwell!

  12. MZ Magagula on May 6, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Thank you so much for continuously adding value to us during this time.
    Indeed the best is yet to come, and we are not only going (distraction) through this space we are in globally but are intentionally growing(traction) through it.

  13. Raquel Esther on May 13, 2020 at 9:31 am

    I will add stay positive, with the eyes in Jesus, as the only who can and want help us in this crisis.

  14. Joseph Deraney on May 22, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    Such a great article. Much needed in this time. I will be limiting social media use to the evening.

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