From the Desk of Keith Hafner



I was having a discussion a while back with a boy named Owen, who happens to be a very focused 14-year-old. He told me that his priorities were:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Family
  3. Education
  4. Fitness
  5. Social

As you might expect, Owen is a very focused kid! This clear sense of priorities makes it easy for Owen to be successful. When confronted with choices, he already knows what is most important to him. It makes it easy to stay on track. Most people can manage five to seven priorities. A typical priority list for a teenager might look like this:

  1. School work
  2. Family stuff
  3. Social activities
  4. Extra-curricular sports
  5. Leisure

In my own family, our belief is that our spiritual faith in God should be our number-one priority. We have found that if we place this in the #1 position, all of our other priorities fall easily into place.

Julie, age 11, was on the track team, and was a “B” student. With her Mom’s help, Julie made a list of priorities and taped it on the bathroom mirror. It read: Family, school, track, friends. They agreed that four priorities were all that could be focused on. One day, Julie received an invitation to try out for a rollerblading group that met Saturday mornings. Usually on Saturdays Julie would study, then participate in family activities. Julie pleaded with her Mom to be able to join. Mom considered the roller blade invitation. “It could work, if we shifted a few things around,” she thought. Then Mom stopped. “Julie has had trouble with focus before,” she thought. “That was why we made the priority list. If we add rollerblading, not only will it be a current distraction, it will open the door for the next distraction!” Mom said to Julie, “Let’s see if it fits on your Priority List.” As much as Julie wanted to join the rollerblading group, it was clear to her that adding it to her list would only get in the way of her other priorities.

Mom didn’t have to tell Julie what to do. She just guided her into making the right decision. If they had not established a priority list in advance, Julia would have found it difficult to understand her Mom’s position. It’s also important to prepare for obstacles in staying focused. What are the distractions for your child? How can we plan to avoid them? By identifying potential distractions in advance, it makes it easier to deal with them when they occur.