Avoid the Dangers of Squirrels and Shiny Things

Avoid the Dangers of Squirrels and Shiny Things

When someone in our family is working toward a goal and gets distracted from it, you may hear, “Squirrel!!” or “Hmm, saw something shiny.”   Both of these are code for “I let something else get my attention and distract me from my goal and the task at hand.”

Though shiny things and squirrels may harmlessly distract us from time to time, they become dangerous when they dominate our experience.  If you want to live without regret, it’s essential to get clear about your values, purpose, and vision for life and stay keenly focused on those things.  When that focus is habitually lost, any agenda may become your purpose, anything may become “important” (and usually it’s something urgent), and you can find yourself running aimlessly from one thing to another (depending on how shiny it is).

How can a person avoid the dangers of the life’s distractions that will ultimately lead to regret?

  1. Get clear about your values, purpose, and vision for life.   Write them out and post them where you will be regularly reminded of these important “northstar” guides.
  2. Ruthlessly push aside anything that distracts you from these guides or would not contribute to their fulfillment.  This means you will need to get really good at saying “no.”
  3. Be gracious and compassionate toward yourself when you are occasionally distracted by a “Squirrel!” experience or something shiny.  Do what is necessary to quickly move back to the center of your values, purpose, and vision path.
  4. Enlist a support team to give you an outside perspective on your life and progress.  Just the awareness of support being in place will help with focus.

These four steps are challenging, hard work and essential to living without regret.   Do whatever is necessary for you to get these four items into action or, at the end of life, you may find that you’ve failed to accomplish what you really wanted and mostly followed squirrels and shiny things.


For a step-by-step approach to this challenge, see my book Without Regret: Be more, See more, Achieve more that really matters.

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