If you are anything like me, the end of a big season in life can often come to a crawl.
Everything else but work seems to capture my attention right now and I find myself going to a movie with a group of friends at the end of the week, guilt eating me alive as I review the amount of work that I’ve completed in the last several days. Now more than ever it feels as though my motivation is in the negative percentile. I am constantly challenged with the phrases, “finish strong!” “you got this!” or “just do it.” All of which are statements that make me sick to my stomach reminding me how little I care about my attitude while finishing, considering my only concern is making it. Although the end of a season in life is the time that I do not want to hear common sense words of encouragement concerning my ability to keep going, I also know that now is probably the best time for me to listen.
Proverbs 4:20-22 reads, “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.” In her book, Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health, Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communications pathologist and audiologist, discusses the importance of stewarding our brains and ultimately our bodies. She relies heavily upon Proverbs 4:20-22 as the core of her argument in which Christians are commissioned to focus their full attention upon the Word of God. Dr. Leaf also provides an in-depth analysis of 21st-century culture and the direction in which our attentions are headed.
Dr Leaf is a strong believer in God as Creator, creating the human brain strictly for sound thinking. She believes that everything else, fear, stress, confusion, etc. are not of God. She also argues that people are not victims of their biology but are rather given power over their cognition to choose and train their thoughts.
Dr. Leaf’s approach to God, science, and the human brain sounds encouraging until we begin to dig deeper into her analysis of our society today. In one particular chapter, she talks about how multi-tasking is misperceived and is actually worse for your brain and productivity. She reveals how multi-tasking reduces a person’s devoted attention on certain tasks and ultimately compromises his or her quality of attention. Scientifically, “Every rapid, incomplete, and poor quality shift of thought is like making a milkshake with your brain cells and neurochemicals.” In other words, although people may believe that they are being particularly productive, they are in fact producing more stress and confusion and hindering their capacity for productivity.
In moments of stress or chaos, like the end of a semester, nearing holiday season, or other life transitions like buying a house, applying for a job, or starting a family, it is easy for us to be concerned about having everything together and preparing for all of the possible scenarios. Such an approach to life requires individuals to juggle far more than our brains are intended to. Now, it is important to note that I am not arguing against planning or preparing for what lies ahead whether that be a term paper or a mortgage payment. These preparations are necessary and vital to the development of our individual lives. Problems arise when we assume that we are capable of handling far more than we ought to. Dr. Leaf challenges us to focus our attention on God and our responsibilities as individuals and believers without attempting to engage in responsibilities that only clutter our thoughts and attentions. We are then challenged to first and foremost, “pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body” (Proverbs 4:20-22). We must be reminded that our strength lies in Christ and that he beckons us to turn our eyes and ears toward him.
As Dr. Leaf describes, such excessive attention paid to the circumstances around us is quickly cultivating a milkshake society in which our brains are worn down to a limited and scattered capacity. Toward the end of this season in life as I battle incredible bouts of lacking motivation and frustration, I am finding that as long as I take my responsibilities step by step and day by day, keeping my attention toward my Father in heaven, I will finish to my fullest capacity in a healthy state of mind. God has given us our brains for a purpose, both individually and collectively, let’s steward them according to his will.