The Art of Intelligent Neglect

The Art of Intelligent Neglect

By Tope Popoola


All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient… 1 Corinthians 10:23a …Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it. 1 Kings 20:39-40

A clearly defined vision is the compass that guides you to the desired destination. Vision is constant even when the strategy changes. The best of strategies only serve vision. The star that appeared to the wise men in Matthew 2 was designed to lead them to where Jesus was born. They were on track until they decided to veer off into the palace of King Herod for a courtesy call. And that momentary distraction proved very costly and brought national grief and the decimation of an entire generation of male children.

Intelligent neglect is about deliberately eliminating from your schedule, activities that do not contribute in any significant way to getting you to the defined destination.

Great footballers understand that you don’t win a match by focusing on the scoreboard. You win by focusing your shots and your eyes on the goalpost. The scoreboard has nothing to do with the outcome of the game.On the other hand, it is what happens between the ball and the goalpost that is reflected on the scoreboard.Goals affect the scoreboard, not vice versa.

Many destinies are buried in the graveyard of broken focus. Guard your focus jealously. On an average day, many activities compete for your attention. Some of them will appear urgent. But urgent doesn’t mean expedient. Only a life of priorities will help you determine which is which. Greatness is not only determined by what is done but also by what is deliberately left undone.

Distractions often come in attractive packages. Many young men in Joseph’s shoes would have jumped at the opportunity of an unholy romp in Mrs. Portiphar’s bed when she so willingly offered it. But not Joseph. By keeping his dream in view, he recognised the offer for what it was; attractive yet distractive!

Once upon a time, the tortoise was the butt of every animal’s jokes because of its slow pace. The dog’s jokes were particularly derisive and deliberately demeaning. Deciding that he would not take it anymore, the tortoise challenged the dog to a race. ‘What cheek!’, thought the dog as he initially shrugged off such possibility as the ranting of a demented fool. With the prize and the course determined and believing it had nothing to lose, the dog agreed.

On the eve of the race, the tortoise had strategically positioned some juicy bones at select locations on the route. He was careful enough to place the juiciest of them all a few meters before the finish line. Came the day of the race and all the animals had gathered to see the strange spectacle of how literally speaking, the tail was going to wag the dog! The excitement was fever-pitch. The dog took off full throttle while the crowd roared as the tortoise seemed to barely move. He simply maintained a steady pace.

A few meters into the race, the dog smelt something very attractive. He paused and looked behind him. The tortoise was not even within view yet. ‘Well’, he reasoned, ‘a little refreshment would not be out of place.’ So he stopped to eat. When he looked up and saw that the tortoise was close, he took off again at full speed. After about another 300 meters, he perceived the smell again. Looking back and not seeing the tortoise, he said to himself; ‘This was never a contest anyway, just fun!’ So he stopped and ate.

The routine continued until he got to the final bone which had been specially garnished and strategically positioned within view of the finish line. The aroma was overpowering. Since the end was only one trot away, a bite wouldn’t hurt. Halfway through the meal, he was so full, he could hardly move. Convinced that a little snooze would not be out of place, he promptly fell asleep and did not notice the tortoise stroll by to finish the race. The thunderous applause of an excited and surprised crowd roused the dog from its prize-snatching slumber! He learnt the lesson.

Say ‘No’ to non-essentials so you can say ‘Yes’ to the essentials. Be comfortable with the fact that you cannot solve everyone’s problem, you cannot go everywhere, you do not know all things and you cannot do all things!

If you could, you would be a contender for the position of God! He is the only one who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Believe me. He is better at it than anyone else!

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