Capture Your Purpose. Rediscover Your Joy.
The world has never been more distracting—joy has never been more possible.
You live with a massive amount of distraction:
an endless to-do list
Not to mention the nagging questions of your heart:
Am I making the right decision?
Am I with the right person?
Will my past mistakes keep me from my best future?
Through the pithy and inspiring storytelling that has endeared him to millions, New York Times bestselling author Bob Goff invites you to laugh with more gusto, dream with more confidence,
The world has never been more distracting—joy has never been more possible.
You live with a massive amount of distraction:
- desperate headlines
- smartphone scrolling
- an endless to-do list
Not to mention the nagging questions of your heart:
- Am I making the right decision?
- Am I with the right person?
- Will my past mistakes keep me from my best future?
Through the pithy and inspiring storytelling that has endeared him to millions, New York Times bestselling author Bob Goff invites you to laugh with more gusto, dream with more confidence, and love with more intention in this disarming call to live Undistracted.
Bob’s stories are like the rumble strips on the road that make you suddenly alert to how far you have drifted from your lane. From visiting friends in San Quentin to accidentally getting into a stalker’s car at the airport to establishing Uganda’s first space program, Bob shows you the way back to an audaciously attentive life.
Your undistracted life is an adventure waiting to happen. What stories will you live with undistracted purpose and unstoppable joy?
- Thomas Nelson
- March 2022
- 256 Pages
THE DESTRUCTION OF DISTRACTION
Living on purpose is like a horse wearing blinders.
A couple of years ago I traveled with a few friends to Kurdistan, a place near Iran’s border. We had started a school in the region and were building a hospital and housing for refugees. One morning we got up early and went to the top of a mountain that divided Iraq and Iran. It was a rocky and nondescript area. I remembered from a decade ago when three Americans were taken into custody by Iranian border guards for crossing into Iran while hiking on this mountain. I understood how easy it could be to get confused about what side of a border you were on. A line on a map doesn’t always translate to markings on the ground.
As I walked with my friends, we saw a sign indicating a minefield separating the two countries. This must be the border, I thought. I couldn’t read the language on the sign, but the skull, crossbones, and drawing of an explosion told the story pretty clearly. I decided to throw a couple of rocks into the minefield to see if anything would happen. I know, I know, it probably wasn’t such a great idea, but it was the best bad idea I could come up with at the time. After ten or fifteen minutes I looked over at the landmine sign again and noticed it had been dug up. We weren’t on the perimeter throwing rocks into the minefield; it was just as likely that we were in the minefield.
Be honest. From time to time we all find ourselves in dangerous places when we think we are safe. Distraction is what leads us into this kind of minefield. No matter who you are, somehow or somewhere you will cross over and find yourself in the middle of something you thought you were only adjacent to or on the edge of.
You and I need to recognize the signs that we are becoming distracted. While we might notice our minds wandering, we also need to look at the meandering nature of our activities. Rather than making decisions consistent with who God says we are, we might be acting like the person someone else wants us to be. Perhaps comparison is leading you away from yourself. Maybe it is financial pressures or deep-seated insecurities or past failures that are overly influencing your present decisions. We need to recognize these things in our lives before we can begin the courageous work of moving forward.
Try this: Take some notes for an entire day on how you are spending time between the big projects or commitments in your life. Don’t just write down “I worked on writing my paper today” or “I spent the day preparing for my weekend trip.” Write down all the things that distracted you from writing or preparing that day. Again, be honest: “I went to the post office. I chased the neighbor’s dog out of my yard. I compared my failure with someone else’s success. I ate a Pop-Tart.” Keep it real and admit you had three. Distractions like these make up the minefield you are in right now, not the one you think you are still on the perimeter of. A thousand such unnoticed distractions are getting in the way of your joy and preventing you from living with the kind of focused purpose that will produce the life you are longing for.
Don’t feel bad about all the things that have been grabbing your attention. We all become distracted at some point. It is somehow built into our operating systems. We become distracted from our goals and greater purposes by our temporary circumstances. We can be distracted by each other and even away from God and what we really believe to be true. Sadly, the boatload of goodness we could bring to the world is being scuttled by the many things that carry us so far away from the dock we can no longer make the leap back to shore. We get stuck in the past, worry about the present, or get distracted by the future. We no longer lean into our lives right where we are but instead lean away from them and become individuals who bear little resemblance to the people God intended us to become.
I started a retreat center called The Oaks with some friends in Southern California and was filming a series with a fun and really creative group of people. They explained to me that they had a final closing scene in mind where they would fly a couple of cameras in by drone and capture me holding a bunch of balloons while standing on top of the sixty-foot-tall water tower on the property. All I needed to do was climb to the top. It sounded like another really dangerous idea, so we got started with the preparations right away. The water tower is on a big hill covered in waist-high brush, and we took a small road to the top with dozens of brightly colored helium balloons held out the windows.
When I got to the base of the water tower, I looked up at the dozens of rungs leading upward. This wasn’t going to be easy. The wind was blowing pretty hard, and as I looked up I was completely engrossed in counting the rungs, planning my moves, and thinking about how I could get myself and the balloons up to the top in one piece. If I fell, at least I could land on the balloons, right? I continued to stand at the base of the tower for a few long minutes, looking up and puzzling together all the details I thought would be necessary to navigate my way upward. For no particular reason, I broke from my upward stare, glanced down, and discovered a coiled rattlesnake at my feet. Yikes!
Had I been bitten, this would be a much better story. I wondered whether I was flexible enough to get my ankle up to my face so I could suck the venom out. I’m not going to lie; it would have been quite a power yoga move. I slowly backed away, thankful I wouldn’t have to pull a hamstring to save my own life. This episode got me thinking. Sometimes we are so busy looking up and looking forward trying to figure out the next moves in our lives—or looking backward at all the places we have been—that we don’t look down and figure out where we actually are.
In a sense, we have all been bitten by something just as poisonous as that rattlesnake: the massive number of distractions around us. We live much of our lives struggling for focus, unsure of how to interact with our family or friends. We fret about our popularity and our faith. We question our college majors and career choices. Sometimes married couples wonder about their choices too. Did I pick the right person? Am I the right person? Who changed? Me? You? Both of us? And what do we do now?
No wonder we’re confused. We arrive as babies, placed in the arms of parents who are complete amateurs with no owner’s manual and usually no clue how to raise us. Most of us start broke or broken, and some of us stay that way. Some strike it rich but then accumulate a distorted view of their wealth; still others never find healing in their search for wholeness. Add to this that we’re following a God we can’t see, for a lifetime we can’t measure, to a heaven we can’t comprehend, because of grace we didn’t earn. Again, is it any wonder we’re all a little muddled?
In truth, we are all trying to build the airplane while flying it—figuring it out as we go. This means more off-ramps than on-ramps, more chances for confusion than certainty, and more ambiguity than clarity. In a word, much of life can leave us feeling completely, inextricably, absolutely, and totally distracted. When this happens, one of the first casualties is our joy.
All this vagueness plays right into the hands of darkness too. I am not prone to seeing the devil around every corner, but I am starting to see he has got a clever ploy. I don’t think he wants to destroy us with an obvious, all-out frontal assault. No, I think evil wants to distract us from expressing our gifts and doing what we are meant to do. Darkness is rarely content to wound us with one decisive blow when it can injure us equally with a thousand paper cuts. Honestly, it seems like evil has been doing a pretty good job of keeping us out of the fight and entangled in the ropes of distraction.
You know those indentations they put on the sides of the highway, the ones that go guh-guh-guh–guh-guh if you drift out of the lane? Those are called “rumble strips.” I want this book to be like a rumble strip in your life. Listen: You are on a path. You’re going places. I don’t care whether you drive NASCAR or are waiting for your driver’s permit; it’s common to drift every once in a while. And not the cool kind of drift you see in the movies or on TikTok—the bad kind that will leave you overturned in a ditch. This book will give you a few ideas about how to yank back into your lane, refocus, get clear once again on your lasting purposes, and start living a less distracted and more joy-filled life right now. No one asks for permission to stay on the road; and you don’t need permission to live your life either. Just decide right now that you are going to lean into the rich, meaningful, beautiful, oftentimes painful life God has already given you.
We all know someone who won’t pull over and ask for directions. I used to be one of them, and I think I now know why. Most of us don’t want to be told what to do, even when it would be helpful to us. The fact is, we don’t need more information; we need more examples. Stay close to a few people who understand how to resist distraction and direct their energy toward their most lasting purposes, and some of this intentionality will rub off on you. Imagine what could happen if you focused your attention on what really matters instead of all the things that don’t. What an amazing example of love, purpose, and joy you would be to countless others. These are the things both simple lives and grand legends are made of.
Let’s be honest with each other. There is a lot of second-best available to all of us. If we aren’t aware of the alternatives, we won’t realize we are settling for less than what is accessible to us. This book won’t tell you what to think or what to do, but I hope it reminds you about who you already are. You are someone who has permission to live with an unreasonable, unthinkable, totally absurd amount of focus, purpose, joy, and fulfillment.
Here are a few questions I have for you as we begin this journey. Are you willing to do what it takes to uncover the wonder that already surrounds your life? Will you do the courageous work to identify what is distracting you from the better things? And finally, are you willing to do the difficult and selfless work of releasing the beauty you discover into the lives of others rather than keeping it for yourself?
Pulling this off will require us to put on blinders. Like a racehorse in the Kentucky Derby or a dog with a funnel around its neck after going to the vet. We need to block our view of the things that hardly matter at all, stop returning to the patterns that do not serve our larger objectives, start recognizing what is temporary and transitory, and instead focus intensely on the things that will last forever: our faith, our families, and our purposes. When you direct your attention to these things, you will find your joy.
If you’ve read any of my other books, you know I’ve been focused on Sweet Maria since the moment I saw her. She has captivated me for decades, and she still does. It’s easy to stay undistracted when she’s around. Of my countless quirks, one thing I do is sing to Sweet Maria every morning. I won’t tell you what my repertoire is, but I will say that I am horrible at singing. Just plain awful. Think of nails-on-a-chalkboard but goofier, with more arm waving and deeper baritone. It’s like a bad Disney tune sung in the key of a dog howling at the moon.
When I sing to Sweet Maria each morning, she usually groans and pulls a pillow over her head. I’ve told her it’s part of the platinum package she got when she said yes to me. She has asked me a few times to downgrade to the aluminum or cardboard packages. You know, the ones that don’t include a predawn serenade. I’ve told her we’re all sold out. I know deep down somewhere she loves it. I keep singing my awful songs because they remind me who I am and who I love. The songs remind me first thing each day about the center of my life—our family—which is more important to me than anything except my faith. More important than the reminder, these songs are declarations of what I’m going to do about my priorities. Howling through the new verses I make up each morning, I let Sweet Maria, myself, and the world know what my plan is for the day, and then I endeavor to live it out as best I can.
My hope is that this book will help you find your song or help you sing it a little louder if you already know it. I want my words in these pages to knock loose a couple of verses for you that are filled with love and intention and hope and purpose and Jesus. Maybe it’s time for you to hum a few bars each morning about the beautiful life you have been given, the short period of time you have to live it, and the people you could impact if you let your love and creativity off the leash rather than tying it to the past.
This book isn’t filled with fables. Instead, it’s wall-to-wall with stories. Why? It’s simple. Because Jesus told stories. In fact, Scripture says He never spoke to anyone without telling them a couple of good stories to illustrate the truths He wanted to pass along. Stories not only tell us truth but they can also point us toward living lives that are more true. Falsehoods are designed to distract us with deceit; truth, on the other hand, informs and guides us down a brave and more lasting path.
This book is not full of miscellaneous facts either. I’ve never had a bunch of random, disconnected facts combine into something that changed my life. These days, though, it seems like the world is full to the brim with information. We are drowning in the stuff. On average, human knowledge is doubling every thirteen months, but this deluge of information doesn’t provide any more clarity about our lives. To the contrary, it sometimes feels like the facts become a smoke screen lingering between us and the clarity we truly need. Have you noticed that even when facts seem indisputable, people still find a way to spend a weird amount of time arguing about them? Culturally, I think we all sense that we’re a little uptight and feisty right now.
Are you willing to accept for a moment that all this noise is a distraction? I am not suggesting that we opt for lives of ignorance. Far from it. Facts can be helpful, but rarely are they soulful. We don’t need more facts to find the purpose and kindness and unselfishness we long for; we need a firmly seated faith, a few good friends, and a couple of trustworthy reminders. I hope these stories help you sort out what you believe and why. I want this book to nudge you in the direction of who you are becoming rather than leave you wrapped around the axle of who you have been. Because when you and I are laser-focused and clearheaded, I promise we will find our purpose every time. Find your purpose, and you will experience more joy. The math is simple.
Remember, the delight of darkness is to amplify distraction. Maybe it’s happening in your life this very moment and you don’t even realize it. Distraction is very sneaky like that. The fix to all of this is as simple as it is hard. The way to beat distraction is to become captivated by something much bigger and much better, such as purpose and joy.
That’s where we’re headed in the pages of this book, and I want us to head that way for the rest of our lives. If you are willing to do the heavy lifting required, I promise you will trade up for something way better than what you’ve settled for so far. You will be replacing the distraction that robs your joy with the kind of purpose that nothing can ever take away.
Eyes forward. Buckle up. Here we go.