My family and I are in East Tennessee this weekend.   For the last fifteen years or so, we have spent at least some of our Christmas vacation out here.

Teaching can be a tough way to make a living, but, there are some perks to the job.  Teachers get much more time off than most workers.

This year we are in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  I have never been to Las Vegas, but, I wonder if this is what Las Vegas looks like.  This place is gaudy.   Gaudy, by the way, means tastelessly showy.  Ultimately, it comes from the Latin word gaudere, which means: to rejoice.  (There.  Squeezed in the etymology.)

We come to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Smoky Mountains.  At least one of my daughters would rather live outside than inside.  She can’t get enough of the Smoky Mountains.

Unfortunately, this weekend, we are locked in a hotel room.  The room is rapidly becoming an infirmary.  Sigh.

Okay.  The point.  Pigeon Forge has a lesson to teach us.

As anyone who has visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park knows… it is a place of stunning beauty.  If you can get to it.

Driving into the park, you will pass more distractions than you can count.  They have an interesting name for distractions out here.  They call them “attractions”.

There are shows, dinner theaters, go kart tracks, miniature golf courses, regular sized golf courses, shopping malls, outlet malls, theaters, and restaurants.  And… that is just the beginning.

The point is, there is plenty to keep you from ever visiting the main attraction here.  I sometimes wonder if people come visit and never even make it into the national park.

So… what’s the lesson?

It hit me this morning.  The national park is the goal.  Pigeon Forge is everyday life.

What if you decide to take on an ambitious goal this year?  You decide to learn a new language, start working out again, read 50 books, eliminate some debt, increase your income, spend more time with your kids, or learn to draw.  These are all good goals.  They are your “Great Smoky Mountains National Park”.

The problem is, you will have to drive through “Pigeon Forge” to reach your goal.  On your way to the Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge will bombard you with distractions.

On your way toward your goal, life will bombard you with distractions.

Distract comes from two Latin words.  Dis means away.  Tract comes from the Latin root trahere.  Trahere means to drag.  Distractions, literally, drag you away.  

General George Patton once said, “You need to overcome the tug of people against you as you reach for high goals.”

This next year, as you reach for high goals, overcome the tug.  Resist the distractions.  Drive through Pigeon Forge.  Ignore the “attractions”.

It took me a long time to learn Latin.  It didn’t have to take me as long as it did, though.  Too often, I gave in to the distractions.

I can read in Latin now.  It was worth it.  Latin has granted me “secret” insight into the English language.  I doubt anything else could have granted the same insight.

For example, without Latin, I would have never know that distractions are etymologically designed to drag you away.  

This “secret” insight is available to anyone willing to work hard enough to learn Latin, by the way.

Now is a good time to set new goals, or to renew the good ones.

Don’t give up this next year.  Ignore the distractions