“If it entertains you now but will hurt or bore you someday, it’s just a distraction. Don’t settle. Don’t exchange what you want most for what you kind of want at the moment. Study your habits and rituals. Figure out where your time goes, and delete distractions. It’s time to focus more on what matters.” —Marc and Angel Chernoff, authors of Getting Back to Happy
Tending to one more item on your to-do list, telling yourself – it needs to be completed because it’s on the list. Or fussing over details that would be perfectly fine without any more attention. What is going on in each of these instances? I admittedly have done it and perhaps you have as well – distracting ourselves from focusing on something else that needs our full attention, that may be difficult, that may make us uncomfortable because it is scary or new or challenging, but upon digging in and doing what we should be doing, our lives progress in the direction we had hoped and envisioned in our mind.
As I have shared recently, an abundance of ideas are dancing in my mind. There are some that offer much potential but as well are quite tenuous. And then there are others that are easy, simple, and I just need to do them, complete them and I feel, temporarily, much better. What I have recognized I am doing by choosing to focus on the latter rather than the former is distracting myself from doing what needs and deserves to be done regarding my goals, my hopes and my desired direction.
This is not to say that cleaning my house, spending time with mini organizational projects that can quickly turn into an hour or two, are not important or don’t render something positive as an end result. But what it does mean is that we are putting off what we need to step into either getting started or eventually finishing something significant when it comes to life progress.
Part of the reason we unconsciously distract ourselves is that we are nervous about how it will all work out, and instead of having our hopes dashed (this is what we fear), we unconsciously put off doing what needs to be done.
I was thinking about this idea of doing the hard work, consistently, regularly, doing what needs to be done, to accomplish our most highly sought after result as I was watching the Tour de France. Winning the ultimate yellow jersey for the first time for not only himself but for Wales, Geraint Thomas shared in his celebration speech on the Champs Élysée on Sunday that after competing in his first Tour de France in 2007, biking over all of the grueling mountain climbs over the many years, and this year, maintaining his lead for over one week through time trials as well as 10% gradient climbs in the Pyrenees and Alps, it finally happened. He won. Not without help from his team, but he had to do the physical work that many could not or would not do. He had to choose to pedal, and continue to pedal, even when it wasn’t assured, even when it was painful.
But pushing through what is uncomfortable is far easier when there is something to clearly focus on.
Having a focal point enables us to understand that patience will be extremely helpful as well as perseverance.
How can we identify and eliminate the distractions in our everyday life? Let’s take a look at what might be distracting you first in the list below, and then examine how to eliminate what we don’t need.
1. Habits that do not help
The gift of having a habit is that it frees up our mind to focus on other important aspects throughout our day, but if our habits are chipping away at what we are trying to build or improve, then they are a distraction. In fact, often these habits are defaults that we aren’t even aware of (listen to podcast episode #218 on the topic of doubting the default). The key is to differentiate between helpful and hurtful habits, and eliminate the hurtful and add more helpful (check out this post about the crucial components required for establishing new habits).
2. More and more things to take care of
Whether it’s more and more clothes which then requires of you to care for them, edit your closet more frequently, shop for them, return them when they do not fit, etc., each of these tasks requires time. And a distraction is time that is wasted or spent in a fashion not helpful to your intended focus. The more furniture you have, the more toys your children or pets have, the more toys you have, each require time to not only use, but maintain. Here is a grand example that while many of us don’t have, for me it served as a good reminder to enjoy from a far – having a swimming pool or hot tub on my property. Swimming and soaking in water is a wonderful luxury, and during these hot summer days, a swimming pool can feel like a necessity, but it is also something we have to take care of, requires money and thus time. Why not enjoy some of the toys you think you or your family needs from a afar? Visit the local swim park, take a dip in a lake, make a reservation at a spa to relax and unwind. Yes, some will take a bit of money, but not as much as owning a swimming pool and tending to it year round.
3. Anxiety and frustrations
Our attention is powerful. Powerful in the sense that what we focus on will begin to materialize because we will be looking for it rather than something else. Designed biologically to look out for what may go wrong in order to prevent it, we now have the good fortune in many parts of the world to not fall prey to our basest instincts. When we focus on what we are uncertain about and thus allow ourselves to feel anxious or concentrate on what isn’t working and thus frustrating us, we are not focusing on what we wish to manifest. We are not focused on the positive outcomes we seek and hope to attain.
In other words, we are distracted by our anxieties and frustrations, and we have the choice not to be. Choose not to be.
4. Unnecessary worries
Probably one of the biggest distractions for myself is letting my mind focus on what #3 just discussed. But as I have shared on the blog in the past, there are many ways to banish worry (20 Ways to Banish Worry), and there are productive things we can do When We Don’t Know How the Future Will Unfold, (episode #205). Again, when we worry, we are distracted and not focusing on what we want, instead focusing on what we do not want. The hard choice, but the most helpful choice, is to let go. Read this post on 27 things to let go of and this post – let go and elevate your life to find inspiration to do what may seem impossible until you do it.
5. Energy zappers
The energy zappers in our lives will be unique to each of us but they might include the television shows we watch, negative individuals, unnecessary tasks, environments that don’t allow us to sleep well, food that doesn’t feed us well, etc. Now these are more obvious energy zappers, but there are also energy zappers that may on the surface seem okay such as responsibilities like cleaning the house, mowing the lawn – in other words tasks, that while they need to be done, do not have to be done by us.
Examine what drains your energy leaving you unable to focus on what your priorities are. Even if they are tasks that must be completed, find a way to delegate and come to understand that either by asking for help or paying a small amount can improve the quality and perhaps overall income you bring into your life.
6. Being who you think you ‘should’ be
Talk about a perplexing paradox – it would seem obvious that being someone we are not would be difficult. Consider an actor who has to portray a particular role for and fully commits to method acting – staying in character even when off set. Doing so takes tremendous discipline and thus much energy. Energy that could be used on focusing on our end goal. But instead, when we pretend to be who we think society wants us to be or will accept without conflict, we are wasting energy and thus taking ourselves off course.
The gift of just being who you are, and yes, that includes evolving and stepping into new chapters, is that it doesn’t take extra effort. It just is you without preparation, without rehearsal, without disguises.
7. Doing what you think you ‘should’ be doing
There are so many things I could list here regarding ‘shoulding’, but each of ours will be unique. Someone’s ‘should’ will be someone else’s authentic pursuit, so it is important that we not judge what someone else chooses to do and only look inward. For example, if you do not want children, you may have come to accept that you ‘should’ because it would make life easier, more acceptance would result and perhaps you do then begin to doubt that you in fact do not know yourself . The truth is, you do know. Trust your instincts, and follow where they lead. However, on the flip side, if your best friend or sister or brother do want children, embrace both of your journeys. Each will be unique and each should be celebrated and supported.
When we force ourselves to act against our authentic yearnings, we are distracting ourselves from traveling the journey where we will thrive and thus find contentment.
8. Spending money unwisely
Managing our finances requires conscious attention, but we can sometimes make it more complicated and stressful than it need be by making unnecessary purchases, not understanding our options and being unsavvy with our investments. Check out this post on mastering your money, and for money inspired posts, check out TSLL’s archives.
9. Stirring up or participating in drama
Often we can participate or create drama without realizing we are doing it. Sometimes that drama is in reference to #3 & #4 above in which we create drama internally, but we can also choose to take on the worries and stresses of others that are theirs to figure out. We can stay around people who stir up drama, we can try to solve their problems and thus put ourselves in the back seat enabling them and hurting ourselves.
Sometimes, if we choose to engage in any of the above mentioned scenarios, it is because we do not want to step into our own life and see if we can turn those seeds we have planted into beautiful blossoms given the proper time and attention.
10. Supposed ‘helpful’ technology and social media
The apps and smart phones that we welcome into our daily lives have the potential to increase our productivity and improve our connections, but when used as a crutch, can distract us with temporary pleasure or intrigue that brings us no closer to deep satisfaction.
Consider setting a designated time each day for “Do Not Disturb” with all of your tech devices. For example, from 10pm to 6am, no texts or calls will come through (ring or vibrate). There are settings you can use to make sure certain phone calls always come through (for example, if you’re like my mom, she always wants to be available for her family, but doesn’t need other phone calls ringing through in the middle of the night). And while there are amazing apps to be found and utilized, not every app is necessary for the life you lead. Examine closely what helps and what hurts (similar to your habits), and selectively edit your tech and social media use. You may just be surprised how much time you save in a day.
~Why Not . . . Designate ‘No Work’ Zones?
11. Consumption of too much information
Quality over quantity with regards to what we consume when it comes to news, outside events and other reading material, is an important balance to achieve. Our minds need to calm down regularly, we need time to process, and if we distract ourselves with shows, programs or magazines and books that seem insignificant and thus tell ourselves they are an outlet or a release, in fact, they may have more of drain on our energy than we thought (back to #5 – let go of the energy drains).
Everything around us either feeds us or drains us. When we choose thoughtfully, we can find the necessary energy to successful propel ourselves to the goals we wish to attain. Because what we focus our energy upon feeds it, grows it and brings it into our lives far more quickly than we might have imagined.
~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Best Learned Trait We Can Possess: Willpower, episode #110
~A Thinking Life = A Happy Life
~Your Unique Journey – How to Navigate It Successfully, episode #178
6 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Eliminate the Distractions?”
Thank you, Shannon! Just reread the post on “27 things to let go”…BRILLIANT!
Thank you for stopping by Joanne. 🙂 Have a great Wednesday!
Wow.. What a wonderful week of your posts. Each day this week I woke up to such an appropriate article. Thank you… but I must say I am so amazed at your gift of writing and how you find topics to write about day after day. Amazing. Can’t wait for your new book to arrive.
You are very kind Susan. ☺️ Thank you and so happy to hear the posts have been enjoyed.
I fully agree with everything mentionned above but if we have to be careful about distractions, we also need some entertainments. It’s not healthy to work exclusively on our objectives : a burn-out and then a cancer reminded me the necessity of balance. Sometimes it could be difficult to make the difference between hurtful distractions and healthy entertainments.
Absolutely Mary. Thank you for sharing your experience. To qualify, these are distractions we choose to involve ourselves in lieu of just doing what would improve the quality of our lives. In other words, getting in our own way. Living well involves letting go of what doesn’t elevate the life we want to live (which includes the simple pleasures) and involving ourselves in what will.