“If you don’t separate yourself from your distractions, your distractions will separate you from your goals and the life you want,” Rob Booker. This is absolutely true and it requires so much honesty it can be painful. When we look at how we spend our time we have a tendency to gloss over how much we are really wasting. I am no stranger to wanting my down time and my free time, but we have to get really honest with how much we really do as well as how we spend our time. So, it is a matter of activity versus productivity as well as what leisure really means to us. And FYI, having a device glued to your hand ISN’T relaxing: it is stimulating and, depending on what you are using it for, can be highly stress inducing. That is a distraction.
Many of us find that type of honesty challenging because we don’t want to admit that we have a say in the outcome of things. We feel pretty entitled to doing what we want when we want to and we don’t want to think that our inaction has any real impact. But the more we fill our lives with nonsense the less room we have for what we really want. The more we push things off, the longer it will take to get where we need to be—if we ever get there at all. The worst feeling is looking back and knowing you had a chance to change your course and didn’t take it because you gave into a temporary emotion.
For me, my biggest distraction is kind of everything around me. I honestly struggle to ignore environmental stimulation whether it is the temperature of the room or my cats messing around or even animals outside. That often ends up triggering my anxiety because I go down the rabbit hole of thoughts and memories and future tripping and then I just spiral from there. I also spend a fair amount of time on social media which I know I need to curb. I try to use it intentionally because I do a lot of research and I follow a good combination of educational, inspirational, and humorous things—I really do try to avoid the garbage, but I’m still on it a lot. That also doesn’t really help the anxiety at times because I see a million things I want to do.
That is the other aspect of distraction as well—when we start multiple things at once, with the best intentions, and we never finish them, there is always this weight hanging over your shoulders of open-ended things. And having projects is a positive thing, but a lack of clear follow through keeps us from completing anything. I fully admit that I give up on some things way too easily. I’m not sure if that is entirely about distraction or if it’s more about overwhelm, but either way it contributes to the stress of not finishing things. We put ourselves in a state where we always have something waiting for us if we don’t finish what we start.
Distraction has one other facet I want to discuss as well: the fact that many of us give into it because we don’t believe we will be able to achieve what we want. Insecurity is a heavy blanket designed to put out the fire/spark of inspiration. Why would we start anything if we don’t think we will get the results we are looking for? It’s much easier to give into the simplicity of Netflix or scrolling through our phones than it is to put a plan together and take action. Whether or not something is easy doesn’t mean it isn’t achievable. Focus is simple but it isn’t easy but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It’s a matter of changing what we focus on.
Regardless of the reason for giving into distraction, we all face it. It doesn’t make us bad but it takes away the imagined privilege of blaming anyone else for where we are. If you’re choosing to spend 3 hours a night watching TV then we can’t say anyone else made us do that. Taming distraction is a manageable thing and something we all have to take responsibility for. The good thing is that distractions tend to fall away the clearer we get with our goals. So figure out where you are and where you want to be and then take steps to get there. As you achieve the little steps in between your confidence will build and before you know it, the outside doesn’t matter because you’re creating your own world. That is the goal.