One simple insight that will help you overcome distraction

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Attention.
It’s hard to get. It’s hard to hold. It’s hard to focus. It’s hard to even give it to others.

That’s the nature of the era we live in – we are more distracted than we’ve ever been.

Rob Hatch of the Human Business Way recently wrote:

“A small blue square, the letter ‘f’ in white relief, and a little red dot in the corner showing the number 1, can choke your entire morning.”

You know what he’s talking about? I do.

Distraction. Crazy fast, ever-present distraction.

Things used to be a lot simpler. But they’re not anymore, and that’s the end of it. There’s no going back.

We live in a wonderful time where we can instantly share almost anything. We can also instantly be distracted from what really matters.

The funny thing is that while the channels are new – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. – distraction is an ancient problem. People have been distracted from what matters most since the creation of the world.

New distractions will always come.

For example: I can do what it takes to beat Facebook or any social network, for that matter. I’ve done it already. For the last seven years, I’ve never installed an internet connection in my home.

Personally, I think I’m a happier man for it.

And even without the net in my home, I’m not distraction free.

When work or study must be done – there’s always something else on my mind.

I want to eat. I want to play chess. I want a nap. Stuff like that.

Seriously – I could lock myself in a empty white room with just a textbook, some blank pages and a pen, and I think I could still figure out a way to avoid work!

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Discipline is not the answer.

Discipline helps us beat distraction, but it’s not the solution. Surprisingly, though, there is another way.

I read some fascinating research recently from Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. To quote:

“When we know something that needs to be done but isn’t currently getting done, we often say, ‘I just need more discipline.’ Actually, we need the habit of doing it. And we need just enough discipline to build the habit…

So when you see people who look like “disciplined” people, what you’re really seeing is people who’ve trained a handful of habits into their lives. This makes them seem “disciplined” when actually they’re not. No one is. You don’t need to be a disciplined person to be successful.”

The power of HABITS.

It sounds crazy, but I’m beginning to accept the research. After all, this isn’t a new idea! A bit over two thousand years ago, Aristotle said:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

We need discipline. But we need to wield our discipline to build habits.

What’s the difference between totally disciplining yourself and just disciplining yourself enough to build habits? It’s the difference between micro-management and delegation.

Would you rather micro-manage every aspect of your life? Or delegate the small things to habits – and let your habits auto-run your important routines?

I’m thinking about habits like:

– Setting apart time for our best work?
– Shutting out distractions – and working in places with less distractions?
– Getting enough rest and exercise to be energetic enough to work?
– Remembering why we do what we do?

If we could do these automatically without struggling over the decisions, we’d be much better ready to do our best work!

So, what do you think?
Agree? Disagree? And what habits are you building into your life?

Related post: Are your habits leading towards disaster? Here’s 18 questions to find out.
Photo credit: peasap and bearhunter via Compfight

 

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12 thoughts on “One simple insight that will help you overcome distraction

  1. Hi, Ed, thanks for following my blog! I’m really enjoying your series on habits, especially “Are Your Habits Leading Towards Disaster?” Sometimes I can get so caught up in the minutia and specifics of my life that I forget to think globally. Being motivated, thoughtful, honest, and so many other aspects of living intentionally, that’s really why I’m building specific positive habits.

    • Hi Michelle!

      Thank you for the follow as well! I was really fascinated by the habit RPG game idea – I’ve gotta check it out, but wow, what a hilarious and great idea.

      We’re seriously up against a lot when we try to break old life patterns. But even if we don’t have a lot of discipline, building a handful of positive habits really leverages the discipline we have powerfully.

      How’s your writing? I think I read that you’re a fantasy author?

      • Writing is off to a good start today, thanks for asking! I do write fantasy; I haven’t published anything yet. I started the first draft of a novel today, and if I stick to my plan, I will finish the draft at the end of May.

        My goal is to write one scene per day, minimum, and I met that goal with two hours of work. The key will be sitting down at the same time every day.

  2. Edo! I didn’t even know you have your own blog. And I totally loved the first article I’ve just read! The problem of discipline seems much easier now when one realizes the importance of building positive habits. There’s less resistance and great outcomes in this method!

    • Hi Sanjar!

      Haha, glad you found me! I need to do a better job getting the word about my blog, but to be honest, whenever I post something, it’s kind of a nerve-wracking moment – you know, that feeling, “is this good article enough?”

      In any case, it’s fun making deadlines for myself and pushing to publish an article a week.

      Isn’t that crazy? We can really sidestep resistance when we work on habits. It’s still a lot of work to turn around those bad habits in my life that I wish I’d stop doing, but changing the way I think about discipline has been a game-changer.

      Keep hanging around – I got more where this came from. 😀

  3. You are correct, distraction causes abstraction which causes distraction which mires the mud and puts us in a funk. I lost track and my mind derailed. I will get back to you later.

    • Distraction causes abstraction causes distraction – what a truth! Gotta write that one down, thanks Barry!

      Drop a line when you get outta the funk! 🙂

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