Distractions: they eat away at our time (and attention) like parasites.
They often go unnoticed, however, the damage they cause us is unmistakable.
The problem is, these distractions grow into great mountains that pull us away from what matters most to us. If that’s you (and it’s most of us), it’s time to start fresh and do a good ol’ cleanse.
Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.
– Jack Canfield
At the end of the day, what will make you happy and give you a sense of fulfillment is whether or not you did your best. And I mean that with everything.
It’s distractions which pull us away from realizing these things. And it’s distractions which pull us away from our own potential.
It can be hard to admit, I know. We like to convince ourselves that we have everything under control despite these distractions. However, the reality is, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Distractions such as this hold us back from achieving everything we want in life.
The nature of distractions makes them difficult to identify. Most of the time, at least. For that, you need a great amount of self-awareness.
Fortunately, while there are likely to be certain things that distract you which are unique to you, for the lot of us, our frequent distractions come down to the same four things so they are easy to identify if you already know what you’re looking for.
Some of these are very simple and straightforward, others are more complex and difficult to manage. But all are extremely common distractions which seek to pull you away from what matters most to you in life:
1. Social media
Social is, by far, the biggest distraction of all for the majority of people. It’s true that social has brought us together to some degree…but it has also been designed to distract us. Worse, most of who and what we follow are pure time sinks.
So, to make social less of a distraction, start by reducing the number of sites you’re on if possible. Can you just follow everyone you care about on Instagram? Or Snapchat? Then do that. Sometimes this isn’t possible, so do whatever you can.
Next, reduce the number of people and brands you follow. Do you follow companies or people that provide you no real value? What’s your main objective on social, to follow brands you like or to keep up with family and friends? A mix? Knowing this will help you cull your list.
Do you follow dozens of people and have no way of keeping track of it all? You might want to limit your time on social. For the longest time, I was following so many people on Twitter that it was pretty difficult to keep track of it all, but they were all people I cared about. I decided to only go through a certain number of posts per day before getting off.
Social aside even, our smartphones serve as a huge source of distraction in our daily life.
There’s email, games, and quick access to the latest world news, gossip, and market info. All of these things together make your smartphone both a valuable and dangerous double-edged sword. But it’s the fact that you can pull out your smartphone at any time of day that makes your smartphone really dangerous.
The likelihood is, you have a ton of apps on your phone that only serve as a distraction and provide little to no value. The more apps you have, the more potential distractions, so I’d suggest going through all of your apps and simplifying things down to the essentials. It feels great to do some digital spring cleaning and it will reduce down the number of distractions greatly.
Mobile games are probably the biggest culprit here. They’re fun, but most serve no other purpose than to suck your time away (at least, if you have to, play a brain game). It’s easier to give these up, by the way, when you’re very clear on why you want what you want.
By media, I’m referring mainly to watching T.V. and videos online.
There are some really valuable and time-worthy things you can watch both online and on television. However, a lot of us spend too much time watching T.V. shows and YouTube videos that don’t provide us any real value.
I know, we all love Game of Thrones. However, for most of us (unless you do something relevant to producing T.V. shows or writing), too much becomes a distraction and ends up holding us back from achieving our goals. This type of distraction is distinctly different from the previous two in that it can include things that we love to do and experience which we don’t want to give up.
I’m not saying you have to stop watching Game of Thrones or stupid YouTube videos (not that I’m putting them together, they’re definitely not the same thing. I know, how dare I). I’ll never stop rewatching Lost on an annual basis. But be smart about how much time you spend enjoying media and be mindful of spending so much time away from what matters by watching shows and videos online that it hurts some area of your life.
Yeah, you heard me! People. Okay, that might sound bad, or even, odd? But really…some people are just bad associations. And these negative associations serve as constant distractions to your goals and dreams that literally leech away at your happiness.
Have you ever met someone that almost seems to feed on the attention of others? They might act halfway normal for a time, but periodically they have to pull a stunt to draw the attention of everyone around them just to make themselves feel better? It’s such a common occurrence that almost everyone has (or will have) met someone like that in their life.
It’s these people that you have to watch out for more than anything else. They are the king of distractions and a literal siphon that absorbs your happiness into an abyss, never to be seen again.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do here as well:
- Get out and get away: The most obvious. If you can get away from the person, this is ideal. Unfortunately, life is usually more complicated than that.
- Distance yourself through personal growth: Looking for an excuse to say screw everything and make it happen? By you working to change yourself and make progress in your own life, you can often create a sort of invisible separation where the person actually notices you’re different and distances themselves from you. You get more confident as a result of this, too, and are less willing to take their stunts.
- Interject new positive associations: Depending on the situation, whether it’s a direct family member or part of your longtime group of friends that’s changed, you might not have the ability to get away from them. So, if you can’t get away, change your environment. Search out new friends, a mentor, any new positive association and “inject” them into your environment to shift the balance. I use the word inject because it’s often a quick and sudden change that occurs when you do this, like an injection.
Don’t let distractions keep you from happiness and fulfillment
Distractions do more than hurt our productivity. They make it harder to stick to our goals and often keep us from living a happier life. Whether you have big goals you’re trying to accomplish or just want to live better, you can’t afford to let these distractions take hold.
Take the time to survey your own life, identify which of these distractions is most prevalent, and start there. You owe it to yourself to remove these distractions so that your efforts towards your dreams, goals, and general happiness are maximally effective. So, get out there and cleanse your life of these harmful distractions for good and look forward to a new distraction-free life.