Distraction as an action, not a reaction
I am constantly distracted, when I want to be. My early years school reports concluded it was a trait to tame. But these days it is quite intentional. Or at least with my adult brain, I kid myself the same. Because we are each distracted whether we like to be or not.
As I continue to stretch my understanding of projects, and of people, and the paradigms that connect them both, so the distractions constantly bombard my mind. Not that I am unusual. It is the natural tendency of all of us. Part of our innate complexity, the brain’s counterpoint, constantly optioneering. It is only the awareness of this fact that we get to change.
We can train a warrior-like discipline. Learn to control urges and withstand pain. But there is more to this than will-power, at least if we want to be more than just a summation of sub-routines to repeat and engrain.
This is what we can do when meditating. We are taking interest in distraction. Even if that interest is just intending means to not be distracted. Or, we may be learning to positions ourselves behind distraction, sitting along-side it, or taking perspective from it. We may simply be learning to confront it, or finds ways to calm it. Both ancient practices and modern science are informing us we need to spend as much time outwardly focused as we do inwardly aware.
This is also what we do when we communicate. We invite, or attempt to initiate, distraction. We are presenting new perspective to another. We are receiving new perspective from another. We may be sharing or discovering new perspectives with each other. Meditating is one example of an active means of understanding this. Communication is an active way of doing much the same beyond our individual minds.
A distraction reaction, in action
By way of example of this in practice, I offer an observation I wrote in passing in a post on LinkedIn today. At the time, I had been reviewing some documents for work. On my mind were preparations for exams for my MSc in January. Yet my eyes and hands conspired to click onto LinkedIn. Subconsciously, my brain was asking for a dopamine hit to feed the addiction that now claims us all. So this was itself a distraction from the tasks upon my desk.
This is most pertinent to those who say yes too much. It’s important to find yourself doing so, and consider why. If being helpful is your curse, consider what you are not able to do because of all you have agreed to do. Crucially, check if the things you cannot now do are actually more important. Even more importantly, be honest with yourself and challenge your answer. Because behind all of this may be fear of that bigger thing. The more important thing. The thing that is harder to say yes to, maybe closer to your goal. Being busy serving others without clarity of why this is your best path, may be taking a heavy long-term toll.
Chances are the one thing someone has asked you to do that challenges you the most, is the one thing you find reason to say no to.
Saying no more often is step two. Step one is saying yes to those rarer opportunities that you doubt you can do, and that people less regularly request.
Step three is finding your own yes. Then its other people that think twice about saying no, to you.My observations on LinkedIn 22 Dec 2021
This was my response to a poll on LinkedIn, asking “are you a “YES” person? How often do you say NO?”
It was only from responding to this post, and then returning to a specific query I was fielding, that brought both items together. The recurring project problem I was looking at was one part feeling obliged to say “yes” to even more formal reporting, when their better perspective could be offered by doing more, and reporting less. Which therefore required them to find constructive ways of saying “no”.
Learn how to channel your distractions
This is what we do in every moment of every day. We manage distraction, demands of attention, but in doing so we encourage a lateral connectivity. Each brain is wired slightly differently, nature makes this inevitably the way. We are the aggregation of our experience, and no two are therefore the same. The machinations of experiences creating happenstances that a more mechanised and optimised singular focus would not.
We also have much going on within the brain that is intentionally acting without our awareness. There is no conscious decision-making in temperature control or heart-beat, but nor is there is cognitive function of reading, or recoiling from something hot. We may not even need the brain at all to regulate the gut. We are however, a rarity of biological sets of processes to have some illusion of awareness at all. It is this awareness that enables each of us to compare. To be situationally aware. And by our abstraction of the real, both mull over internally but also externally share.
This is where much of the psychological, philosophical, and neuroscience debate still rages on. There is still plenty of room too for the debates of ethical, moral, theological, and physical. Objective, subjective, or existential.
For me, these are each fascinating discussions and debates. Some have been ebbing and flowing for 2,500 years. It is the cause of much of the distraction I now welcome every day. For it is this awareness of the perspectival, the conflicting, and the nuanced, that keeps me at my desk. Typing away.
Relate better to your distractions. Learn when to say “yes”, and when to say “no”. It is just part of the happenstance we may invite but not intend, in our human way.