Stop for just a minute and take a good look around yourself. What do you see? Chances are good your perspective of your surroundings shifts according to your mood, mindset, and motivation. For example, if you happen to be a resolution setter, you may have flipped your calendar on January first and viewed the year ahead with a sense of purpose and possibility. You may have set lofty goals. Maybe you even said to yourself, “This is the year I’m finally going to . . . [insert seemingly elusive dream here.]”
If you’ve made progress on those goal(s) or even reached a satisfactory level of achievement, congratulations! Your view of this 2019 cup is probably still half full. But if you, like many, remain rooted in the same place you were six months ago, you might not have such a rosy outlook. You might, instead, look over your life and see nothing but obstacles and complications. Those things that have continuously held you back and distracted you from reaching your potential.
When I first quit my 9-5 job to start writing, I often got caught up in distractions. Things like digital notifications, unexpected occurrences, extensive to-do lists, even other people’s agendas, opinions, and criticisms. But distractions aren’t limited to physical forces. In fact, once I declared my goal to write and publish a novel, I realized that some of the biggest distractions can be internal. These run the gamut from fear and doubt to self-sabotage, jealously, and a relentlessly buzzing monkey mind, all of which can be encompassed in a single word: Resistance.
If you’ve been following the blog from the beginning, you’ve heard me mention Resistance several times before and if you woke up today feeling stuck and unhappy and incapable of moving forward, you’ve likely experienced it for yourself. (On a side note: If you’d like to read more on the topic of Resistance, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is an excellent, eye-opening resource.)
So what can we do to disable these distractions?
The first step is to identify those that most hold us back. What are the repetitive habits or thought patterns that keep us chained to an unchanging, unproductive version of ourselves? And secondly, what can we do to keep these things from taking over our lives?
As an example, I have learned from experience that my cell phone is a huge distraction for me when I’m writing. Even if the ringer is silenced, I will, without fail, pick it up and look at it often if it is anywhere within arms’ reach. The fix: I keep my phone in another room while I’m working. I set a timer that keeps me at my desk for one-hour blocks and another that limits me to three fifteen-minute social media breaks so I don’t lose huge chunks of my day to digital networking.
Another more detrimental distraction for me (especially as a writer) is the relentless chatter that goes on in my mind. I have a tendency to think and rethink and overthink until I work myself into an unfocused tizzy. The fix: Prayer and journaling. Starting each day with a prayer of gratitude helps me stay centered and keep life in perspective. And a stream-of-consciousness journal—where I open a blank Word document and unload the entirety of my thoughts on the page—helps to clear my mind of disruptive junk so I can concentrate on my writing goals.
What about you? What are your biggest distractions? What can you do to disable them?