Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - The Laws of (Minimizing) Distraction

Distraction is everywhere. I’ve recently learned about a company that does brain imaging using neurofeedback to help people get “in the zone”. Athletes, artists, politicians, CEOs, writers. Fascinating stuff. And before you know it I was off and running researching psychology programs to see if I should get another Masters degree.

There’s a key difference between new knowledge that informs our current work, or the work we’d really like to be doing, and developing a brand new passion. A brand new passion takes a lot of dedication, time, and very often, money. After business school, I wanted to really understand and participate in social media, and I really wanted to focus on the craft of writing. It’s taken me thousands of hours over the course of two years to get a handle on those things. Well worth the time and effort because those are passions of mine. They define me in a very significant way.

There are a million interesting things in this world to learn so it’s no wonder that there seem to be no end to distractions. Given my propensity for distraction, I’ve recently done two things that have been helpful ways to keep my focus:

1.) Take on only 1 or 2 goals, not 5 or 6, in any one area of life.
2.) Write those 1 or 2 goals down and post them up in place you will see regularly. I’ve found that the inside of the front door is a good one so that way I read it every time I come into and leave my apartment.

Limiting distraction and maintaining focus is difficult work. It requires constant vigilance. But it's critical to happiness and meaningful accomplishment in our lives. I have a friend who is forever getting involved in more research projects, prolonging his doctoral studies. Another friend of mine has been collecting degrees of a wide variety and in the process making her feel more unhappy and lost. There's a balance we have to strike between expanding our horizons and keeping our eye on the ball. In general, I find the golden rule is to expand my horizons only to the point that my interests are reinforcing and supporting one another. So far, so good.

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