No fear, no distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter … truly slide.
The most powerful action you can take today is to let go of everything that distracts us from being who we truly are. It is also the most difficult one.
Distractions have a scary kind of power. They have the ability to take our attention, to take our energy and to take our time and money. All of which are precious things that come in limited supply (of which money actually has the least value). Yet we give them away so easily and often without giving it a single thought.
There are so many ways that distractions can reach us. Either we create them ourselves or they come to us through other people or through one of the many different types of media we’re exposed to everyday. They all divert our attention away. But away from what? Do you know? A lot of people don’t. They draw a blank when thinking about the stuff that truly matters.
Distractions on the other hand are in abundant supply, especially in this age of connectedness. There’s never a shortage of distractions, and marketeers will make sure of that. Whatever you do, wherever you are, at whatever time of day, there’ll always be distractions available. And a large part of them has even been designed to lure you in, to tempt you to give some of your limited and precious supply of time, attention, energy and money to them.
The vicious circle of the battle for attention
We’re dealing with more information every year than our grandparents had to deal with in a lifetime. This creates information overload which we counter with a short attention span. And that causes companies to bombard us with even more information, on even more media to get that little bit of attention. This creates a vicious circle of information overload and scarcity of attention.
But apart from not knowing what the stuff that truly matters is, there are so many distractions now, that the stuff that truly matters gets lost in the sheer abundance of the stuff that doesn’t matter. We succumb to the overwhelming amount of distractions to the point that we start to mistake distractions for stuff that truly matters. It’s at that point that we truly get lost.
Uncovering the stuff that matters
How embarrassing … a house full of condiments but no food.
Even though we may not know what truly matters, and even though our lives are filled with distractions it doesn’t mean that all is lost. We can still act upon the insight that distractions have taken over.
If looking for stuff that matters feels like finding needles in the haystack, you need to take another approach. Simply reduce the haystack and look for stuff that stings. Reduce distractions in your life, and you’ll uncover various things that give you clues as to where the stuff that really matters is for you.
Reducing the haystack
1. Get rid of 100 things
Set yourself the goal to get rid of 100 things in your house (I did!). And I’m not talking paperclips here. Walk around the house and identify stuff that you don’t use, don’t need or even don’t like. There are 100 things to be found. Having 100 things less around you, reduces 100 things that distract you. During the selection you’ll also find stuff you’re absolutely sure that you don’t want to get rid of. Take notice of those too.
2. Get rid of unused apps
You’ve got a computer (or even two) filled with apps. And with the rise of the iPhones, BlackBerries and other smartphones we’ve also got apps on our phones. Usually they’ve filled up with apps over time. You tried some stuff and stopped using it, because you don’t need it anymore or don’t use it anymore. So take the step and remove the apps. Clean up those computers and phones. It’ll reduce the distractions in your menus, on your desktops and on your phone.
3. Watch Fight Club
Yes, watch the movie Fight Club. The movie is about finding your core, and it’s the source of all the quotes in this article. Find the path of enlightenment that serves as a central theme for the movie. You may want to watch the movie several times. I have several times already, and I still discover new things every time I watch it.
4. Keep a log of all the things you do during the day
And be brutally honest to yourself. Logging what you do makes you aware of how you spend your time during the day. It’ll show all kinds of distractions, all kinds of time leaks, energy leaks and attention leaks. The sheer fact that you’re aware of them now, already reduces their effect and grip on you.
5. Reduce the time you’re exposed to marketeers
Marketeers want your attention, your energy, your time and your money. You can’t avoid their messages, because they are everywhere. But you can reduce the amount of time your exposed to them. Reduce the time you spend watching television (a major source of distractions), record shows you really want to see so you can skip the ads in between. Eliminate the brochures you get in the mail. And so on.
6. Realize the finiteness of life
This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.
It’s in the finiteness of life that we find true meaning. It’s also in realizing the finiteness of life that we can see the true waste of distractions.
7. Identify the energy thiefs
Some people steal your energy. You probably know who they are. These people engage in conversation to you (often against your will), linger around and draw the conversation to themselves, and seem to leave all energized. And they leave you drained from energy.
They’ll come again, and again, and again. Until you stop them in their tracks. Avoiding them doesn’t help, you have to confront them. Prevent them from stealing your energy. They’ll move to other prey in time.
8. Stop caring about what other people think of you
Sticking feathers up your but does not make you a chicken.
Besides the stuff and the marketeers, there are also a lot of distractions caused by the opinions of other people. And even more so by what we think other people might think, and trying to live up to those expectations. Stop caring about that and you reduce the haystack a bit further.
9. Adopt the mantra “Slide”
If you followed advice nr. 3, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, watch this video about Jack’s power animal. Now whenever you’re about to waste time on stuff, simply repeat the mantra in your head. See that penguin. Now read the first quote of the article again.
The ability to let that which does not matter … truly slide.
(did you see the penguin?)