If it keeps you busy or entertains you now, but will hurt you someday, it’s a distraction. Don’t settle.
What is the opposite of distraction?
Traction — you want to create consistent traction on the road of life.
If you’ve been spinning your figurative wheels a lot lately, feeling a bit tired and vexed without much forward progress, I highly recommend you rethink how you’re investing your time, and replace the meaningless with the meaningful — the distraction with traction!
Ultimately, you become a true master of your life when you learn how to master your focus — where your energy goes. Value what you give your time to. Rise above the pettiness trying to draw you in. Figure out where your attention actually goes, and gradually remove needless distractions. Remember, there’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. Life is too short not to focus more on what matters most!
So today let’s reflect on three common distractions Angel and I have seen robbing happiness from coaching clients we’ve worked with over the past 15 years. These distractions are so darn prevalent too, nearly all of us mistakenly engage in at least one of them over the course of our lives. Because, despite what our better judgment tells us, we often think we want and need…
1. Another easy and leisurely day
An easy, leisurely day sounds nice, and it can be nice for a little while. But it’s not the kind of day you’ll look back on with gratitude for how far you’ve come. And it’s not the kind of daily routine you want to be endlessly distracted by. Truth be told, when you’re struggling to make progress in life, that’s when you actually are. You want to be stretched to the edge of your ability at least a few times a week; it needs to be hard and a bit uncomfortable at reasonable intervals.
Of course, most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable at all, so we subconsciously run from the possibility of discomfort at all costs. The obvious problem with this behavior is that, by running from discomfort, we are constrained to partake in only the opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle. We keep doing what we’ve always done, and thus we keep getting the results we’ve always gotten. And our true potential falls by the wayside.
So are you selling yourself short on a regular basis? Think about it…
- How many times over the past year has the psychological draw of comfort and ease plagued your best intentions?
- How many workouts have you missed because your mind, not your body, told you that you were too tired and it was time to stop?
- How many workout reps have you skipped because your mind, not your body, said, “Nine reps is enough. Don’t worry about the tenth”?
In the past year alone the answer to all three questions is probably dozens for most people, including myself. And these questions can be easily reworked and applied to various other areas of our lives too. Bottom line: Don’t sell yourself short of your potential! Choose differently. Choose yourself… Go to environments that expand your mind. Spend time with people who inspire you to stretch yourself. Read books. Grow. Work. Get better. Your life is mostly your choice. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the Success and Productivity chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
2. The pursuit of perfection, without compromise
Make no mistake about it: perfectionism is a distraction. Yet too many of us fear that we will somehow be held back by our imperfections. But in reality, the exact opposite is often true — the full acceptance of our imperfections is what ultimately sets us free. Thus, understanding the difference between reasonable striving and perfectionism is critical to letting go of distractions and picking up your life.
Perfectionism of all shapes and sizes not only causes you unnecessary stress and unhappiness from the superficial need to always “get it right,” it actually prevents you from getting anything worthwhile done at all. So think progress, not perfection. The real world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards people who get good things done. And the only way to get good things done is to be imperfect 99% of the time…
Eventually most of us end up settling in some part of our life. We let go of certain ideals, we compromise, and we make trade-offs. We gradually learn that we can’t have everything we want, because everything has an opportunity cost, and not every outcome in life can be perfectly controlled. But if we pay close attention we also learn that we can make the best of every outcome, and still get a lot of what we want in life, if we manage our energy appropriately.
And these realizations collectively lead to an interesting question:
When should you settle, or compromise, and when should you continue fighting hard for what you ideally want to achieve?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but when you encounter a situation that forces you to choose between compromise and fighting forward against the opposition, it might help to also ask yourself:
“Do I really need this, or do I just kinda want it?”
Being able to distinguish needs from wants is essential in every walk of life. Never let go of an outcome you truly need in your life, but be reasonably flexible on the outcomes you want but could live fine without.
In other words, choose your battles wisely, and don’t let “perfect” become the enemy of a good life. Remind yourself that what you pay attention to grows. So focus on what really matters and let go of what does not…
Don’t give up 60% of your life working 60-hour weeks at a day job that makes you absolutely miserable. Don’t abandon your sanity for the wrong reasons. Don’t neglect lifelong goals and dreams that have withstood the tests of time and still bring incredible meaning into your life.
If you really need something, fight hard for it!
But for everything else, let go a little. Loosen your grip, compromise… and settle.
Settle on less of the unessential, to get more of what you really need in life.
3. More (and more) approval from the masses
We worry about what other people think of us. We worry about our appearance. We worry about whether or not he’ll like us. We worry she might like that other guy. We worry we’ll fall flat on our faces. We worry we’re not enough just the way we are. And social media — with its culture of getting us to seek constant approval with virtual likes and hearts — with its endless highlight reel of perfect bodies and exotic travels — it only intensifies the problem. Realize this! You don’t need any of that social validation in your life on the daily! It’s all just a distraction…
When you find yourself trapped between what feels right to you and what others tell you is right for you, listen to your inner compass. Because no matter where life takes you, big cities or small towns, you will come across others who think they know what’s best for you — people who think they’re better than you — people who think happiness and success mean the same things to everyone. They’ll try to measure your worth based on what you have, instead of who you are. But you know better than that — shiny objects and flashy figures don’t matter that much.
Don’t just chase the money. Don’t just chase the numbers. Catch up to the ideas and activities that make you come alive on daily basis. Go for the things of greater value — the things money and temporary social clout can’t buy. What matters is having strength of character, an honest heart, and a sense of self-worth in the long run…
You have to admit, you’ve spent a lot of your life subconsciously belittling yourself. Thinking you’re not enough. Trying to be someone else. Someone who fits in. Someone who’s less sensitive. Less needy. Less flawed. Less YOU. Because you felt broken, and you didn’t want to scare people away. You wanted them to like you. You wanted to make a good impression. You wanted to be seen as worthy and lovable to everyone… so you could feel healed and whole. And so for the longest time, behind a facade of fake smiles, you have inadvertently betrayed yourself for the purpose of pleasing everyone else. And for longest time, your heart has ached.
But you’re at a point now where you’re seeing things differently. The heartache just isn’t worth it anymore. Belittling yourself for one more day just doesn’t make any sense. And more than that, you now realize no matter what you do or how you change, some people will never be pleased anyway.
You now realize you have to start doing things for the right reasons!
Not because it’s what you think everyone else needs, but because you finally know yourself to be worthy of your own values and priorities.
Not because other people approve of you, but because you are breathing your own air, thinking your own thoughts, and occupying a space no one else ever could.
Yes, you are indeed worthy! Your ideas are worthy. Your feelings are worthy. Your needs are worthy. And without everyone else’s validation, you must be who you are and live your truth. Even if it makes people turn their heads. Even if it means walking alone down the path less traveled for awhile…
Remember, the real battle is always in your mind, and your mind is under your control, not the other way around. So do your best to use disappointment and frustration to motivate you rather than distract you today. Be mindful. You are in control of the way you respond to life.
You may have been broken down by failure or rejection or stress, but YOU are not broken. So don’t let others convince you otherwise. And don’t let your mind get the best of you either.
Heal yourself by refusing to belittle yourself.
Choose to take up a lot of positive space in your own life today. Choose to give yourself permission to meet your own needs. Choose to honor your feelings and emotions. Choose to make self-love and self-care a part of your daily habits and rituals…
Choose to think better about yourself, and validate yourself, so you can live better in spite of the challenges you face. (Note: “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts and Reflections to Start Every Day” is a great tool for this kind of daily self-reflection and self-validation.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to practice paying more attention to the beauty and practicality of living a less distracted life. A life uncluttered by most of the meaningless things people fill their lives with, leaving you with space for what’s truly meaningful. A life that isn’t constant rushing, worrying, waiting, or stress, but instead contemplation, creation, and connection with the people and projects that matter most to you. By redefining your priorities, and building healthy habits and rituals to back them up, you can literally start changing your life in the days ahead.
But before you go, please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of the points above resonated the most today?
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