Dealing with Distraction?
“If you have a hundred thoughts, you will have a hundred helpers in your meditation.” — Mingyur Rinpoche
Today is Monday (or any day) and you find that you are hit with seemingly endless distractions. No sooner do you start one task than you are interrupted and must jump into something else. Before long, this nonstop pattern of incompletion starts to weigh on you. All the while, however, your mind is racing with a hundred thoughts.
No wonder you feel like you’re sliding down a slippery hill.
Here’s a slightly unique way to regard those hundred thoughts. Think of them as helpers in your quest to achieve balance and serenity in your life.
How can it be, you ask, and rightfully so? It does take a little imagination to view distracting thoughts as anything but, well, distractions. Since they are going to come regardless of how you paint them, why not take a leap and cast them in the form of helpers?
How this might work? Here is one scenario (although you can probably think of many without breaking a sweat).
When a Top-Priority Project Awaits
You head into work on Monday morning knowing that there is a top-priority project you must dive into as soon as you reach your desk. You have been thinking about it all the way into the office and likely most of the weekend as well. You tossed around what seemed like a million separate ways to either get out of the task or get it over with as soon as possible, then felt guilty or ashamed or beat yourself up for being a skater, irresponsible, or worse. This is the set-up you must deal with. Your mind is already whirling with distraction, with a hundred thoughts.
While you may believe that all those thoughts were a waste of time, unbeknownst to you they served a useful purpose. Your mind was laying out multiple layers of emotional responses to a pressing issue that weighed on you. You needed to process each of these, even if you did not want to. As such, they helped you get where you are right now, having to deal with what is most important.
Back to work and you arrive at your desk and go through your morning ritual – even more important on Mondays – and you have not even gotten your computer booted up when another hot project lands on your desk. Which one will take priority? You have a quick decision to make, people to alert, resources to tap, assignments to prioritize or delegate, and no time to waste. Yet another hundred thoughts assail you. Your stomach roils, your blood pressure increases and you feel a sinking sense of failure. These multiple thoughts are priming you to act, even though you may not recognize them that way.
Instead of fighting the hundred thoughts, take a few moments to embrace them, for they are here to help you. Acknowledge their presence and give them permission to leave. This opens space for you to focus on the task at hand and gives you the ability to deal with all the other distractions that will head your way today.
Just When You Finish, You Must Start Over
Another common scenario is when you’ve come to the end of the project or task at hand. You are relieved to have it over with so you can get on to the next item on your list, or take lunch, go for a quick walk, or tidy up your desk at the end of the day. Before you can count this task as successfully completed, however, your boss shows up with a new set of parameters. Management decided to go in a different direction, the client didn’t like the concept after thinking it over, resources were realigned and there isn’t enough money to continue with the original directive, or more money needs to be allocated, meaning your challenging work is now not only not completed, you must begin again.
Talk about whirling thoughts and competing distractions. You feel frustrated, exhausted, even a bit angry. It will not do any good to complain to the boss, for he or she is responsible for overseeing and delivering on the new guidelines for the project or task. You must clear your mind, quickly go over what resources you have, come up with a cohesive plan and dive in. Whether you are paid overtime or not, you know you have no other course of action but to press on.
Acknowledge to your boss that you understand what is required. Then, when you are alone at your desk, take a few deep breaths, breathing from the diaphragm and exhaling through your mouth. Do this several times and your heart rate will slow, your blood pressure decrease, and you will feel more in control and able to deal with the pressure to perform. Your body knows what to do and only needs a little help from you to get started.
A clever way to remind yourself that distractions can serve to motivate and push you to higher achievement is to think of the runner nearing the last few yards before the finish line. The distracting cheers of the crowd, the gut-wrenching ache, head pounding, mouth parched and dry and the worry over not being able to make it one more yard are all distractions. They seem negative, yet once they are acknowledged, they bring forth a final burst of energy that results in the runner finishing the race.
Kane, S. (2018). Dealing with Distraction?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/dealing-with-distraction/