They include the ones we might suspect—drugs, alcohol, sex, and television.
But distractions can come in other forms not so readily noticeable. Sometimes we can really fool ourselves into thinking we’re being productive, when really we’ve just found another way to distract ourselves.
What Distracts You from Your True Purpose?
Why we go to such lengths to avoid our true passions I’ll cover in another post. For now, here are a few things that may make you feel productive but that actually distract you from your true purpose.
If one of these sounds familiar, try going without it for at least a day, and use that time to reconnect to the longings deep inside you.
Unless you’ve made it to the point in your life where your work is your passion (and if you have, congratulations!), work can be a huge distraction. Even if you’re working toward your dream, you may not be able to afford to quit your “day job.” That job becomes a distraction when it starts to consume all or most of your time.
If you find yourself putting in eighty hours on a 40-hour work week, or feel too exhausted at the end of the day to work on your new business or painting project, you’re letting work become a distraction.
And here’s the tough part—you probably tell yourself the extra time you’re putting in is necessary, and part of you may feel quite productive about it. In reality, however, all it’s doing it taking you away from your dream, and drowning out that little voice that’s screaming for your attention.
Try delegating more at work, force yourself to leave at the usual time, or see if there are ways you can work smarter instead of harder. If you’re in a job that flat-out requires all your time, you may want to re-evaluate whether or not it’s still the best job for you.
In today’s world, we’re used to constant activity, whether that means time out with friends, sports games, trips, errands, housecleaning, yard work, charity work, volunteer work, or home improvement. All this activity can become addictive, so that when we’re finally alone with our own thoughts, all we can think about is running to find the next activity.
I typically take at least ten days a year to go on a holiday by myself. I like to choose a place that has no phones or televisions in the rooms. The first two days are always difficult, as I find myself restless without all the distractions and scheduled activities.
The temptation to go find something “to do” or even to make a phone call can get pretty strong! If I hang in there, though, I get over the hump, and then over the coarse of the other eight days I typically come up with all my creative ideas for the coming year.
If you find some quiet time for yourself to concentrate on your next project, but your mind keeps interrupting and pulling you toward another activity (“Gee, it’s nice out, I should go play a game of golf…”), give yourself a time limit and stick to it. No television for two days, for instance. Try it and see what happens!
3. Putting others first.
This is another particularly difficult one. How do we separate the time we devote to others and the time we devote to ourselves? Of course we want to spend time with our families and friends, be there for the people we care about, and invest in the relationships that are meaningful in our lives.
We can get used to putting everyone else first, however, and when that happens, years can go by with no progress on our goals.
Here’s a good guideline: Schedule at least an hour a day for your passion. That’s seven hours a week. And that’s the bare minimum. Break it up however you like, and don’t give it up to anyone.
Spend a half-hour first thing in the morning and a half hour at night working on your craft. Or take three hours each on Saturday and Sunday to devote to brainstorming your new business idea. Do this every week, and you’ll feel more alive—and your inner voice will sound a lot happier.
Listen to Your Thoughts
These are only three of the possible distractions that may be interrupting your inner voice. You may have others. The key is to listen to your thoughts.
If you think about your passion (“I really love animals…I wonder if I could be a vet technician?”) and then immediately jump to a distraction (“Boy, I’m really hungry,”) you could be sabotaging your own progress.
The next time your inner voice dares to speak up, take a moment right then—or make an appointment with yourself for a future time—and write down your ideas. The jolt of energy you get from listening to your own voice will get you higher than any distraction ever could!