SQUIRREL! Are You Chasing Distractions?

On my search for balance in my life, I found that there are multiple areas out of balance, and it’s hard to know where to start. So I asked myself – WHAT IS ‘IN MY FACE’ THE MOST? What are those things in my life that are distracting me from the most important work I should be doing – finding balance?

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Just like the distractable dog, Dug, in the Disney-Pixar movie ‘UP’, I  often end up chasing squirrels.  Squirrels are distractions, or for me, anything that is moving or shiny, or seemingly more fun or interesting than the task at hand. (Or just not as boring.)  Please notice that I am not saying that I am just distracted by these things, I am actually chasing these distractions.

Let me explain: When I am distracted by something, it might look like this: I’m in the middle of a conversation and I get a phone call. I’m reading a book and the dog wants to go outside. I become distracted by those things.

The issue I am talking about is much bigger that just being distracted by something. I can deal with that in a matter of a few minutes. The real problems are the distractions that I’m chasing – that I purposely CHOOSE to run after. The squirrels that I’m chasing may be different from the ones you choose to chase. Those things that keep me from my goal for hours at a time.

Here are some questions that help me to determine the distractions in my life:

  1. What do I choose to do during my unproductive time, or my down time?
  2. What interrupts or prohibits me from starting important projects?
  3. What do I do when I want to avoid a chore or project?
  4. What do I do when I want to ‘escape’?
  5. What activities in my life might sometimes be described as a waste of time?

First let me say that just because you enjoy doing something on your ‘down time’, or as an escape, does not mean that it is necessarily a bad thing. But I know myself. In my first post about my search for balance, I wrote about my tendency for all-or-nothing. For instance, some people might enjoy reading a book to relax during their down time. However, my natural tendency is to read a book from cover to cover, and ignore anything else I should be doing. Sometimes the ‘good’ things we chase are distracting us from the BEST things.

So as I look at the questions above, it’s really not a mystery. I think each of us knows what distractions we chase that may be causing some imbalance in our lives. But I’m going to go ahead and answer each of these questions – maybe I’ll learn something new.

  1. What do I choose to do during my ‘unproductive’ time, or my ‘down time’?  Watch tv, binge watch something on Netflix, read or post to Facebook, eat, sleep, go to happy hour with friends, go on internet rabbit chases into the wee hours of the night (searching or researching something that lasts for hours but goes nowhere), go on a blog reading spree
  2. What interrupts or prohibits me from starting important projects? see above
  3. What do I do when I want to avoid a chore or project? see above
  4. What do I do when I want to ‘escape’? see above, plus plan a trip or go to Disneyland
  5. What activities in my life might sometimes be described as a waste of time? all of the above

Okay, so no surprises – I didn’t identify anything new. I know that each of these areas are distracting me from healthy balance in my life, and I also know that many of these are out of balance in and of themselves. All of these activities are acceptable, especially in moderation. I don’t do moderation. At least not yet.

In honor of my new search for balance, I’m stopping here. I would love to stay up for hours and dissect each distraction, looking at the positive and negative aspects of each, and what would balance look like in each of these areas. Black-and-white thinking: pros and cons, good and bad labels, all-or-nothing. I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to go to bed without making a table and categorizing each distraction.

(And dammit. I just remembered that I wanted to write about coherent breathing first. I wrote about distractions, and now I’ll be accountable to do something about them.)  Ah well, each in it’s place. Good night for now.

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony. Thomas Merton

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