I am hyper-focused these days.
Hold on, I can’t remember.
Oh right, hyper-focused on distractions.
Sorry, got distracted there for a moment.
Today’s world is so full of distractions it’s crazy-making. And the result? The very real energy expenditure required to get focused and stay focused. Without this expenditure, we can easily become spread too thin.
Another way to look at it? Although it takes effort to stay on track, it’s frickin’ worth it.
In an effort to help you become more focused, I want to address a common distraction, yet one that most people wouldn’t consider a distraction in the first place.
Here it is: Positive thinking.
I know, I know…but just hold your horses.
Here’s the deal. In general I am opposed to any sort of shenanigans that distract us from pursuing and/or achieving what we really want in our lives.
As a result, I am opposed to devoting time and energy to thinking “I can do this,” when, fact is, we actually may not know whether or not we can.
Spending any amount of time repeating “I can do this” distracts from more productive thinking…
Namely, thinking about how to begin and continue actions (read: small steps) that will up our chances at getting the desired result. More thinking about the actions, way less about the result. Nail down the goal to be sure, then set it aside and get crackin’.
Example: There’s a big difference between having the goal of a healthy weight and focusing on an effective plan to get there vs. having the goal of a healthy weight and trying hard to picture yourself already there.
Hard truth? If you’re never been at a healthy weight, it’s probably super hard to picture it.
Kind of like when I experimented with visualizing myself finishing a 50 mile ultramarathon before I had ever finished one (or even gotten close–by the time I showed up at the starting line, the longest I’d run was 31 miles. Nineteen miles less than what I was aiming for that day). It was a battle to get a clear picture, and a battle I quickly realized was useless.
Instead, I focused even more attention on my training – body and mind – getting more in touch with recovery, rest, nutrition, and tools to prepare myself mentally for long hours on the trails (with no music, on purpose). In other words, working on the, you know, actual stuff that would end up getting me across the finish line.
Replacing positive thinking with directed, useful action.
Truth is, I didn’t know whether I’d finish the race or not, and picturing myself doing it felt forced and inauthentic. Over time I came to terms with the not knowing and accepted the fact that achieving this goal was going to take some serious work regardless of whether I could picture it or not.
Let’s just buckle down and understand: There is NO WAY TO KNOW whether we’ll 100% achieve our goals.
No way to know if we’ll hit a healthy weight, no matter how clearly we picture ourselves thin.
No way to know if we’ll land that dream job, no matter how clearly we picture the details of the dream office.
No way to know if we’ll bench press the 200 lbs., no matter how clearly we picture pushing up that barbell.
The quicker we make peace with not knowing, the quicker we can turn our attention to what it takes to live the lives we want to live. The quicker we make peace with not knowing, the quicker we can build confidence through training and preparation.
The very confidence that makes positive thinking unnecessary.
Positive thinking? A distraction.
Positive action? A solution.