Have you ever felt so distracted and overwhelmed that you felt hopeless and unable to cope? If so, don’t worry – you’re not alone. We all experience distractions that take us away from our true purpose in life, and we deal with those distractions in different ways, some of which are healthier than others.
This feeling of “copelessness” is a type of paralysis in which the fogginess of your situation makes it impossible to see things clearly. It happens to everyone sooner or later, especially when we’re under a lot of pressure at work or when our to-do list seems to just keep growing and growing.
You need to find a way to stop and take stock of where you are and where you’re going. Sure, there’s a lot going on in your life, but if you don’t take some time to balance your distractions, you’re going to find yourself spiralling and getting overwhelmed.
Luckily for us, there’s a solution, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to take a close look at the two different types of distraction and help to establish a roadmap past them that we can follow for the months and years to come. So if you’re ready to start balancing your distractions and becoming the best version of you that you can be, let’s dive on in and get started.
The Distraction Scales
The first thing to understand is that there are two different types of distraction: internal and external. You can think of these as being like two circles on either side of a line:
The circle on the left represents the active inner mind of distraction, while the circle on the right represents the external environment of distractions. The line in the middle represents balance, harmony and focus.
Internal distractions are those that take place inside your head. Most of us have a critical inner voice that tells us that we’re doing things wrong, and if we’re not careful, that voice can hold us back. It can lead to imposter’s syndrome and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you listen to that voice and the internal distractions that it brings, when it tells you that you can’t do something, you’ll find that the voice was right.
External distractions are those that happen outside of us. The most obvious one at the moment is the global pandemic, but other external distractions can include everything from traffic jams to the way that other people think about you and perceive you. There’s a constant, ever-changing relationship between your internal and external distractions, and this flux causes people to lose focus and get derailed from the path towards their goal.
According to one Harvard study, “We spend nearly 50 percent of our waking time thinking about something other than what we’re supposed to be doing.”[i] Unfortunately, that means we spend half of our time losing the balance of our distraction scales. The further your distractions are from the line of balance, harmony and focus, the more severe they become and the more overwhelmed you’ll feel.
Balancing the Distraction Scales
If you want to be successful and to adopt a winning mind-set, you need to possess self-awareness and control over both internal and external stimuli. Otherwise, you risk being overwhelmed and experiencing hopelessness, which can lead you astray. Remember what the great philosopher Elvis Presley once said: “When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”[ii]
Of course, you can’t control everything and if you try to cut out all stimuli, there’ll be nothing to inspire the ideas you need to propel your life and your career forward. The secret is to harness both internal and external stimuli where they overlap at the line so that you can benefit from positive stimuli while shutting out the distractions, represented by the circles as they move away from the overlapping line.
Keeping those distractions close to the line allows you to further your own agenda by filtering out the irrelevant and focussing only on what will take you closer to your goal. It’s empowering to be able to harness beneficial stimuli to give you a better shot at what you’re aiming to achieve in life.
The key is to make this so much of a part of your life that it becomes second nature. It’s like the difference between going on a fad diet and actually changing your lifestyle. You’ll start to see short-term results in no time at all, but don’t let them distract you or take you away from your balance. This is a long-term commitment to being a better you, not a quick fix to get ready for summer.
You’re the only person who can control these internal and external elements, and you have a responsibility to yourself to do so. By taking some time to balance the distraction scales and bring your life into harmony, you can create a positive, constructive and meaningful life.
Internal and external distractions have always existed, and they’re inseparable from our daily lives. The only way to avoid them completely is to remove all stimuli from your life, and if you go ahead and do that then you’re not even living.
The good news is that by learning discipline and self-control, you can put internal and external distractions to good use. These contradictory opposites can transform into a type of laser focus where your best thinking – and, ultimately, your best behavior – help you to make good on your goals. Only then can you live a truly rewarding and fulfilling life.
Pichi Bellingrath McClure is a resilience expert. She helps people strengthen their personal leadership and overcome the impossible through her content, tools, and strategies. Subscribe to her biweekly Resilience Tips and follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
[i] Patel, Deep, “7 Proven Strategies for Overcoming Distractions,” Entrepreneur,” December 12, 2018, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/324560.
[ii] Presley, Elvis, “Elvis Presley > Quotes > Quotable Quote”, Goodreads, Retrieved March 22, 2021, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/276452-when-things-go-wrong-don-t-go-with-them.