Stay on target

We’re easily distracted and sidetracked from our goals. We’re in our phones, in TV, in anywhere but the here and now.

Two things can help to prevent this:

  1. Knowing what’s important enough to pay attention to
  2. Being able to recognise when we’re distracted and coming back to focus

The first is fundamental, but frequently overlooked. We often don’t even acknowledge that something is important to us and worthy of achievement.

This is true not just of lofty goals, but also the nitty gritty of day to day life.

The dishes won’t wash themselves. The washing won’t hang itself out. Unless we accept that these are important enough to get done, then we won’t do them either. We’ll wake up in the morning to a messy kitchen and a pile of damp laundry.

The second is a little trickier, because it’s a product of our moment to moment awareness. It’s simple, but not easy. Like focussing on our breath.

Most of the time that we’re distracted, we’re not even aware of it. Distracted is pretty much our default state.

Being able to recognise distraction and let it go is skill, we build it up over time. And it’a skill worth cultivating. The more we pay attention, the more we realise just how distracted we often are.

The more we can identify our true intention, and then stay close to it with a gentle focus, the more likely we are to spend our time and attention on what is truly important to us.

Growing the pie

It’s easy to take a slice of pie that’s already on the table.

It’s tough to make the same pie bigger.

Growing the pie requires more effort, more sacrifice and more selflessness – but it also yields the best outcomes for the group.

A bigger pie accommodates growth, it builds redundancy into the system, it opens up more possibilities for future action.

When we see others making the hard choice to grow the pie instead of taking a slice, we can either exploit the opportunity created by their effort, or we can pitch in and help.

Choosing to help, to grow the pie and play a non-zero-sum game is tougher for sure, but it should be encouraged and celebrated and practised at every available opportunity.

Being like gravity

Gravity is massively underrated.

We take it for granted, as we well should. It doesn’t give us any reason not to. We don’t encounter situations where it varies from our expectation.

Gravity’s consistency makes life easier because we build it into our model of life. We don’t have to worry “Will gravity be working today when I to head into town?”

It’s defined by its consistency. It’s always on.

When we do our work, when we live our lives, we can choose, to be more like gravity.

This doesn’t mean that we become unchanging robots – but that we understand the power of consistency. It’s knowing that the “always on” aspects of ourselves define us.

It’s our consistent action, traits and behaviours which make us who we are.

No one remembers occasional brilliance when it’s wrapped in the behaviour of a consistent arsehole.

Understanding that we’re defined by our most consistent qualities can be a powerful focussing force. Like gravity, it can help to keep our feet on the ground.

Say want you want

We are empathetic animals, but much of our evolutionary programming is self centred.

We spend so much our of time with our head up our own arses that we often don’t intuit even the basics about the wants and needs of the people around us.

Relax, I’m not having a go at you, it’s just how we’re built.

Conversely, we can’t expect everyone else to undestand our wants and needs because they’re focussed on themselves.

This means that we must be direct and clear when communicating what we want with other people if we want to achieve our goals.

This way, they won’t have to spend their time and effort trying to guess what we want. It will then allow them to better able to make decisions about whether and how they can help us.

It doesn’t always feel natural to be this direct, but getting better at it will pay dividends in the long term.

Despite our networks and social connection, being a human can still be an isolating experience. Clear communication about what we want is a positive step towards establishing true connection with those around us.

Of course the best way to establish connection given the above is to be generous and take the time to understand those around us without thought for our own reward or gain.

As usual, the best outcome costs a little more that our time and attention, yet sometimes we need a little nudge to even remember that it’s on the table as an option.

Anger: Great warning system, lousy fuel

Anger gets a bad rap these days.

We’re told that we can’t be angry, that it doesn’t have a place in a peaceful, productive life.

But anger is as much a part of the human experience as breathing, sleeping or salted popcorn and denying it misses the whole point of its utility. It’s only when we use anger for the wrong purpose that it becomes problematic.

It’s like a sharp kitchen knife – great for cutting vegetables, but unhelpful for other household chores, like bathing children.

Anger is an amazing warning system. It tells us when something we care about is under threat. When used in this way, it allows us to take faster action to protect what’s important to us.

And since it’s not just physical items or people which make us angry – we can also use anger as a tool to understand what we’re sensitive about. We see this when we become angry at something surprising – and we become aware how attached we’ve become to something, only when we experience the prospect of losing it.

Making full use of anger involves recognising and acknowledging it, but then letting it go before taking any action. And letting it go is the key step.

We quickly get into hot water when we act without first letting go of our anger, as it becomes the fuel for our action.

When anger compel us, it limits our options. Possibilities which are open when we’re calm are off the table when anger is the fuel we’re burning.

Anger makes us more likely to deal with a situation, but strips us of the tools we need to make it a success.

The trick, is to spot as soon as it arrives, and then let it go before we do or say anything we’ll regret later. When we let anger fuel our actions, we’re essentially stomping around the house, waving a sharp knife and wondering why things aren’t going so well.