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.

Turning the right wheel

dashboard-by-frank-dibona

When we’re grasping at the past or pining after the future, we’re essentially yanking on a steering wheel that’s not connected to what we’re trying to influence.

We turn it this way and that, hoping to have some impact, but it only takes a small dose of perspective to realise how futile (and ridiculous) this is.

The wheel is however, connected to the present moment and every turn we make has an impact right now. Being deliberate and attentive to what’s happening right here and now is the only way to both steer our ship in the present moment and to have any influence over our future.

Can you be happy in last place?

Mens 100m final by William Warby

In almost every, quantified activity, someone has to come last.

Someone has to be the slowest, the weakest, the lowest.

It’s the brutal result of us quantifying our performance and there is no way around it.

Even in the Olympic sprinting finals. Even if each finisher smashes the winning times from all the heats, someone comes in 8th place.

Dead last.

And coming last sucks.

Firstly, there’s the crushing feeling of failure which hits you immediately.

Then there’s the discomfort and pity you receive from the witnesses, both of which can be worse that the original experience.

When you come last, all the effort you sank into the project: the time, the money, the sacrifice, the focus – it all seems to have been in vain.

Because you came last.

But to be honest, all that is bullshit.

If you’re unhappy with last place, then you’re thinking about it the wrong way. If you’re tethering your happiness to elements outside of your control, you’ll be disappointed no matter the outcome.

All you can judge is what you can control. And to be clear, our sense of what we control in this world, is massively over-inflated.

You can’t control whether you beat someone else. You can’t control the outcome, only what you put in.

You can control your training, your outlook, your technique, your focus, your attitude and your commitment.

All the other factors: The weather, competitors, referee, market and environment. They’re all in the hands of other agents and those external factors are going to influence whether you win or lose, just as much as your own performance will.

If you have to judge yourself, then do it by criteria decoupled from those external factors. Focus on measurements of what you control. Your speed, your distance, your time, your effort, your rate of improvement, your personal best.

But even with that kind of outlook, even with all the training in the world, you’re still going to occasionally find yourself in last place.

And at that point, you need to remember:

Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish which trumps Did Not Start.

Ambushed by time

Well, that’s the first half of the year, done.

I don’t know why I am surprised by the passage of time, but I am. Constantly.

This is in contrast my kids who think that time is dragging it heels.

“We’ve got places to go, people to be.”

They want time to speed up so that they can become the people they want to be.

I want time to slow down for the same reason.

We all miss the reality of the situation, which is that who we are is defined now, not tomorrow.

But putting the emphasis on “now” puts accountability, ownership and responsibility on us. Right now. Some days that’s empowering, others it’s a burden.

The skill is to be able to move from the latter to the former, and then to do something constructive with it.

Thankfully, in most cases, that’s just a case of paying careful attention to the situation, and putting one foot in front of the other.