As a person fully diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (diagnosed in 1984, prescribed Cylert and therapy until age 12 in 1990), I am an expert in distraction. I pride myself in not only having an acute awareness of when my neurotransmitters are not firing normally, or my dopamine deficiency is kicking in, but I also have needed to learn how to cope and function in a way that works for my condition without medication.
This has been both a curse and a blessing, as well as an Achilles heel and a super power. The disadvantages are struggling with seeing tasks complete in a timely fashion, staying focused on one task for a consistent amount of time is a shit-show, because having your brain fire off so many synapses simultaneously is like trying to see all the stars at once in one glance. Focusing on linear tasks that don’t connect visually is like trying to speak a foreign language. Once I learn it, it’s cake, because my IQ is off the charts. However, if I don’t relate to it, it physically gives me anxiety. But the worst is when you have a lot of tasks at hand. Not staying present to what’s in front of you – like a one on one interaction – comes off as rude or inconsiderate, which is far from my desire or intention.
One advantage of my case is that I actually can do many tasks at once. I can multi task like no other, and I can take on two jobs at once and accomplish them successfully. I also can see things coming as well as notably understand the impact after it’s gone. I can recognize a valuable distraction versus an invaluable one and choose which will be productive versus which will not be productive. I may have a shitload going on my brain at once, and it may be hard to pay attention to analytical subjects that have no relativity to my colorful perspective, but I absorb quite a bit and can project manage like a fucking boss.
So why am I telling you this?
My lesson for today, folks, is to share some of my ADD expertise with you to help you not only stay on track for your goals and productivity, but also to stay connected to your stand and vision in a political world oversaturated with distractions. This won’t just assist you in excelling – it will allow you a more fulfilling approach to life.
Identify your triggers.
So first off, it’s super important to notice, become aware of, and identify your triggers. We all know that when we are on track to get healthy, or reach a career accomplishment, or set any goal for ourselves there is a specific occurrence (or occurrences) that when put in our sight will without a doubt deter us from our focus, and derail us from our forward moving track. It might be some negative commentary from a coworker or family member. It might be a seemingly “failed” attempt at something you are on track for. It might be a reminder of a traumatic past experience, such as tragedy or abuse. It might be as simple as something that gives you discomfort, and all you want to do is find anything else that will bring you joy – even if just for a moment. Knowing your triggers will help you have a better understanding of what initiates that jolt off your productive track. When you recognize it, you can make a choice as to how to respond to it, rather than having an automatic reaction. These automatic reactions will undoubtedly have you reach for the things that distract you.
Identify your go-to distraction.
So what’s your drug of choice? You may be saying to yourself, “But I don’t have a drug of choice.” Well, you may not have an obvious addiction like drugs, alcohol, overeating, or even sex. Those are socially recognized, destructive addictions that require treatment. They’re all obvious deterrents from fully present and fulfilled ways of being. But there are also not-so-obvious deterrents that are perfectly acceptable, and “normal” modes of distraction that can throw you off track, thus being destructive in an under-the-radar, sneaky way. Social media is one of the biggest – getting absorbed in your favorite platform by the “scroll and troll” lock-in. A trigger occurs, and instead of allowing the pain, discomfort or sadness to ensue, one picks up their device and looks for the next train wreck to get absorbed in: a controversial comment thread, a viral video, adorable animal pics, political battles, horrible news stories, a celebrity fuck up, or simply someone else’s life that, in your mind, is more interesting or more tragic than yours. We’ve all done it. We’ve all gotten swept away. We’ve all had that moment of realization that we’ve been on social media for an embarrassing amount of time, having wasted precious moments that could have been focused on our dreams and goals. We’ve all had that dirty feeling of, “What the hell have I been doing for 90 minutes?” This goes for streaming movies or shows online, playing game apps, scrolling dating apps, shopping… distraction distraction distraction.
I’m not saying any of this is bad or wrong. Not at all. It’s just that we all know the feeling of having that high of dopamine from getting absorbed into things that give us momentary satisfaction. It’s lovely. It makes us feel good. But unfortunately there is never enough. We can get easily addicted to something that never gives us a long term promise of bliss, and is only a button away to get that hit.
What does give us a long term promise of bliss is accomplishment, or a nurtured relationship. Setting ourselves up with a goal that we break down a piece at a time, or developing trusting bonds with people also feel really good. It feels good because it releases different chemicals into our bodies called oxytocin and serotonin. The difference between these hits, derived from connection and achievement, rather than that one single hit of dopamine, is a path to not only productive but also buildable results. Connection and achievement actually take you somewhere.
What are productive distractions?
In that moment of awareness where your mind, body, and soul are itching to escape the trigger moment, there are a few amazing distractions that can actually turn into productive results. It’s important to identify what this could be for you so that the choices you are making in each moment is not only getting you somewhere but has a longer lasting effect for you.
- First though… Stop. Breathe. A few of them. In and out. That’s it. No really. Do it. Trust me.
- Now one example, if you want another form of that happy feeling, any form of exercise will allow endorphins to kick in. It’s the body’s version of heroin – but leaves you feeling more energized and in a better mood with less stress. Oh and it also keeps you healthy, fit, and mobile… that’s a plus.
- If exercise is not your easiest go-to, then you can create a goal list that helps you break down what you need to get done, but in smaller, achievable increments. Making lists can be addictive, but designing them so they have actionable declarations will surely make your lists more productive.
- Creating a buddy system or joining a group that will hold you accountable not only supports you and your trigger moments, but also propels you to get something done because someone other than you knows exactly what you’re up to. The human connection will also boost your oxytocin levels and relieve the stress of overwhelm.
- Creating a vision board is crafty, creative, and helps you visualize what you want more clearly so that your mind is occupied with cutting out pictures that have something to do with your goals.
Stay clear on your vision and where you stand.
It’s easy to get trapped in a bubble and get swept up by the hype of what society feeds you. Grossly biased news reports and emotionally charged righteousness can easily have us forget what’s truly important and what our stand is in the world. Staying true to what is most important to you is key to being grounded. Political conflict, especially nowadays, is probably one of the biggest forms of distraction from what we personally want to create in life and what we wish to create as a society. Being “right” in these political agendas, and even more so in our own families, takes us away from unity, connection, love, and compassion. So again, the same rules apply:
- Be wary of your triggers and what content emotionally charges you
- Note the form of distraction you take: avoidance, combative arguing, being a keyboard warrior, or any of the above mentioned vices
- Then choose. Choose in the moment… will this line of action, thinking, or behavior lead me to what’s most important? And if it’s just taking you off the path, respond through a different choice that will keep you on track.
- Never forget to stop and breathe.
Overall, personally knowing how difficult distractions can be has prompted me to create things that will support others in not only finding their way but, most importantly, by staying on track. The leadership program I’ve designed over the past few years does exactly that. It allows you to identify your triggers, what you’ve allowed to distract you, and how to create methods of productivity with connection and community. I’ve geared the program towards creative types because we often have the most ideas, yet the toughest time implementing them. So I’m here to say: I get it. I get you. Despite feelings of frustration and seeming solitude in your distraction struggles, there are many others like you.
We start our next program on September 15th. The more our community grows, the more we take our distractions and turn them into effectuation, inspiration, and impact. Will you join us?