We had a guest talk at work today. Nir Eyal, interestingly the guy who wrote THE book on the psychology of keeping users hooked, wrote another book on how to deal with distractions. And the answer isn’t to throw out all your tech. It’s not just pings and dings: it’s TV, radio, porn, video games, sports, or even overworking, over-reading, or over eating. People have always distracted themselves with something.
My mind throws in: “Like worrying instead of doing anything, because I’m afraid it won’t be perfect?” If you feel attacked by that thought, don’t worry, I do too.
Nir Eyal points out that even when we’ve got all of our basic needs met, we get bored, uncomfortable, and unsettled. It’s even worse when we’re frazzled with high expectations and little control over the work we have to do.
That discomfort is a normal part of being human, because those feelings can drive us to dig deeper and do things that will help us, our relationships, our work, and our world. And in immediate life and death situations, we tend to take action to improve a situation.
But what about when it isn’t life and death? That’s where we sooth ourselves with distraction, turning to things that don’t really align with our values and what we want. We might even choose activities we do want, though we know the timing isn’t right — a parent connecting more with their phone than with their kid who is trying to play with them, or Sponge Bob deep cleaning his house when he’s supposed to be writing a paper.
The good news is that we can choose. We can even make decisions in advance, before we’re dealing with distracting feelings. We can create a little more friction between ourselves and our distractions, so we can get back to growing.
We can choose our actions, and use our feelings to inform us instead of making our the decisions for us. And, if this sounds helpful to you, you can read more about it here. Nir’s focus is primarily on the time management aspect of taking mindful action. He also has a helpful schedule planner here, with the advice to schedule self-care first, then relationship care, then work. I think we need to add in care for our world (be it our home, city, country, or environment.) And I like the idea of not just focusing on care for these things, but on gratitude, too.
The reason I’m sharing all this today: I tend to turn to safe social connections for soothing. And that’s not a terrible thing, but the path of least resistance for me is “walled garden” like Facebook. Which is exactly where I had posted my notes initially: a place where only the people who know me will see me, whether they really like me very much or not. It’s more comfortable than getting vulnerable face-to-face, too. But is it really safety and comfort I’m seeking, or am I ready to grow? I want to share my thoughts. Heck, I even want to share photos that make me happy.
If nothing else, this is another attempt to start. Again. Or maybe it’s just another slightly uncomfortable step in my chosen direction.