How can we control our mind from distraction?

I want to use this opportunity to deal with all questions along the lines of “How do I stop myself from XYZ?”

Whenever we face a question like this we have two choices.

  1. Start thinking on “Why am I stuck?” or “Why I cannot do XYZ.”
  2. Start thinking on “How can I move ahead?” or “How can I do XYZ?”

Note that the first choice ends with a full stop. It is not about understanding, but justification. The more answers we find, the more justified we will feel in being stuck and in NOT being able to do XYZ!

The second choice is an open question. It focuses less on the speed breaker and more about the road to cross it.

For some reason we keep doing the first one, but think we are doing the second, and are then surprised when we cannot move ahead!

There is another implied issue in the way we deal with the problem.

We think that in order to move ahead, we have to ‘eliminate the distraction’. That’s like asking “How do I remove the speed breaker(road bump)?”

For example, “I want to really prepare for my exams. But I keep getting distracted by thoughts of cricket and my crush! How do I eliminate thoughts of cricket and my crush?”

Do you need to? Can’t we move ahead despite it?

The answer is we can. The fact is often we do not want to. So we get busy with choice 1 above(justifying why we cannot move) but calling it choice 2(finding out how we can move)

But that sounds ridiculous! Why would we not want to move ahead? Why would we lie to ourselves? Why would we not want to succeed?

Many possible reasons: 

  • Probably because you think the subject is boring. Why? Because you have something more interesting to do(go for a movie, a date, read books, play games) 
  • Maybe that is your weak subject and your mind subconsciously produces thoughts of possible failure, embarrassment, incapability. These thoughts are very uncomfortable to experience. 
  • Maybe the “secondary gain”(a term we use in NLP) of being distracted is escaping from these uncomfortable feelings. Procrastination is also a common symptom. You might notice that if you are good at something, you usually procrastinate less!

You can analyze forever. But here’s the thing: Does the reason matter? Aren’t we still stuck at choice #1? We keep talking, reading, debating about the problem. Why it happened…what is the real cause….when is started…Never drawing our attention to the solution!

Can we move ahead despite the problem?

Absolutely. If you can simply raise your consciousness and look at the problem differently.

Einstein aptly said: ”You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it”

When we say “I get distracted” – it is a conclusion, a self judgement. “I am someone who gets distracted…” If that is who you are – then it is very difficult to change it! 

Actually the true statement is: “I am having distracting thoughts right now.”

Like saying “I see a road bump/speed breaker approaching”

So what do you do?

Do you proceed anyway. Or do you ask “How do I remove the speed breaker?”

You move ahead anyway…Note that this is not a matter of will-power or ‘trying hard’. It is a matter of understanding. You know speed breakers happen. You know they are not your fault. So you keep moving anyway. 

Coming back to our studying example, I want to have no thoughts while studying a chapter. But then a thought about my crush barges in. Then there is another thought: “I should NOT get thoughts of my crush right now”. Then another one “But I still am!” Next “This means I cannot study. It is called distraction”…

Needless to say, we have triggered an avalanche. By themselves, thoughts are just thoughts. Each one as illusory as the other.

The very effort to kill those thoughts(like getting down from your bike, taking a sledge hammer and trying to crush the road bump) makes your experience worse. You waste even more effort and experience even more frustration.

You are not seeing them for the natural process they are. You are also assuming that you can control them. Worse, you believe that they can control you. Doing all this makes them real. But it’s not true. Of course your journey might be a little more bumpy. But it surely need not stop.

Once you simply keep ignoring these pesky little ‘thoughts’ like you ignore background noise while watching your favourite TV show, you see that you can pass through them, without having to conquer them.

We never say “I will not travel unless traffic becomes ZERO”! IF we did, we will get busy trying to reduce traffic or wait until it becomes zero. We will fail. This failure will make the traffic problem seem worse. We will suffer. 

The alternative is to accept that traffic exists. That it is not your fault. That you cannot control it. So you do not control it. You just move anyway.

Sometimes there are few bumps, sometimes there are many. But it does not matter. We keep moving anyway. 

They are not a big deal. Until we make them. 

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