How to Control Your Attention and Become Indistractable

 

You're in a morning team Zoom call, and you quietly grab your phone and scroll through your social media. Hopefully, someone sends a summary. Shortly after, it's crunch time with a tight deadline, but your significant other taps you on the shoulder to chat about plans for the weekend. At dinner, you eat your meal while reading and replying to emails you didn't get to respond to earlier in the day. 

Have you ever felt that there are just too many distractions keeping you from being productive or, more importantly, happy? In this first chapter of the #ChosenInsightSeries on "How to Take Control of Your Attention," Chōsen co-founder John Stanton introduces the book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal. The Chōsen Book of the Month reveals the hidden psychology that drives distraction. 

Recently, John has felt easily distracted and uneasy. He shares feeling anxious, unproductive, and unsatisfied to contrast his usually advanced skillset around focus, supported by hard-won habits and rituals, and a community to foster living his ideal life. 

With the awareness that something was not quite right, John reconnected with the precept that motivation is a desire to escape discomfort - a notion reconfirmed by his re-read of Indistractable. By approaching the content in Indistractable with a beginner's mindset, he shifted his distracted experience to one of focus.  

"Human behavior is driven by a deep desire to escape discomfort. The root cause of distraction lies within us. This means we have the power to shift our experience by choice and practice," says John. 

It is more than a year into the pandemic and we are still living in a state of heightened discomfort. The pandemic has changed the way we work, further blurring our professional and personal lives. Step one in overcoming distraction - our escape from discomfort: acknowledge that we are in the midst of significant psychological upheaval. 

When we think of modern distractions, what comes to mind? Smartphones? Social media? TV? Online games? More than often, we blame technology for distraction. In Indistractable, Eyal argues that we can take control of our attention spans by rejecting the idea that we are addicted and helpless when it comes to technology. Recall that Eyal also wrote the technology addiction bible Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, used by the tech giants to hook us on their products. 

Let's go deeper here - have we ever thought about what is the root cause of distraction? There is an evolutionary link to our escapism. 

Distraction brings temporary satisfaction: sweet catharsis! It lights up the reward center of our brains, flooding dopamine and serotonin into our systems. The result? Temporary, cathartic relief from our discomfort. 

"We are biologically, neurophysiologically, and evolutionarily designed to be only temporarily satisfied. Historically this was part of our survival mechanism - this striving for "more," says John. 

"When we learn to deal with discomfort instead of escaping it, we can then achieve the focus we need to get the results we want," he adds.

To deepen our understanding of the psychology behind why satisfaction is temporary, John outlines four drivers:

Negativity Bias

Remember this gem from our conversations around neuroplasticity and growth mindset? Negativity bias is hardwired into our psyche; we recall negative events more easily than positive ones. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors needed this hyper-vigilance to survive constant threats thousands of years ago. 

Rumination

Defined as "a tendency to continue thinking about bad experiences and being overly critical of ourselves in the process," rumination is linked directly to our negativity bias. We recently discussed shifting away from rumination with the help of a consistent gratitude practice. Skill-building can overcome outdated survival mechanisms!

Boredom

If we are bored, we will actively work against ourselves! Within Flow State, boredom occurs when our skill level is high while the level of challenge is low. When we are bored, we need to increase the level of challenge and learn new skills to adapt to it.

Hedonic Adaptation

John likes to discuss Hedonic Adaptation: it's your satisfaction baseline. "A tendency to return to a baseline level of satisfaction no matter what happens in our lives." Often referred to as "the hedonic treadmill" because we always end up where we started. When we increase our baseline by adopting resilience skills through morning routines and gratitude checks (check our 3 part series on this in the previous weeks in your inbox!), our habits can support us in being indistractable.

In a world that's angling for our attention, managing our time effectively and thoroughly engaging with real life is a superpower. But guess what? That superpower can wax and wain. 

If we acknowledge that distraction originates inside ourselves, we can then take the necessary steps to become indistractable and ultimately live the lives we want.

For more information on how we can support you to optimize your lifestyle for increased performance, reach out to us; we would love to hear from you! 

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