As a child I felt distracted. It seemed a constant in my life. My mom would use the word “bright” when talking about my abilities, but I would start something, get bored and move to something else. But was I bored or was I distracted?
When I got a little older, I remember conversations with my folks about getting distracted. It usually involved trying to stay focused on figure skating training or school work. They would try to help me from getting focused on other things that as my mom would say “derailed me”.
I wasn’t ADD and it wasn’t that I couldn’t sit and focus on something that really interested me, I just wouldn’t always. I tended to let my surroundings dictate my mood, my ability to feel comfortable and my ability to get things accomplished.
Competitive figure skating helped focus my free wondering mind and body. I am a second child, a dreamer, emotional and as a child was what many would call “a free spirit”. My drive for achieving excellence was usually thwarted for my want to have fun.
In high school I remember a conversation with my father about my path. It was in regards to some insignificant drama in my life at the time. He described life as a path. In my mind the path is raised on an incline and the sides have grass on it. It tapers off down to a tree line on both sides.
My dad described life as going along this path and constantly having someone or something come up and try to knock you off it. He talked a lot about not letting that happen. Fighting to stay on the path and not get knocked off to begin with. Because it took strength, energy and time to work to get back on the path and keep moving forward.
My father was letting me know that I let people and things push me off my path. He talked about how much happier I would be if I didn’t let every little thing, statement, look from another person, comment, and emotionality push me off my path.
Needless to say….this advice and conversation has obviously stuck with me…but maybe not surprisingly…I still feel like I let things push me off my path. After my free spirited personality turned to a more serious one from elementary school to early college…and childhood day dreams turned to focused intention, I still always had trouble with distraction.
When I say distraction, I literally think of it as a choice conscience or un-conscience to go a different direction, throw caution to the wind, decide to do that chore tomorrow, or just focus on something other than what the original plan was…..and so on.
The problem with this is that when you are aware you are letting life get in your way, and your goal is to not let it happen, you start to have self-doubt. You might start to feel like you are failing. The very label that something you do is wrong, and that you are constantly fighting to not let it happen…makes failure crippling. Owning something or letting it become a part of who you are, can be easier.
But here is the deal…regardless of all of that these distractions still get the best of me a large portion of the time. I always thought that not being pushed off the path was about cutting out extra things that could become a distraction…because saying no for me is pretty hard.
I finally carved 1 hour out to write this and during that hour I answered 2 calls, both from family that ended up taking ½ hour of my hour time. I could have not answered…but I did.
I could have said to the callers, “I’m in the middle of something, let me call you back,” but then the conversation is left for another time and there is never enough time.
Maybe the answer is not that you can keep yourself from getting knocked off that path….but how quickly can you get back up on it. Resilience!
noun re·sil·ience \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\
Simple Definition of resilience
: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary
Resilience was my word of the year 2 years ago. Instead of picking a new year’s resolution…I pick a word. That word you use as beacon to help you grow that year. Let me tell you…I needed this word 2 years ago…and I may even use it as my word again in the future.
Psychology Today states that, “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/resilience
Distractions are constant and can’t be controlled…but how you react to them is really what it is all about. My dad was right that life is like a path and things are constantly trying to knock you off. But where I was wrong as a young person and have slowly started learning is that resilience gets you back on that path. How resilient you are, is probably more than anything the determining factor for success.
American Psychological Association says that, “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.” There are factors that can be associated with being resilient:
- The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out.
- A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
- Skills in communication and problem solving.
- The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
All of these are factors that people can develop in themselves.
So my goal for the future is to work less on feeling bad that I let something knock me off my path. Instead, I am going to increasingly focus on how to be resilient in getting back on that path as fast as possible.
Check out the American Psychological Association’s website for tips on how to become more resilient…