Recently in a leadership coaching session, a client asked, “What is the secret to staying focused and not being distracted by the next shiny object or new idea?” This question comes up often, and my first instinct is to blame technology or the urgency addicted society that we are immersed in, which is enabled by 24/7 operations, the internet, and Amazon Prime.
The chemical reward we experience through immediate gratification feels good, and we must be aware that we cannot escape or deny these intuitive urges. However, we can learn to counter- balance them by tapping into other inspiring emotions that are driven by a deeper burning desire inside of us. We must find the passion or fire for something more meaningful and inspiring than the distraction of the shiny new object affords us.
I am a self-proclaimed idea guy. I love thinking about and dreaming of ways to improve things, all things. While it usually tends to energize me, it does potentially impede productivity and often drives many people around me crazy. I can just as easily interrupt myself with a new thought or idea as I can be interrupted by others. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower at times to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid that craving for the chemical reward of immediate gratification.
And yet I have found that all the willpower in the world is not enough unless I trust a bigger burning desire deep inside. This bigger burning desire is often described as purpose or passion. We each have one. For some it is yet to be discovered, for others it may not yet be clarified. However, it is there and it can be used to help us maintain our focus on the things that matter most, that bring us the most joy, and that have a positive impact on the organizations that we are part of. Yet it is our reluctance to invest the energy on a regular basis to review and live our purpose that makes it easier to become distracted by the next shiny object or a jolt from our gadgets.
We must invest time annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily to connect to our purpose – not just intellectually, but viscerally, in a way that makes it easier to say yes and no to things that drive us confidently in the direction of our purpose and dreams … to, as Thoreau reminds us, live the life that we have imagined .