Derailed By Distractions? How To Get And Stay Focused Now

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Where is your focus right now?

How present are you?

Do you have a little voice in your head listing all the things that you need to do today, tomorrow, and next week?

We’ve all experienced that nagging internal voice that keeps us from focusing on what is right in front of us. As leaders, this distraction can derail your day and your leadership effectiveness with your team.

Why To Be Here Now

To be present we have to know what we want to create in an interaction or meeting, and focus on what is actually happening right now so that we can course-correct if necessary. If we are repeatedly avoiding something or if we feel like a pattern keeps repeating, chances are there is an “intended positive outcome” to not be present. For example, if we repeatedly avoid confronting a direct report, it is probably because it feels better and safer not to.

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It feels better not only in that moment but also retroactively in all the other times that you avoided something and survived it. This is normal! Our brain is wired to keep us safe, and once it learns a specific way to do so, a survival pattern, it generalizes and continues to keep us safe in just that way. Unfortunately, this keeps us in our Critter State and not in our Smart State. Changing that pattern and learning to be present with discomfort and even conflict means that we have to understand the parts of us that want to run away. These parts are doing their job, they are keeping us safe. Instead of fighting them or making them wrong, we can accept them, learn to understand what they are telling us, and even honor them.

Surviving is a good thing, needless to say. But it’s super limited to just that. Basic surviving and not thriving. We’ve all experienced leaders that are just barely surviving. And they rarely can sustain periods of growth, deep employee engagement, and personal fulfillment. 

You Can Get There From Here

The goal is to retrain ourselves to have a choice. We could avoid things, but to lead effectively we have to have the choice and the preference to address most situations in the present.

One of the best ways to get and stay present is to focus on how you are increasing safety (and encouraging people to take risks), belonging (“We’re all in this together, we’re the same” experience), and mattering (“It matters that you, specifically, are here; I see your unique gifts”) in each interaction you have. With this focus, the discomfort won’t take you out of the game. The constant parade of bright shiny distractions will have less ability to pull your attention away. You will also avoid boredom (which pulls us away from being present) because you’ll be focusing on the fascinating person you’re interacting with. Everyone, I promise, is fascinating in some way. As I’ve said before: Safety + Belonging + Mattering = Trust.

What is the “cost” or risk of not being present to these things? When do you need to become present to them? What will the “reward” be if you become present?
 
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