If you were to make a list of what drives you crazy, would it beg the flourished unfolding of a regal scroll with a clearing of your throat (Ah-hem!) and the recitation of the innumerable people, behaviors and situations that drive you absolutely, utterly, stark raving mad?
Whatever drives you crazy drives you crazy, fair enough, but those things may also drive you to distraction. That’s when what gets under your skin gets in your way.
I was a competitive swimmer back in the day. I loved the sport largely because it was uncomplicated and didn’t rely on anyone kicking, hitting or throwing a ball. Instead, it gave me a clear-cut objective: dive into my own uncluttered lane, swim hard, execute a few hopefully perfect turns and finish. At no point did the opposing team pummel me with old tires, even if they wanted to. No, I just swam, start to finish.
If only we had such a clean approach to achieving our personal goals. But all manner of things are tossed in our path and we can be one of the biggest contributors to our own distraction. We’re trying to swim a straight, uninterrupted course, but we’re unintentionally flinging the equivalent of old boots, empty bottles, wooden crates, and even a few of those old tires in our paths via a barrage of baroque distractions.
And we have help with this.
One of our ancient survival skills is the capacity to notice subtle changes in our environment. We needed to hear a twig snap behind us, no matter what we were doing, to keep from being jumped by a neighboring tribesman or worse, a wild beast. We had our ear to the ground while simultaneously focusing on other tasks. A mother’s natural ability to hear the slightest rustling of her baby from an adjacent room while she’s preoccupied with any number of other things is a modern version of this ancient skill. That’s incredible in terms of the pure brilliance of human functionality, but it’s also something we should know we do quite seamlessly since it can be as counterproductive as it can be productive. It’s all about application.
What takes your mind off of any objective you might have? Anything can potentially distract you from your appointed goals. Even the good stuff can make you wander off course. Add the hypersensitive hearing gift you were born with, which translates into your attention potentially being grabbed by just about anything, and you may start to wonder how you ever get anything done.
But we have something that can save the day, our own personal superhero in the form of our conscious mind, which is like a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta—seriously powerful—even while we may think of our mind as being more like a Volvo XC70—understated, durable and, you know, powerful enough. The truth is, you’re sitting on—well, technically sitting under—a world-class thinking machine that can keep you focused on whatever you choose. It’s so powerful it can obliterate any distracting thought that gets in its way. Pretty incredible, when you think about it. Which really is the point, to think about what you’re thinking about, to pay attention to where your mind goes on its own, or to what grabs it and entices it to follow.
The trick is not to get caught up in what doesn’t matter in terms of your day-to-day life. I’d argue that what matters is what you can change or influence, and what doesn’t matter is what you can’t change or influence.
Whatever drives you crazy isn’t worth spending mental time on since you may not be able to affect whomever or whatever that is. Recognize your frustration and move on. Do that with everything that vies for your attention—recognize it as a distraction and move your attention back to what you were doing—and you’ll feel more in balance, more at peace, and more your pure and loving self.
And you might even become a better swimmer in the process.