Can you curb your distractions?

Cravings

Ty was a participant in one of my leadership development classes. In our session on effective meetings, I’d shared research on how much more efficient meetings could be if people refrained from attempts to “multi-task” while in the meeting. The buzzes and beeps from our smartphones, tablets and laptops are addictive. We crave the distraction and the potential reward that comes with an exciting or important text message, social media alert or email.

So Ty set out to curb his craving for distraction.

It was harder than he thought.

“I keep looking at my phone to see if there are any new messages,” Ty told me, “I have it silenced, not even on vibrate, and I am so addicted I keep looking.  I can hardly last 10 minutes!”

I empathized. I’d been there myself a couple of years ago when I broke up with email. It is simple, but it certainly isn’t easy.

I explained to Ty that his smartphone habit was based on the repeated and predictable pattern of Cue –> Routine –> Reward.

The cue was his boredom.

When his mind would drift, whether in a meeting or doing independent work at his desk, that was his cue to reach for his phone. Maybe a juicy reward (interesting message) just arrived.

What makes the smartphone habit stick is the craving for the reward.

We all want the kudos email from a customer, the confirmation of a new project with your best client, or a note from your sweetheart.

But more often it is a notice that the cable bill is due, Amazon would like you to rate your recent purchase or Target alerts you to a sale curtains.

Ty’s anticipation for a reward, in fact his craving for a reward, was what made the habit stick.

Once he understood that the craving for the reward was driving his behavior, he understood, and he relaxed a bit. “I get a little hit of that craving when I’m just looking at my phone on my desk, trying to will myself not to look at it,” he said. “I’m going to leave it in my pocket or put it in my desk drawer when I need to concentrate so that I’m not triggering the craving just by looking at it.”

When I last spoke with Ty, he was making good progress on delaying the reward. He’d decided that kicking the smartphone habit altogether wasn’t in the cards for him, but he could at least delay the eventual reward . . . be it a text from his sweetie or a sale on curtains.

What strong cues draw you in?

Share yours below and I’ll reply with some tips to curb them.

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    GrowthMindset

    Ever wish you could just sit back, relax and let change wash over you? What if I told you that one of the most powerful techniques Olympic athletes, blockbuster actors and top sales performers use to seal the deal on their success was readily available for you to use, too?

    Good news!  It is.

    The secret?  The easiest way to shift your mindset is to visualize yourself having a growth mindset.  Visualization is the process of seeing in your mind’s eye the behavior you wish to have, in the moment you wish to have it.

    Sound woo-woo?  Esoteric?  Consider Michael Phelps who has earned 28 Olympic medals in swimming. His coach trained him to “watch a movie” in his mind of him winning every race. His coach told him to do the visualization (watch the movie) every night before he fell asleep and every morning upon waking. The more detailed, the better. Every stroke, every movement, in precise detail.

    How will it work for you? Imagine you’re at the start of your work day. See every challenge that comes your way as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Fill your “movie” with some of the more challenging scenes from a typical day: getting less-than-stellar feedback from your boss, learning a new software program, a difficult conversation with a colleague.  In each of the situations in your visualization, see yourself responding with a growth mindset: see yourself asking questions like, “What’s the most effective thing I can do right now? How can learn from this? And how can I improve based on what I now know?”

    Or, I’ll make it even easier for you:  Watch this guided meditation. I’ve narrated the movie for you. Review it at the start of your day, imagining your day lived through a growth mindset.

    After you’ve listened to it, share your thought in the comments below.

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    changetheirmind

    You know the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset. You’ve been working on it. You can spot a fixed mindset a mile away.  And it bugs the heck out of you when you hear your colleague/spouse/best friend/child responding to life with a fixed mindset.

    Ever wish you could (quite literally) change their mind?

    Okay, so you can’t necessarily change their mind. But you can change their mindset.

    Here’s how:

    1) Look for an opportunity.  Find something they did well (project work, yard work, helping you with something).

    2) Show appreciation for their effort. It sounds like this: “Thank you for helping me host the client dinner/party/garage sale.  Your effort and help is noticed and appreciated.”

    Research on mindset shows that when people are praised for their effort they are subsequently more willing to take on more challenging tasks. On the other hand, those who are praised for their intelligence or their innate talent (i.e., “You’re so good at hosting client dinners/parties/garage sales.”), were less likely to perform well on more challenging tasks.  Moreover, those who were praised for their intelligence or innate talent were less likely to even want to take on more challenging tasks!

    3) Rinse and repeat. Continue to find opportunities to praise or show appreciation for a job well done.
    Show your appreciation for the effort, not the person’s intelligence or talent.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you issue false praise or thank someone for meeting minimum expectations. Instead, look for the gems. They may be few and far between at first, but the more you cultivate them, the more they will emerge.

    The steps:

    1. Find an opportunity.
    2. Appreciate/praise the effort.
    3. Repeat.

    Give it a try and then share your results in the comments below.

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    mindset_brain

    Ever wish you could catch yourself in a moment of fixed mindset (see The Secret to Success) and do a 180-degree turn, flipping yourself into a growth mindset quickly?

    Our brains will fall back on what they know best until they are conditioned to respond differently. It is possible to retrain your brain to switch to a growth mindset. You can do so more quickly if you use a framework or pattern that you’re already familiar with. Remember the “Stop, drop and roll” technique you learned in elementary school, in case of a fire?  The process for shifting to a growth mindset I designed is built on that simple three-step process.

    1. Stop.  Monitor your thoughts (think: self-awareness) and listen for fixed-mindset thinking.  You’ll notice it because it includes absolutes like never, always, everybody and anybody.  It sounds like this: “Everybody else always loses weight/gets promoted/has a great relationship.” When you catch yourself in a fixed-mindset thought, the first thing to do is stop.

    2.  Drop.  Drop into a reflective state of mind. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself the question, “Is that thought true? 100% of the time?” Make a conscious effort to evaluate your thought pattern and ask yourself if it is the mindset that will serve you best. Hint: if it’s a fixed-mindset, it probably isn’t serving you.

    3.  Roll.  Imagine doing a somersault (or a roll in a kayak if that’s more your speed) and rolling out the other side with a different mindset. Roll yourself into a different state of mind by trying on a growth mindset thought. It might sound like this: “If I apply myself and learn some new techniques I can lose weight/get promoted/improve my relationship.”

    Everybody slips into a fixed mindset occasionally.  Even the most optimistic, growth-oriented people have moments where a fixed mindset stalls their progress.

    The next time you hear your self-talk going down a fixed mindset path, remember to stop, drop and roll.

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    You will never amount to anything.

    Self-talk, or the thoughts you think to yourself all day long, can do more damage than good. In fact, that self-talk can outright crush your dreams, especially if you are not listening closely to it and identifying whether it is fact or fiction.

    Here are six ways that self-talk, or how you communicate with yourself, can crush your dreams.

    1.  You deny what you want. You got close to that ideal relationship/career move/new car/dream home once.  And it fell through. So you convinced yourself you really didn’t want it anyway.

    2.  You compare yourself to others. Don’t try to fulfill on someone else’s dream. It won’t make you happy. Wanting the car your neighbor has, or the new job your former coworker just landed, isn’t going to make your dreams come true.

    3.  You listen to the (2%) negative feedback. If you weight the one or two pieces of constructive – or even outright negative – feedback more heavily than 98% of the feedback that said you did a great job,

    4.  You put other people’s need in front of your own. You had an intense day at the office and you are looking forward to relaxing in the evening. Except your spouse needs you to proof-read a work report that is due the next morning. Do you honor your need to relax (and your boundaries), or do you compromise your self-care and help?

    5.  You listen to voices from the past. What your parents thought you should be, where your brother thinks you should live or when your college professor said, “You’ll never be a writer.” Those are other people’s voices that need not have any bearing on who you are or what you want to be or do or have. Leave them in the past where they belong.

    6.  You sell yourself short. Excessive humility, when it comes to your skills and talents, is a major impediment to your success. If you are the smartest person in the room on the subject, let people know. If you read six books on the subject last month or follow all the top industry experts, don’t be shy. Confidently state your expertise and show your stuff.

    What will you do to get out of your own way and stop crushing your own dreams?

    Use the Comments below to proudly declare how you will get out of your own way and let your dreams come true.

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    Usery Mountain #1

    Not long ago my 17-year-old son and I went on a hike on Usery Mountain just north of Mesa, Arizona. We took on the Pass Mountain Trail, a seven-mile loop around the mountain which summits about two thirds of the way along the trail.

    It wasn’t a particularly arduous climb but the intensity was elevated for us because we were pressed for time: he was catching a flight back home to Minneapolis in just a few hours. We had less time to do the hike than we would have liked.  As I raced across the mountain, numerous leadership lessons surfaced.

    In the coming weeks I will document twenty of them.  With titles like “You will probably not crash to your death” and “Sometimes it is best not to look down” and “Appreciate occasional and unexpected lushness,” I share the leadership lessons that showed up for me on the mountain.

    These leadership lessons will help you communicate and lead more effectively whether you lead from the board room or the lunch room.

     

    Leadership Lesson #1:

    Just because you start together doesn’t mean you will end together.

    My son Andrew and I started the hike together.  This was before he told me that his spirit animal was a mountain goat. I didn’t know he had a spirit animal. I didn’t even know he was that, well, spiritual.

    We weren’t three minutes from the trail head when he and his long, lean legs began to outpace me. Considerably.

    For the next 30 minutes, I struggled to keep up. At 6’1” he’s got a solid seven inches on me and it’s mostly in his legs. He’s also got minus 29 years on me.  And while I like to think I’m in shape, this boy runs cross country, cross country skis, and could skip lithely over the rugged terrain in a way I could never do. Not even at his age.

    Those 30 minutes were pure agony.

    I huffed.

    I puffed.

    I willed him to slow down.

    I worried about him.

    I worried about me.

    I tried so hard to keep up.

    I tried even harder not to be mad at him.

    As I saw him round a corner at least a half mile ahead of me, his neon yellow tank top a stark contrast to the greys, beiges and soft greens of the desert terrain, I realized he wasn’t waiting for me to catch up. Loping along at a comfortable pace for his long legs, he didn’t appear concerned with me at all.

    In that moment it hit me: We could both enjoy this hike (which I hadn’t been up until this point!) while being on the mountain simultaneously, each at a pace that suited us individually.

    After this mountainous realization (pun so very much intended), I relaxed my pace and found my groove. I started to enjoy myself and take in my surroundings. And there, in that moment, the first leadership lesson appeared: Just because you start together doesn’t mean you will finish together . . . or should even keep the same pace.

    Whether it is a freshman year roommate, grad school colleague, or someone who started with your current employer on the same day as you, that’s all it means: You started together. It doesn’t mean you are going to keep pace and it certainly doesn’t mean you are going to end together.

    Letting go of feeling that we had to stay together and that I was supposed to keep up (or that he was supposed to wait up) was liberating.

    I let go of comparison.

    I let go of self-flagellation (at least about the hike).

    I let go of judgement.

    And I began to enjoy the hike.

     

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    tree_down_sm

    Today as I was out for my early morning run, I came across this scene:

    tree_down_sm

    Last night’s powerful thunderstorm created a new hurdle for me this morning. Literally. It reminded me of the hurdles we all face in all parts of our work and lives and how easily we can be stopped by them.

    Here’s a three step process for overcoming the next downed tree that blocks your path:

    1. Make a plan

    A bit of careful planning is the first step on getting past unexpected hurdles. It’s easy to react in the face of unanticipated roadblocks – and most of us do so much drama and theatrics. A few moments of planning will get you back in action more quickly than drama. What’s the next small action you can take to keep you on course? And then next one after that? Develop a list of action steps you can take that will each take less than 30 minutes. Small steps, repeated, are what get you to the finish line.

    2. Take action

    Now that you know what the steps are, take action. A plan without action is like a recipe without a chef. Use the plan, the recipe, and be in action. If you want to clear the hurdle rapidly, take massive action. Accomplishing some of the most immediate steps that you need to take to get past the hurdle will fuel your confidence level and you will be charged up to take on subsequent steps with gusto. Success breeds success.

    3. Get help

    Recognize that you can’t always surmount the hurdles on your own. Think realistically about the magnitude of the challenge, your resources, skills and knowledge, and the larger context in which this hurdle presents itself. Human beings are social animals and we get more done – and get it done better and faster – with the help of others. Do you need to hire a contractor, a constructor worker or a coach to help you past the hurdle? Get the assistance you need to powerfully overcome the hurdle and get back on course.
    This morning, as I ran around the lake, I climbed over the hurdle as did everyone I encountered. I didn’t see a single person who said, “Oh no. There’s a downed tree across the path. I’m giving up.”

    Not even close.

    >> A woman with a cane maneuvered over the tree trunk.

    >> A man lifted his dog (who was too big to get under it and too small to get over it) across.

    >> Cyclists dismounted and lifted their bikes over it.

    >> Countless runners took it in stride.

    What hurdle is in your path today? Make a plan, take action and get help.

    Share your thoughts in the comments.
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