Limiting Distractions

As I was going over some of my writing from last week when I was away, I saw in the space at the top of one page I had written: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction. I can choose what’s important for me.” To be honest, I don’t remember writing it. It’s in the middle of five pages of script. I’ve been reading a lot of material lately with respect to self improvement, so it probably stems from there. And it has caught my attention over and over again in the past couple of days: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction.”

I was reminded of the 80-20 rule which basically says that 80 percent of the time I am involved in things that aren’t important to me and it’s only the things I do during about 20 percent of my time that help me move forward. The idea with eliminating distractions is to change the percentages more toward more of what is giving me results. Over the past couple of months I’ve been learning what my distractions are and changing my habits.

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Probably the biggest distraction and time waster for me is my cell phone. How many times a day do I pick that up to check on something? Sure it’s handy, but it is also a tool and not a master that must be attended to every time it beeps and chimes. I eliminated a bunch of apps that are a distraction. And in the morning I leave my cell on the night stand until I have finished my morning meditation, journal writing and walking the dogs. There is just so little that has to be dealt with right as soon as I get up.

Another distraction I have been whittling down: Facebook. I can waste hours going through stroking egos by giving likes to notifications and videos, and making comments. Again, Facebook or other social media isn’t the culprit, it’s the time and attention that I lavish on what is mostly a distraction. Netflix is another distraction for me, especially a series. No longer do I have to ‘tune in next week on the same channel’ to find out what happens next. I don’t even have to click; automatically it opens the next episode. Before I know it, I’m investing another 42 minutes into it. I’ve limited the amount of news I read daily. I choose the videos I watch on Youtube, I stay away from Instagram and Twitter. So what has happened as a result of my limiting my ‘screen time’?

I have written more in the last two months than I have ever written before. Little of it is publishable, nor would I want it to be. But, if I want to call myself a writer, then I have to write. I am reading some of the classics of literature that somehow I failed to read in the past. I am organizing my home to be more conducive to writing and my other goals, including moving my desk to a more pleasant place. I’ve joined the gym again and work out regularly. And I am organizing my priorities. I am working on increasing the 20 percent: focusing on the areas where I wish to grow. I’m creating large windows of time in my day by eliminating distractions and focusing on what is most important for me.

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Promptly Admitted It

Before we leave off the tenth month and the Tenth Step reflections, I was reminded by a group member of a very important point in Step Ten: “…and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it”. It’s not just a case of offering an apology and moving on. I must offer amends to the person that I have offended. The difference between the two isn’t so subtle.

The Apology:

An apology is a heartfelt ‘I’m sorry’ for what I did or failed to do. A true apology doesn’t make excuses or explain circumstances. Rather, it is an admission of my failure to act as I should have acted. For all its heartfelt emotion, an apology end there. There is a hope for forgiveness, but it is not necessary. I’ve done my part; it’s up to the other person if he wishes to accept the apology or not.

The Compensation:

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There are three elements to making amends. First, an amends should begin with a sincere apology. Secondly, it should also includes some form of compensation to make up for what was done. The repentant thief asks for forgiveness for what he stole and offers to pay back what he stole plus some extra compensation, perhaps interest earned or some agreed upon terms of recompense to make up for what was taken.  It might include repair or replacement of broken or damaged items. It is a demonstration of remorse for what was done.

Perhaps when it’s something physically tangible it´s easier to make amends: return the money, give back the car, pay for a new window. When it’s something intangible then it is more difficult to make amends. How do I make amends for taking away someone’s peace of mind, abandoning them, or ruining a relationship? Reparation for damages isn’t quite as cut and dried here. Some discussion might be necessary to resolve the terms and nature of the amends.

The Commitment to Change:

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A beautiful bouquet offered after a heated argument might be enough the first time, but if the pattern continues, the person making the amends might just get a facefull of flowers after the third or fourth time. That because part of amends also includes the idea that one’s behaviour has been amended or changed so that it won’t happen again in the future. A boss might be willing to accept the amends of an employee who abuses his expense account the first couple of times, but no matter how sincere or honest the apology is after the third screw up, it’s likely not going to be accepted because it’s obvious the behaviour hasn’t changed. So the third element in amends has to be a commitment to change, that I won’t do the same thing in the future. Amends involves a change in life patterns and behaviours. This is ‘living’ your amends.

I have times when I am more successful than others with making amends. I sometimes slip back into old patterns of thinking and acting. I try not to focus on these times as much as I look to the times when I’ve earned a checkmark in life. I recently read that it’s better to: ‘look to the gains, not the gaps’. If I focus on my program I am going to make some incredible wins. One way of doing that is by getting over the screw-ups as quickly as possible: apologise, compensate and change are the three elements of this amends. Making amends is an incredible life win; I have done what is under my control to make up for the offence. And I can move on with my day, celebrating my gains and living my recovery.

 

Who Are Your Friends?

There’s the old say: you are what you eat.  It makes sense, if you eat garbage you can’t expect to have the body of an olympic athlete.  The movie “Supersize Me” demonstrated just how quickly that change can take place.  There’s also another truism:

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”  -Dan Pena

Hanging around with the same five or six people will keep all of you at the lowest common denominator in terms of interests, pursuits and goals. If I try to improve myself, those friends of mine will often, unconsciously and without malice, hold me back from reaching new goals. I do it to myself as well: I wonder what the ‘group’ will think if I do this? By the time I hit bottom in my addiction, I was mostly hanging out with others who used the way I used. If I was going to survive and recover, I needed to get away from that environment.

There was a study done years ago on fleas.  A bunch of fleas were put into a jar and the lid was put on.  After a few days of bumping their heads, the fleas learned to jump only as high as just below the lid of the jar. When the lid was removed, these fleas didn’t jump out of the jar.  They stayed at their level because the believed they couldn’t jump higher than they were jumping. Even subsequent generations of fleas only jumped as high as their parents because well, that’s only as high as fleas jump.  However, if you took one of the fleas from this jar and put it into another jar where the fleas were jumping twice as high, it didn’t take long before the flea learned to go far beyond its former limit.

day242The message for us is very similar. If we stay in an environment where limits are put upon us by social pressures and our own beliefs then making permanent changes in our lives is very difficult. For those of us in recovery, making the choice to be clean and sober is often regarded with skepticism by those we hung around with. It’s important in the beginning to seek out others in recovery to help us and encourage us to move forward. We don’t necessarily drop our old friend, but we spend less time with them. Our common interests are changing. As we move forward in our recovery, they may see the results and want the same, or not. Ours is a program of attraction; it can’t be sold.

I have little in common with those who are still in their disease. I hope someday they will receive their own gift of desperation and find recovery.  I will gladly help in whatever way I can but it’s up to them. I am grateful for my friends in recovery. It’s a very different group of people from my old group. And they continue to assist and challenge me in my recovery. They help me soar in my recovery, showing me that I can not only jump, I can fly, higher than I ever thought was possible.