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.

 

Become the Exception

My next birthday I will turn 60. Hard to believe that I came into this world so long ago, though apparently, I didn’t want to: I was a breech birth (sorry Mom). Soon I’ll be eligible to collect a pension and receive all sorts of discounts.  So I am supposed to be winding down my life and live comfortably in retirement. Only, that’s not what I want to do.  I want to be one of the ‘exceptions’ that comes into my own as I enter my golden years.  Fair warning, I am not planning on slowly fading out of this life by preparing for the next!

I have been doing a lot of reassessment of my life and where I want it to go.  What do I like? What do I see myself doing? Where do I see myself doing it? The type of questions that I answered back 40 years ago when it was suggested that I would make a great teacher (I spent many years involved one way or another with education) or mortician (oh yeah…like that was really going to happen!) I just want to know where I want to go in the next chapter of my life.

I have never been known to follow the regular path. I have been an exception to the rule.  As a teen, I complained that my younger brother didn’t have as many responsibilities as I did when I was his age. My father would look down at me and tell me it was because I was an ‘exceptional child’.  I really didn’t appreciate his response then, but I guess I was. Throughout life I gravitated to various positions, not really having a full-time career since I left teaching elementary school at 28. Lots of contract work, freelance, seasonal business and now settled in the south as a landlord and B&B owner in a country where I had to learn a new language and culture.

What I have been discovering in the past few weeks of investigation is that I can choose to be an exception to the rule. I can forge ahead and create new pathways for myself rather than follow well trod path of others of retirement age. Recovery had taught me that if I want to fulfill my dreams, then I had better work for them and not expect them to arrive at my door. I have some longevity in the family and I don’t want to spend the next 30 to 40 years twiddling my thumbs waiting for the grim reaper. I want to be the exception.

I am working on the next phase. I am working on my writing. I will continue to question and seek new answers because that’s what an exception does. I want to be the guy that the devil worries about when I awaken in the morning and I want to die sliding into home plate in a well used body. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen if I’m sitting in a rocking chair watching Netflix all day long.

There are exceptions to every rule in life. Some kids make it out of the ghetto. Some horses with lousy odds win the race. Some ‘seniors’ begin a new career late in life.

Dare to try. Change beliefs. Step out of the comfort zone. Be the exception because, as far as I know, this is the only life we get; I intend to really live it.

Where will your road take you?