Breaking Free from the Inertia of Distraction

Our big world can quickly seem infinitesimal if we spend our days doing the same things over and over. In the end, what really matters in a fulfilled life is:

  • investing in relationships

  • passion, personally meaningful activities

  • experiences, taking risks and leaving comfort zone

  • continually learning

Time is the most sacred form of currency. Choose how you spend it wisely.

According to Eric Barker, a researcher followed 200+ men over 80 years, and found that "the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people." There's massive incentive to find people you trust and keep them close.

How do we strike the balance between being/living and recording/remembering? We write our stories through our memories. Every time we retrieve those memories, the files get overwritten, and we rewrite the story of our selves. Photos are both material and meaningful—photography is our best chance at capturing what happens to us in our lives.

Time can become this daunting, almost paralyzing thing we seek to escape, even if temporarily, through movies, music, games, TV, live performances—art taps into emotions that seemingly can't be put into words. Stories are more memorable than facts. Human capacity for overthinking far exceeds our capability for verbal articulation. We seem wired for feeling.

Who says you don't deserve to spend your days on exactly your own terms, to get lost in your imagination and channel it into something that helps others? And yet Abraham Maslow estimated that only about 2% of people achieve self-actualization.

Most of us spend our time feeding our addictions or resorting to default mode. We are creatures of habit, and it's easy to get stuck in the inertia of laziness, but that becomes a downward spiral.

The biggest barrier to beginning our ascent is the Law of Attraction, which says that we attract more of what we think about. Consequently, our environment and the people we surround ourselves with influences our probable brain states. The widely used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based off Stoic philosophy, which affirms the relationship between thoughts/judgments, emotions/desires, and actions/motivations.

What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.

Perception of time is subjective. Much like psychedelic drugs can send their user on a cyclic thought pattern or “loop,” technology can generate a repetitive and reinforcing need to check our phones and emails. Because it takes a lower frequency to scroll through our phone, we can pass time more quickly. But this widespread use of technology has been linked to lower default attention span in recent years: 8 seconds, slower than a goldfish's. When our attention is constantly bouncing, it's hard to get focused and tap into deeper thought.

Often, we let one of the more primitive systems residing within us reign and cause problems—lack of motivation, ego protection, self-limiting attitude, the myth of scarcity, and so on. We are surrounded by electronics, junk food, excessive material items. Somewhere along the way, we evolved to focus on the bad in order to survive, our hunter-gatherer instinct got out of hand, and now we live in an attention-scarce society that fears missing out... on information and possessions that don't really matter.

How do we break the cycle of stuckness and tap into a fluid stream of thoughts flowing through our conscious? The solutions to all these problems lie within us. It is only by mastering our minds that we really begin to tap into our optimal frequency and realize our potential. This can be facilitated by surrounding ourselves with people who push us to be the best version of ourselves. But it’s not all about environment—this is a process that ripples outward.

from Highly Suspect - Lydia music video

We must escape that initial inertia that’s weighing down our feet and causing us to drag them a few inches before giving up. How do we do this? I think it starts with realizing that we are not our minds, and that we have the power to change our thought patterns.

There’s a famous saying that goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I think the first step towards positive change is mindset. We must be open to learning and know that we can do better. This has two parts: (1) attitude, and (2) self-awareness.

(1) The attitude I like to approach the world with is this: Everything happens to us for a reason, and hardship sets us up for success by giving us something to grapple with and learn to accept and write in as part of our life story. Life is by no means perfect—in fact, it’s pretty messy, yet with a practical growth mindset, it can be a beautiful mess, and an opportunity to create order from chaos. This then enables us to help other people struggling through similar situations. What overcoming hardship fundamentally teaches us is that we are not alone.

(2) The second component is self-awareness. If we stay in bed all day and don’t accomplish anything, we will probably feel bad. This feeling may make us less likely to engage with the world. It’s an awful loop to get stuck in. However, at some point, survival mode kicks in: This wastefulness not who I am. My mind has held me captive, and it’s time to put my foot down and take control of my life.

We must be willing to evaluate ourselves in order to see any of the payoffs most people dream of but never achieve. You can’t be afraid to fail or respond to failure by reinforcing some negative myth about yourself. Apathy, the absence of desire, is the most pervasive barrier to success. This life is high stakes and high reward, and if one can see past the risk and towards the opportunity, one will feel motivated to act.

I use a visualization technique to stay motivated and focused on my goals. This powerful method has me courageously chasing dreams. I picture what I want, where I want to be, and who I want to be with in the next year and plan accordingly.

My advice to those who want to get unstuck is extremely simple: The Five Second Rule.

Everything ripples out from the present moment, so treat every new day and even every new moment as a fresh start.

Start small. Go for those easy wins. Do a load of laundry, take a shower, eat a healthy meal, talk on the phone with a friend. Engagement causes minor changes to your subconscious mood that, over days, can have a profound impact on mental health and motivation. Over time, you can start building systems that let you manage a multi-faceted life without getting overwhelmed or feeling like you've spread yourself too thin.