There are all sorts of distractions in this world. I can only imagine the new distractions that will be around by the time my children become working adults. Regardless of what new technology or work expectations they may have in 10-15 years, however, I’m certain that the “Distraction of ME” will still be there.
The Distraction of ME is a selfishness and self-centeredness that I struggle with a lot. It isn’t just being selfish with things or even with time. It is easy to want to spend time with my friends and family. No, it is worse than that because it is an obsession in my mind with my own story, my own problems, my own desires, my own fears, my own thoughts.
Here’s an example…you get to the gate at the airport for your flight (which I do regularly); as soon as they even mention your flight you’re up and jockeying for position so that you can get on the plane and get a spot for your carry-on in the overhead. Once you’ve finally sat down, the phone comes out and you get annoyed and bothered every time someone brushes you with their bag as they go down the aisle or a seat mate asks you to get up and turn your attention away from your precious phone for a few seconds (don’t they understand how important it is for you to respond to this email RIGHT NOW!?!). Now the flight is up and away and you can’t get any work done because there is a baby screaming right behind you and the flight attendants keep smashing your shoulder with the drink cart. You finally land and push and shove your way a few rows forward because YOUR connection is the most important and you can’t be late. The whole experience is all about ME. Despite the fact that the airport is packed with people and the plane is completely full, our own problems, needs, and concerns trump everything and the fact that no one else recognizes this becomes infuriating.
Here’s another way I get Distracted by ME…I’ve been working with a client for over a year, we’ve done the first few phases of work, but the real ‘good stuff’ of the project (read: part where I make the most money) hasn’t been completed. Every time we talk they’ve got some excuse as to why it is delayed and as soon as I start to hear them, I shut off and stop listening. I can’t understand how they don’t see that the finished product that will come from completing this project will totally change their organization for the better. How am I going to continue to explain to my boss that I’m still confident we’re going to do the project even though they keep putting it off – don’t they understand it hurts my credibility internally when I delay like this? Don’t they understand that I’m serious about not being able to meet their timelines if they don’t contract it this month? What is going to happen if this doesn’t close this quarter and we don’t hit our number? It doesn’t take long for the focus to shift from the client to ME. Who cares about why they are delaying, I need to get this deal done!
What I have found as I have practiced mindfulness is that I catch myself having these thoughts that are totally focused on ME. Observing that I’m having these thoughts allows me to push them away, thus shortening the Distraction of ME. It doesn’t necessarily stop them from creeping in, but instead of spending the entire plane ride consumed by my own needs, I can step back and realize that there are other people around me who have needs greater than mine.
What I want to do on a regular basis is spend more time thinking about others. Starting with my wife and kids, I want to dwell on the feelings and needs of those around me. It is my hope that if I can focus on thinking of others, my own junk will fade into the background and not become a distraction. This is hard. Today, I’m going to start by turning my thoughts to others FIRST and continue to recognize when the “ME” gets in the way. Recognition that the thoughts of ME are creeping in will help me eliminate it as a distraction much like you would turn off a ringing phone. I’m convinced that the less I’m distracted by ME, and focused on others, the better husband, dad, friend, co-worker, and servant I’ll be to those around me.