Imagine a professional basketball player stepping up to the free throw line. He bounces the ball a few times before looking to the basket. Above the rim, through the plexi-glass backboard, he can see row upon row of people shouting and waving. And they’re not shouting encouragement. They’re trying to distract him from making the shot.
He can’t make them stop. He can’t tell them to go away. All he can do is . . . focus.
Following your dream means stepping up to your inner free-throw line
When you make the choice to follow your dream – whether that means building a business, writing a book, creating a loving relationship or anything else – you’re going to find yourself at the inner free throw line.
What is the inner free throw line?
It’s a powerful place to be.
It’s powerful because you can see what you need to do to fulfill your dream. You’re aware of the action you need to take to grow your business, complete your book, or deepen your relationship.
But it’s not that simple.
At the inner free throw line, you’re also bombarded by distractions.
They come with the territory. But your distractions aren’t primarily coming from people “out there” who want you to mess up your shot.
Even when your dog eats your homework, your laptop crashes, and your mother asks (for the millionth time) what you think you’re doing, even then – the primary distractions are inside your head.
So what are these primary distractions?
Fearful, doubtful, self-critical thoughts are your primary distractions.
Such thoughts crowd the stands and yell at you whenever you:
- Move to the edge of your comfort zone
- Break away from the crowd in order to bring your vision to life
Whenever you venture forth to actively pursue your dream, those distracting thoughts will be there. You can’t really avoid them.
Trying to avoid thoughts just glues you to them more tightly.
Pushing distracting thoughts away, arguing with them, zapping them with positive affirmations – just intensifies their distracting power.
Because distracting thoughts – like all thoughts – feed on your attention. It’s your attention that gives the thoughts life and sustains their distracting power.
You can’t avoid them. You can’t fight them. So what can you do? There are two key strategies for breaking free from distracting thoughts:
1) Pay attention to when the distracting thoughts arise.
What triggers the fearful thoughts? What activates the self-doubt? Be student of your thought patterns. Instead of believing them – observe them.
Notice when and how they arise and soon you’ll see that despite their emotional intensity – the distracting thoughts are really quite boring. In fact, you’ll see that they just repeat themselves. They’re not creative in the least. The same ones appear over and over again.
2) Don’t oppose these thoughts – study them.
Don’t argue with them – that’s just adding fuel to their distracting fire. Instead study the inner structure of the thoughts in terms of:
- Words: What does the thought tell you? Does it say, “You’re too young to do this.” Or “You’re too old to do this.” Be like a reporter taking notes. You don’t have to believe or argue with the thought. Just note what it says.
- Pictures: What images, movies, memories does the thought activate in your inner imagination? Observe the images with the curious, mildly detached attitude of a student. You can even mutter gently to yourself, “Interesting . . . hmmm . . ..” as you watch the images that the thought projects on the inner screen of your mind.
- Sensations: Notice the pattern of bodily tensions that accompany the inner words and pictures. By doing this, you track the physical reverberations of the thought in your body. Don’t get lost in the sensations. Just be aware of them.
What does being a student of your distracting thoughts reveal?
By becoming a student of the words, images, and sensations that make up your distracting thoughts you realize:
- Distracting thoughts are incredibly redundant.
The same distracting patterns repeat themselves day-in-and-day-out. They’re not creative. They’re not insightful. They’re just doing what they do . . . which is to try and distract you.
- You don’t have to give your attention to the distractions
Through studying the thoughts – you detach from them. You recognize that their power to distract comes from the attention you give them. When you withdraw your attention . . . .and focus on your goal . . . the thoughts fade away.
So the next time the distracting thoughts intrude, you can smile and . . . shift your attention to what matters most. That’s right. Take a breath, see the basket, and let all those screaming fans fade to silence . . . as you watch the basketball swish cleanly through the hoop. Nice shot.
Questions for you:
- What are your repetitive distracting thoughts?
- What helps you shift your attention away from them and back to your cherished goal?