Dealing With Distractions and Recovering Our Center

BuckheadClub-AtlantaI am a member of the Buckhead Club, which is a venue for business meetings on the top floor of a 26-story office building in Buckhead. It is a nice and well-equipped building whose elevators have 14-inch monitors on one wall that show an unending stream of short, chatty news-clips and ads. I try to avoid looking at the screen and rather to pay attention to what is going on inside me – maybe thinking about an upcoming meeting, or reflecting on an earlier conversation, or simply centering on my breathing – but the temptation is strong. And I notice the extent to which my fellow travelers turn their gaze to the screens and are cut off.

The video stream rarely shows anything that I can imagine being of real interest or use – how can it on a brief elevator ride? But nonetheless we are all drawn in to the quick flashes of fantasy vacation trips, designer clothes, and sensationalism masquerading as news. The same is increasingly happening at gas pumps, where video screens are being installed, and we have already surrendered most of our public places to the march of the plasma TV screen.

I know that when I resist the temptation to be drawn into these stories I feel more centered and am better prepared to deal with whatever awaits me. I know that when I avoid being sucked into the sound-bite stories that are designed not to deliver me real value, but to capture my interest, and persuade me to spend money, I am happier and more contented.

I am trying to make it a point to decide how I spend my time, and not to let others – and in particular those broadcasting uninvited video messages – to dictate that for me. I can read a book or a magazine; I can talk to someone; I can plan for an upcoming meeting; or I can simply be present where I am, paying attention to what is going on inside me and in the world around me, noticing my life.

This last tends not to be valued in our society, but it is enormously helpful, and can not only help us be more settled, but can lead to us being more productive. There are any number of scientific studies that support my own experience on this: just a few minutes of quiet – perhaps following our breathing – can settle and ground us such that we approach whatever comes next in our life – perhaps a business meeting – as a calmer, more attentive, and more creative person. In short, using a one-minute elevator ride to meditate can make your meeting go better; allowing yourself to be distracted by someone else’s story will leave you with a more distracted mindset.

So here’s a little homework for you:

We are all surrounded by distractions: pay attention to those that affect you on a daily basis and pick one to consciously avoid. Use this time to gather yourself internally in meditation, calm, or breathing, whatever feels good. Practice this for a week or two and see how it feels; see how it affects how you deal with what comes next.

Gareth J YoungI am very excited about “A New Business Mindset,” a project that includes writings, courses, presentations and a podcast/radio show. If you’d like to learn more about this project and find out how to get involved, visit the “A New Business Mindset” page of my website.


  • Richard Skoonberg

    I really feel I am losing the battle on this one, so I am going to try you idea of tuning out one of the sources of distraction. You have to start somewhere. Thanks for the excellent post.

    • Gareth Young

      Thanks for the support, Richard. Let me know how your practice of tuning out one of the sources goes…

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