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How to Regain Control Of Your Life And Replace Distractions With Focused Concentration

by Pete Godfrey · 8 comments

How to Regain Control Of Your Life And Replace Distractions With Focused Concentration

FOREWORD: YUCK! What a title! Looks like work doesn’t it?

And I won’t lie; this is a heavy, thought-provoking post all about reality; the reality of the world we live in, and what we can do with this reality to ensure a successful life.

I won’t be giving much advice either; more like throwing out a few ideas… like throwing a cat in amongst the pigeons it snaps you awake, gets you thinking, but more importantly, gets you thinking and acting more strategically and with more clarity and purpose.

So I’ll go light on my opinions here and just share with you some important facts on the world we live in and how, instead of technology making us more effective and productive, it has made us dumber, with attention spans of teenage X-Box addicts on a high-sugar diet; forever distracted and unable to focus for more than a few seconds at a time.

Let’s be clear on one thing. Your ability to focus is THE critical key to living a successful life; whatever successful means to you. (A good parent, a great teacher, a super-rich entrepreneur; whatever, it all comes down to focus.)

And some of what I am about to say may be confronting.

Some people won’t wanna hear it and they’ll simply tune out. Like new dads who choose not to hear the baby crying at 2 o’clock in the morning, but can hear the kick-off whistle for the footy on TV while outside in the backyard, some folks have selected hearing. They filter out anything that gets them to think; anything that challenges their beliefs and anything that questions their point of view.

This brings up two points.

First, you can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t even try.

Second, as your coach and mentor, I take my job seriously… and, I take the somewhat unorthodox view that there are times when I have to give you what you need, not just what you want.

Many times, what you need is bitter-tasting, and I have the habit of NOT adding any sugar to make it all sweet. So be it. I won’t be watering down my views to spare the feelings of a few. That would only devalue this blog for those who can handle the truth.

We’re all adults here aren’t we?!!

And look, this isn’t about me it’s about you. Whether you develop certain success behaviours or not, has no impact on my finances.

On yours, most certainly.

On mine, not at all.

I’ve immersed myself in this subject over several years; digesting dozens of books, many blogs and essays and surveys and studies, to condense the subject down into an easily digestible article you can chomp your way through in a few minutes.

And I’ve battled my own way through distractions over the years. I’ve fought for clarity just like anyone else. I’ve wrestled control of my thoughts and have come back even stronger, with laser-like focus.

So I’ve done the hard work for you… and… I’ve got a lot to share. All I can do now is give it to you straight and damn the consequences. This way, you get what you need; and I can sleep with a clear conscious knowing I have done my job.

Okay, enough preamble, let’s get started…

Unpleasant Truths About
The World We Live In

Plugged in: We live in a face-paced world where folks are continually plugged into the grid. Fact is; recent studies prove all of this plugging in is making us dumber; not smarter.

Research studies are proving that we humans are being neurologically re-programmed because of our high-reliance on technology, making us unable to think and concentrate and focus for more than a few seconds at a time. Some of these reports make shocking reading. Consider this:

An average day for many people consists of checking emails hundreds of times, being ever- present on social media sites such as Facebook, logging in to dozens of websites, a constant stream of text-ing, glued to their I-Phone as if it were another appendage. With so much incoming data, there is no time for self; no time to think, to concentrate, to get clear on what they want to achieve.

Many confuse activity for achievement.

“When we constantly multitask to get things done, we’re not multitasking, we’re rapidly shifting attention. And this rapid shifting kills the mind’s ability to create meaningful and powerful forms of output.” Scott Scheper, from his book How to Get Focused. He went on to say, “The key to developing flow (focus) centres on blocking out distractions and keeping the mind serene.”

And here’s what Daniel Sieberg had to say in his book The Digital Diet. “I’ve come to realise that sometime in the last decade we’ve transitioned from being a culture that uses technology to being one that is completely absorbed by it.” Interesting to note, Daniel is a young guy who was formerly the science and technology correspondent for CBS and CNN. I urge you to grab this book and devour it and begin your Digital Detox.

Short attention spans: There’s no doubt about it, attention spans are shrinking. Have you noticed with TV these days, they are constantly recapping? After every commercial they recap what went down before. Sure I understand this is so folks can join the show at any time and not miss a thing, but it’s also to remind those folks who have been there from the start what they have seen. Folks are easily bored and are easily distracted and they crave constant stimulation, so they’re not really paying attention to the TV show in front of them and they have to be constantly reminded of what’s gone on before.

Mob mentality; peer pressure: There is definite pressure on entrepreneurs to be plugged into social media sites such as Facebook and those who don’t are considered old fashioned and out of touch.

What amazes me is that many folks (and I know dozens of them), normally sane, rational people with a good dose of marketing sense, seem to turn into something totally different when online using Facebook.

Their speech changes.

They say “LOL” a lot; it’s like they’re back at high school.

Now this would be fine if they were teenagers or in their twenties; trouble is; I’ve observed many who are my age or older, regressing back to speech patterns that weren’t even around in their youth, but are now part of their vocabulary.

Is this a desperate bid to reclaim their youth?

Not sure.

What I do know is the mob is generally wrong.

To Paraphrase Earl Nightingale: “If you’re stuck for a winning formula, do the opposite of whatever everyone else is doing. Because the majority are often wrong.” So what I (and many of my colleagues and clients) have noticed is the willingness of many to succumb to peer pressure, to neuter their real thoughts so they fit in, and even change the way they speak so they appear hip (I’m showing my age here by using that word) and switched on to this new media.

As I told you at the start I won’t be doin’ any preaching … so I’ll refrain. Because the point is not about me giving you my opinion here, the point is it takes courage to stick to your convictions, to stay true to your values in the face of the mob mentality that says that being different is wrong, out of date, and oh so last century.

The point is fads come and go but your values are for life.

It takes courage to dig your heels in and stand your ground and many find it easier to bend in the breeze and many times that breeze ain’t a gale, just a gentle puff of air is enough for them to change their course.

Voyeuristic intentions: Okay, that’s a line out of the old Rocky Horror Picture Show; but nevertheless, we are becoming a voyeuristic society. Folks are damned interested in what everyone else is doing… and they love to tell you about it and give you their opinion. I once wrote this comment on Facebook and man did it get some responses: “Back in the old days, you know, before The Internet, iPads and X-Box, folks never aired their dirty laundry in public … and then along came facebook…”

OUCH!

Sure did get a reaction.

News, reality and entertainment; a very blurred line: We’re assaulted by news these days and the line between news and entertainment is constantly getting blurred. With so many channels of media to choose from, all regurgitating the same content, from those reporting for CNN to the young guy in his Mum’s basement, getting the facts, getting quality news is getting harder by the minute.

When I was hanging out with Ted Nicholas recently on the Gold Coast, he mentioned his frustration with the lack of quality newspapers with quality content here in Australia.

Celebrity beats credibility: If you are selling to anyone under 40, keep in mind that celebrity trumps credibility any day. For over 40s, years in business and your experience still means something and you can use this as your point of difference and build the trust factor by mentioning your experience and track record. For those under 40, especially those under 30, credibility doesn’t mean a thing. Are you famous? Have you got a cool YouTube video? That’s what they care about.

Living a successful, focused-driven life in the 21st century

Okay, we are facing many problems is today’s world and chances are it’s cutting into your productivity. But there is a lot of good happening as well…and, like it or not, we need technology to operate our businesses.

Fact is, we’ve never lived in such exciting times. Never had so many opportunities to get rich and live the life of our dreams. However, as you’ve seen it’s a two-edged sword.

Okay, as promised, I went easy on the old advice and opinion in this article. And I’m definitely not here to judge. I merely wanted to give you some food for thought.

In future posts, I’ll give you a detailed summary of the things I’ve been doing to not only reclaim my focus and productivity, but to reclaim my peace of mind amongst the hustle. And peace of mind is such a wonderful thing and I wonder how many folks actually get to experience it.

In his book The Digital Diet, Daniel Sieberg has a series of questions to ask yourself to see if you are suffering from tech-addiction.

One of them is a beauty.

Here it is: “Have you ever felt something hasn’t really happened until you post it on Facebook or tweet about it?”

For many, this sharing of every life experience is an obsession. Instead of being in the moment, sucking up every last bit of enjoyment from the experience, they have to tune out from life and plug into the digital world and let everyone know what a great time they are having.

I always wonder why if they are having such a great time they have to interrupt that great experience and broadcast it around the globe.

Maybe I’m missing something?

I doubt it.

By the way, an old mentor took me aside years ago and gave me some great advice. He said to make your money in the dark. Meaning, you do not have to let folks know how much you are making or how you are doing it.

This new obsession with sharing every success, every thought; every tiny annoyance is juvenile at best; detrimental to your financial security at worst.

Okay, I’ve given you something to chew on until next week. It’s up to you what actions if any you will take.

But it begs the questions:

How much should you reveal on Social Media? How much do you want to reveal? It seems for many folks there is no limit to what they will share online. You need to think strategically about this.

Also, how is your concentration? How’s your focus? Be honest with yourself. If you’re lacking in this department, the good news is concentration and focus is a learned skill and you can become a lean, mean focused machine any time you want. It’ll take a bit of practice, some discipline, but the rewards are worth it. In future, I’ll write about this important subject.

POST SCRIPT: If you’re young, don’t start thinking this is the ramblings of an old, mid-40s dinosaur. This affects all of us… and judging by some of my recent coaching calls with mid-20s members, younger members are becoming aware of this problem and are looking for ways to beat their addiction and learn how to focus. I’ll enjoy getting your thoughts on this article.

P.P.S. This post was adapted from a recent newsletter article. If you enjoyed it, you’ll love my newsletter http://www.emotionaladwritingletter.com

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About The Author

Copywriter, Sales Strategist - Pete GodfreyPete Godfrey, The Wizard of Words, from rebel without a clue to one of the most in demand and highest paid Copywriters and Sales Strategists in Australasia… all with the power of his emotionally charged words that sell… Discover the “Secret Weapon” to increasing your Sales and Profits by downloading the valuable report "The Ultimate Copywriting and Marketing Secret" While you're at it, follow Pete on Facebook

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Allan Dib January 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Hi Pete,

Spot on buddy. Most people have their email set to check every minute. That’s 1440 opportunities a day you are giving people to interrupt you. If you have 3 emails accounts that becomes 4320 potential interruptions. No wonder many don’t have much focus or get much done.

It takes discipline to close that email application and focus on your most important task. Heck if it’s so urgent they’ll give you a call – after all no one emails for a fire trunk or ambulance eh?

Reply

Pete Godfrey January 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Yeah it does take discipline Allan… but the good thing is, it becomes a habit…

Reply

Kerrie January 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Hi Pete,
Great article!
I must be showing my age well, when it annoys me that I seem to compete with Facebook and technology for my teenagers attention.

Reply

Pete Godfrey January 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Yeah it annoys me too Kerrie… I have a rule at home, no technology over dinner… and by the way, I once walked out of 5k consultation day because the client repeated received text and voicemail on his phone. I had warned him…

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Farhad Khurshed January 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Focus and Facebook certainly don’t go together…unless the medium is being used for the strategic purpose of personal branding. Social media helps with the “Are You Famous” bit. If having a few thousand twitter followers, facebook fans, linkedin connections and a few dozen meaningful videos helps one become famous, then why not use this to your advantage.

It’s not getting easy for Information Product consumers to maintain their focus.

My pet peeve is long form video sales letters that cannot be paused. If I’m interested in the product, I turn off the volume, minimise the screen and go about my work. About forty minutes later I click on the buy button to check the price. Much prefer to skim through a sales letter to decide if i want to read it in full.

Anyone else hates long video sales letters? I’d love to know.

Reply

Pete Godfrey January 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Farhad, good point. I have had many battles with web geeks over the years about this topic. Let’s just say I haven’t always won. But, in future, I want the controls on any videos I make, and make it clear from the start how long they go for.

(In a sales letter, we have the double readership path for skimmers… if they like, they can go back and read the letter.)

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Konrad January 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Great Advice Pete! I have studied many of the Legends!!! (and many don’t like to be mentioned as such.)Another great trait of them “Le—–“,(Nearly said it again) is the ability to unplug and focus on the JOB! Along with many other things this is one of the ‘BIG’ reasons I chose to be taught by you, I have noticed right from the beginning when our Mate Mal Emery enlightened me about EDR, one needed to be able to not be taken up with Shiny Object Syndrome!!, but to focus and to be targeted in our Marketing.
Thanks Pete! For being a “True Light”

Konrad

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Hamish Withington May 31, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Pete

I was having a great and lengthy chat with a good friend the other night about life, mentoring, regaining direction and so on, and she mentioned your site. After reading a few of the articles you have written, it has struck a big chord with me, and probably revealed the final validation I needed to realise I have allowed facebook and the likes to soak up way to much of my time. That’s not facebooks problem, nor is it anyone elses but mine. Its just like gambling and alcohol – both are great and fine in the right measure.

This article of yours really spoke volumes, so I decided to do something about it, and try the following;

I have issued myself (and any of my other friends should they so choose to), a 3 day challenge to stay off facebook and other cyber forms, except my email (whilst I await some recent job applications). The below is the note I offered up this afternoon about my own experiences, and what I am keen to see the results of. I am wondering just *what* I may get done in three days of no cyber land? It goes like this….

Recently while giving continued deep consideration to a number of things, including “How do I make the best of what I have”, “What is it I really want to do”, and “How am I spending my time currently”, a sudden thought occurred to me.

One way or another, I have allowed the synthetic world of the internet steal way too much of my time.

I realised the other day that June 2012 is virtually here. In fact, its starts tomorrow. “Where the hell has that time gone?” I asked myself. I was quite shocked. When I look back in the rear mirror, twelve months ago I was just about to tender my resignation from (old high pressure job), and take off for a job in West Africa. (My son) was quite a substantial bump in his Mum’s shirt and his arrival was becoming imminent.

6 months ago, the large group of ex-pat (profession) managers and superintendents got given the shaft from West Africa once we got the (task completed), and I found myself back home in (North QLD).

5 months ago, I started working (I use that term very loosely), for (another organisation) in (town). That didnt pan out real well either, and 4 months ago I ended up back in Townsville, seriously questioning what in heavens name it is I really want to do anymore.

4 months ago!!! On a brief reflection over this time, I have done basically nothing. Not a damn thing that is taking me forward. Ok, I have scaled the pages on Seek.com looking at various opportunities, and have spent an abundance of time with my boy which in itself has been a great thing. But Dad doesn’t feel himself right now, so it isnt exactly the most “optimal” time. Having said this, I have been given a great opportunity to try my hand at acting through the role of (character name, mini series pilot episode name) – something I’m most eager to see the finished pilot episode of and see where it goes. And then….then there was the chance to (indulge in doing an old job I used to enjoy as an early 20 something year old) again in that period. Oh, and I caught up with some very dear friends in person, and had conversation with them, sang songs, drank, ate out with them and generally socialised.

Ok, so the above isnt “nothing”…in fact, its far from it.

But what I realised looking back on all this was “How much more could I have done, how much more could I have achieved / gained / enjoyed or just plain exprienced, if I wasnt sitting on facebook, checking emails religiously and generally spending as much time as I do online”?

This is me here Im talking about, and not intended as a dig or an insult to anyone. Im not beating myself up about it either, but it is a valid point, and surely Im not the only one in the world to have succumbed to the addictive nature of the net.

Lets go back ten years ago before we really had substantially accessible internet. We didnt have Iphones, Androids, Blackberrys, Ipads, and laptops. We didnt have facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Chat forums, Interest groups, dating sites and readily available pornography that catered to every possible whim of the human soul. Mobile phones were so grossly expensive to use that we limited the use to work related matters only so that we could claim most of it back on tax. We used landlines if we wanted to socialise with a friend who lived to far away to visit. We even sat down and wrote letters on paper, sealed the letter in an envelope and dropped it in a red letterbox after affixing a small postage stamp. Days later, we may have received a letter back. Maybe even weeks or months.

Did I socialise more back then? Yes!

Did I get out more, do more, see more? Yes!

Did I feel I had actually had an experience before posting about it on facebook or other cyber sources? You bet.

It is easy to see how the cyber world has become so addictive, and I have been a classic example. First thing in the morning, as addictive as that first cigarette with coffee, I have to check facebook and see whats going on in the world. Sure, I think its more reliable hearing news from friends, acquaintances and interest groups than it is coming from supposedly “main stream” sources. But its still an addiction.

It is my humble view that Facebook and the artificial, synthetic world of the online life is much the same as gambling and alcohol. All have their place, all are fine when in moderation. But let one or more take up too much space in your world and see what happens. Also recently, I was highly critical of spending time with someone who spent nearly the whole time checking their phone – facebook, emails, and whatever else. Then I looked in my own proverbial backyard and caught myself out, doing basically the same thing. Tsk tsk!!

I even considered deleting my whole facebook account, but thats like going from one bottle of Rum per day to none at all, and probably a grossly childish and immature way of managing it.

So, I am challenging myself to three days of being facebook free. And this also includes all other internet based sites, forums and so on. I want to see what happens, as I cant say I have had three days away from the web for far too many years. Even in Africa, internet access was pretty well everywhere (although reliability and speed was insidiously frustrating).

As an extra step, I am going to set the following “rules of engagement” to test the waters and see what happens;

No facebook, interest group forums, or web surfing of any kind, regardless of origin – PC, desktop, laptop, phone.
No email except what HAS to be checked for work sourcing purposes – so this means that before I get out of here I have to change the settings so as not to be given any updates or alerts that may provide sufficient justification to log on.
No other internet based activities at all – hobbies, research, web surfing, anything. Full stop.
Phoning people directly – fine, texting people – fine, writing to people via standard email or snail mail, fine. Seeing people in person and actually conversing, fine.

Perhaps it is only I that thinks I spend too much time on facebook and other sites. Perhaps not. But Im prepared to give this a go, and just see what happens. So as of midnight tonight 31 May until 4 June, I shant be logging on.

Those of you who have my number – you’re welcome to give me a call or text. Strewth, I may even give you a call or text! My email – XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX@XX.com

See you in 3 days!!
H.
(Names and places changed to protect identity).

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