Three Thoughts on Self-Awareness, Concentration, and Distractions from October
This month has been a busy one – I have attended 5 conferences in the last 4 weeks. The consistent theme across all of these conferences has been – what is going to enable us to succeed as individuals going forward in today’s demanding and distracting world? Ultimately, success will come down to self-awareness, and the ability to concentrate and withstand an unprecedented number of distractions.
To know thyself is a vitally important capability to develop. I have found it particularly helpful to know my strengths, but equally as important to know my weaknesses. One of MindMax’s core values is “Ask for Help”. If you are acutely aware of your weaknesses, asking for assistance and resources to address the gaps you cannot fill always makes for a stronger outcome. Additionally, I have found that when I am honest with myself and respect my limits and capabilities, I tend to have a much more effective work life. If I am ever unclear about my weaknesses, I can always ask my family or a colleague. They are always able to help pinpoint a few growth opportunities for me.
Concentration is one of the more challenging disciplines in my life. The ability to concentrate is something that Cal Newport talks about in his book, “Deep Work”. I had the chance to hear him talk this month, and he discussed the extensive benefits to increased concentration. The central issue really lies in having the discipline to actually complete tasks without distraction. Whether it is going to the gym, going to church, or writing in my journal, if these tasks are simply scheduled to happen, then the intentionality behind the action is lost. Cal postulates that developing the ability to truly concentrate is just like building a muscle – you are able to increase your ability to focus with repeated effort and work.
In the last 6-7 months, the news has featured a lot of buzz on the benefits of being bored. Increased creativity, break through ideas, and problem-solving are just some of the likely returns of allowing ourselves to be bored. However, in this age of technology, there are just so many ways to fill the void – when we are waiting in line at a coffee shop, how many people are on their smartphone? When we are in an airport, how many people are on their laptops or playing music, trying to tune everything out? Moments of waiting time or boredom can actually lead to an increase in creativity and in the ability to generate new ideas. If we are constantly filling the discomfort of being bored by looking at our devices, we are not able to access larger portions of our creative brain.
For example, this month I caught a stomach bug and was stuck in bed for a couple days. During that time, I wrote a speech for a talk I had to give, I came up with a solution to a parenting challenge, and I mapped out a reorganized and redesigned room in our house. As uncomfortable as being in bed was, it gave me time to just be present with boredom.
This month I am grateful for everyone at MindMax who are stepping up and are enabling us to grow as a company.