Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Eric Klein of WisdomHeart.org
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.
When you step up to that line, the next step is clear. But when you’re at the line along with the clarity comes the distractions.
The inner free throw line is where you meet the most powerful distractions.
But unlike with basketball, your distractions aren’t primarily coming from people “out there” who want you to mess up your shot.
Even when people doubt you, or challenge your strategy. 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 aren’t “out there”. They’re within.
So what are these primary distractions?
Fearful, doubtful, self-critical thoughts are your primary distractions.
These limiting thoughts wave their arms, shout their taunts, boo, hiss, and yell whenever you:
- Break away from the crowd in order to bring your vision to life
- Stretch yourself beyond the patterns of the past
Whenever you venture forth to actively pursue your dream, 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 those critical, limiting thoughts life and sustains their distracting power.
You can’t avoid them. You can’t fight them. So what can you do? Here 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 so you can discover what ignites your limiting and distracting thoughts.
Is it when you:
- Start to write an article
- Determine your fees
- Call a new client
- Plan your week, month, day
Whatever the trigger context is for you – that’s your inner free throw line.
It’s the place of power and vulnerability. It’s the place from which you can move forward to fulfill your dream and the place where it’s easiest to get distracted . . . if the thoughts catch you off guard. By researching your triggers – you’re able to approach the inner free throw line with awareness. With this heightened awareness you can study the thoughts.
Study the structure of the distracting thoughts.
As you approach the inner free throw line, the distracting thoughts will stand up and start yelling. You expected as much and are therefore in a position to observe them, to study them, to dissect them. You do this by examining the thoughts from three angles:
- 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.
By chunking the thoughts into words, pictures, and sensations you drain them of their distracting power.
The thoughts can’t overwhelm your awareness when you’re studying them in this way. And as you lay the structure of thought bare, you realize:
- Distracting thoughts are incredibly redundant.
Despite their emotional intensity –distracting thoughts are really quite boring. You see their redundancy: 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 what matters most to you . . . the distracting power of the thoughts dissolve.
So the next time you the distracting thoughts intrude, you can smile.
You recognize them for what they are – a pattern of words, pictures, and sensations that are given life by your attention.
Rather than become overwhelmed or fight back, you breathe and shift your attention to what matters most.
Try it now. That’s right. Take a breath, see the basket . . . and let all those distractions 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?
About the Author: Eric Klein is one of the few people on the planet who is both a lineage holder in a 5,000 year old yoga lineage and a best-selling leadership author/speaker. Get his free book 50 Ways to Leave Your Karma: Freedom, Fear, and the Art of Getting Unstuck at www.wisdomheart.org/50Ways.