The greatest struggle many of us face every single day is the almighty battle between two highly competitive players – the ‘Joy of Distraction’ and the ‘Delayed Gratification of Discipline’.
Introducing Player One - ‘Joy of Distraction’
A master of immediate joy, appearing many times throughout the day with the primary goal of taking you off guard. At every opportune moment, the Joy of Distraction will appear as a little voice in your head, directly in your line of sight or even at the hands of others with exactly the thing you love and desire. It could be a chocolate bar, another ‘not so’ quick check of Facebook, yet another excuse to leave your work station because the coffee machine is calling or it could be another night out with friends vs. staying home, going to the gym, finishing that proposal, reading that paper (insert relevant task). Often in the company of ‘Procrastination’, together these two live the hedonistic life of immediate joy and continuously invite you to party with them.
And Introducing Player Two - ‘Delayed Gratification of Discipline’
Not as colourful, fun or inviting, Player Two is significantly more self-controlled focusing on the job at hand. Moving slower than Player One and certainly not always as much fun to be around in the immediate time frame, ‘Delayed Gratification of Discipline’ knows that with focus, determination, effort and self control the results will come over time even if it means missing out on the immediate joy of now.
The battle between the instant Joy of Distraction and the Delayed Gratification of Discipline is the greatest struggle many of us face every day. And more often than not the Joy of Distraction wins. It succeeds in taking us off track as we follow the shiny stuff that promises instant joy.
According to a 2018 Udemy survey in to Workplace Distraction, “nearly 3 out of 4 workers admit they feel distracted when they're on the job, with 16 percent asserting that they're almost always distracted."
Strava, the social network for athletes, went as far as analysing over 31.5m global January entries and discovered that January 12 is the fateful day after setting a New Year's Resolution when distraction takes over and motivation falters.
I am currently in the arena battling all out with these two players on a daily basis.
I'm 3 weeks in to the 8 week F45 challenge – an exercise and eating plan to ultimately improve overall fitness and well-being. Despite being really clear on my ultimate end goal and knowing what I have to do (yep I had the dreaded body scan before starting out and I’ll admit the results freaked me out), the Joy Of Distraction seems to jump out, catching me off guard, at every twist and turn.
“Hey how about this glass of wine, you know you love it”
“What about stealing some hot chips off your son tonight?”
“Chocolate biscuit? Go on - it won’t do any harm”
“You deserve a sleep-in, why not miss the gym this morning and have a rest”.
It doesn’t matter what the challenge - a personal fitness challenge, writing a book, pulling together a business proposal, working on your business growth plans, hustling for sales or doing whatever it takes to secure the next promotion - the daily battle is very real.
It's easy to give in to the Joy of Distraction receiving that instant endorphin rush of the high and the pleasure it brings. But this joy is definitely short-lived. It’s so much harder to choose the Delayed Gratification of Discipline because, let’s be honest, it can be a little bit boring even though we know the long term benefit will pay off.
Becoming a master of self-discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish any goals, so the question is how? Here are four thought starters:
1. Lock Down Your Goals, Your Why and Your Plan
Self discipline starts with you having a very clear goal, an understanding of WHY achieving success in this goal matters to you and an executionable plan. Your WHY is the fuel that will keep you going, the fire that will feed the hunger in your belly to achieve. And the executionable plan is essential for you to check your progress. Without these it’s easy to lose your way or get side tracked by the Joy Of Distraction.
When I wrote my second book, It’s Who You Know, I had;
- a GOAL to deliver a 50,000 word manuscript to my publisher by a set date - the WHY was a message that I wanted to share about the power of connecting in a disconnected world
- and thanks to my editor, the fabulous Kelly Irving, I had an
And, believe me, the distractions were very real over the 6 months it took to complete this project.
2. Ditch the Temptation
Take ownership and set yourself up for success from the get go. Remove the temptation that you know you will face. If you want to improve your productivity at work, turn off social media notifications. If you are on a diet, empty the fridge of the not-so great foods. If Netflix is your temptation pack up the TV – I have colleagues that did this!
The less distractions you have, the more focused you will be on accomplishing your goals.
3. Celebrate the Small Stuff
Give yourself something to look forward and plan a little reward for when you accomplish your goal. Having something to look forward to drives motivation and the anticipation of achieving the end goal.
In ‘The Psychology of Rewarding Yourself with Treats’, author Gretchen Rubin states that when we reward ourselves “we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command — and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits.”
4. Be Kind To Yourself
Even with the best-laid plans and steps 1-3 covered you are very likely to experience a momentary lapse of discipline and fall victim to the Joy of Distraction. There will be highs and lows, ups and downs as you work towards your goal. Maybe this is actually part of life, part of the challenge and a fundamentally part of growth. When you fall to distraction, the key is not to beat yourself up. Forgive yourself. Keep moving forward
During a podcast interview with Jack Delosa, founder of The Entourage and listed in the BRW Young Rich List since 2014, we discussed the benefit of daily habits and tracking performance. Jack agreed that, like many of us, it’s hard to achieve 100% every day and that on those not-so-great days, if you stumble, acknowledge what happened and move on. Don’t beat yourself up and then use this as an excuse to give up - accept, note the learning and move forward. The activity of paying attention to your goals and tracking progress is the element that will ensure constant improvement.
As Samuel Beckett said, “Ever failed. No matter. Try Again.”
Now, talking about the Delayed Gratification of Discipline I’d better get back to tonight’s battle – the eight hours of quality sleep I am supposed to have vs. another Netflix show. Knowing that I have to report in to the fabulous team at F45 Balgowlah in the morning is all the accountability I need.