Developing discipline is a a tricky thing for the average person these days. Our lives are totally digital now: everything we could ever want is available with the touch of a keyboard. As a result, we’ve allowed our attention spans to take a critical hit and we’ve lost sight of what we value. If something doesn’t grab and hold our attention in 8 seconds, instinctively we grab for our phones. Into our homework for less than a minute? You pick up a game controller. Just one game first, you justify.
Heck, a goldfish’s concentration clocks in at 9 seconds. That fact alone is sometimes enough for me to get to work on my passion projects.
Our attention spans have shattered into a thousand pieces. What we we value have become distant, whispering thoughts.
- You’ve got a list of to-dos set with good intention. But that 1–3 hours you’ve clocked on your phone kept you from doing any of them.
- You pick up your phone to check email and social media when you’re in a meeting, reading, studying, working, or in class. .
- You see your console or gaming computer and you’re compelled to abandon what you’re doing for one ‘quick game’.
Three hours later, the task is still unfinished. Next thing you know, the day is gone.
Break out of being comfortable
When your fleeting attention wastes time refreshing your instagram feed, you allow yourself to remain in a comfortable state of distraction. The same principle goes for playing one game when you’ve got more pressing matters to attend to.
If you continue to do this with every spare second that you have, you’ll always be comfortable. You’ll never be bored. But, the day will come when you realize that there’s consequences for every inaction. Don’t wait for that day to come.
You can stop this spiral at any time with a little reflection on your values and what you want to achieve. Take it from a former 230 lb video game addict turned 150 lb personal trainer — it won’t be easy, but trust me, it’s worth it.
I owe my transformation and functioning work ethic to one question that I ask myself every day now:
What do I value more than being comfortable?
A creature of comfort
I dropped out of college my sophmore year. It was more comfortable to play videogames than it was for me to pay attention to my text books. I refused to acknowledge my bad attention habits because they made me happy and numb in the moment. The compound effect of my distracted focus resulted in skipping class, and bad grades.
Worst yet, dropping out was not enough of a wake up call. I continued to live a life of impulse and distraction for 3 years after.
I was a creature of comfort. Now, I’m the hero of my own story.
I finally saved myself from living an unfulfilled life when I was 23. At the time, I was an overweight Mexican restaurant waitress and had nothing to show for my life. One day, I finally looked in the mirror and got fed up with not recognizing the person I saw.
It was in that moment that the question finally rose up to the surface of my impulsive little mind, it stuck like a red rubber arrow on the middle of my forehead. No joke: I was shook.
Answering this question changed my life.
I valued feeling confident in my own skin for the first time in my life over food and comfort. Knowing this, I started exercising, eating right, and lost 80 lbs.
After my success in weight loss, I valued learning more about nutrition and exercise to help others. I stopped playing videogames all day to study for my personal trainer certification.
No doubt there were days that were difficult. Sometimes, I still lose focus and find myself on instagram for too long. It happens, but I don’t beat myself up over it and actively look to improve.
If I lack motivation, especially in the morning where my trouble normally brews, I let myself have a quick conversation with my inner creature of comfort.
A example of daily answers from my journal
This is an example of one of my morning self-reflection entries. You can always tell my brain wants to be a creature of comfort today when my cursive is sloppy. It’s my sign that I simply don’t care today. When I observe that pattern occurring, that’s my cue to whip out my values over comfort question and set myself back on course to salvage my day from myself.
Reflecting on this one question first thing in the morning is my secret weapon to catching myself more when I falter. Because of it, I’m quicker to reroute my thoughts and focus up. It hasn’t failed me yet.