This weekend, my family and I went to our gym like we usually do. We belong to a club call Life Time Fitness. Huge place, great equipment, layout, services, etc. My son loves it, they have a huge kids area. As we’re heading into the gym, I was mentally setting my intentions:
- I am at the gym to improve myself.
- I will not be distracted.
- I will focus on myself.
That might seem odd to you, but I find it helps me when I’m at the gym. It helps remind me to focus on what I’m there for. I’m not there to goof off or move around. I’m there to improve myself. So I try to put myself into a focused state every time I’m at the gym.
But as we are walking into LifeTime, my son starts to throw a fit. He’s in the throes of a sugar crash, having had a donut an hour or so earlier. He’s whining, not wanting to go to the kid’s area. Not exactly helping me get ready to workout. We manage to calm him down a bit.
Finally we get him to the kid’s area. He’s still upset and my wife asks him if he want’s a snack. He does, but my wife tells me to go ahead and she’ll handle it. Awesome.
I head upstairs to warm up. The gym is pretty busy, but fortunately one of the elliptical bikes I like to use is free. There are dozens of bikes, but only four of the brand I prefer. I get one, set the program, and get one minute into my warm up before my watch dings with a text.
My wife: “left my wallet in the car, I need the keys.” Interrupted.
Downstairs to the cafe. She takes the keys, I sit with our son. We chat for a minute, he’s doing better, knowing that he is going to get a snack. My wife gets back. We’re all good, so I head back to upstairs to the gym…
…only to run into a friend I haven’t seen in a couple months. Not someone I can just give a head nod to. So I stop, again. Interrupted, again. We chat for about five minutes
Finally, free from interruptions, I head back to the gym floor. I get up the stairs, walk over to the cardio area…and all of the bikes I wanted to ride on are occupied by other people.
As I hit peak levels of interruption and frustration – I began to laugh. Just shaking my head, and laughing at myself and the situation.
All my attempts at focus and intentions were smashed. Not by anything major or significant. But just little distractions and obstructions regularly rising up in my path. Death by a thousand cuts.
Which happens with such regularity really. Schedules and intentions are interrupted all the time. Usually not by significant events, but by the mundane. Well laid plans are interrupted by email, kids, work, friends. Attempts to exert control over others or your environment often results in frustration.
The only thing you can consistently control is your attitude. Your mindset. In an effort to project this control of ourselves onto the world, we develop plans. We set intentions, make checklists, and organize our day.
But even this type of control is a type of illusion.”The best laid plans of mice and men…” or “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” But let’s go with Tyson:
Press The Reset Button
You need to be able to continue to control your mindset even when knocked off course.
The alternative is to cede control of yourself to outside forces. At some point, everyone has said variations of the following to themselves:
- I planned to workout, but people kept interrupting me.
- I planned to work on client development, but I had to respond to emails.
- I planned to lose weight, but someone brought cake to work today.
- I planned to learn a second language, but that rerun of Seinfeld I like came on.
- I planned to write a blog post, but then I got on Twitter.
- I planned to X, but then Y happened.
Again and again, obstacles will come between to you and your intentions. So when these obstacles arise, do you become agitated? Frustrated? Give up? Or do you reset yourself?
There are plenty of ways to handle interruptions, but I usually choose laughter. I suppose anger is an alternative. It’s one that you see often. But I find laughter works better. I laugh at my attachment to what was and not focusing what is.
Much better to laugh, reset myself, and say “now what?” Not that it happens every time. There are certainly time where I get annoyed with situations or interruptions in my day. But part of systematically improving yourself is that you are able to come back to your center and original intent.
Otherwise, it’s unlikely that you will get anywhere.