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Why focus is key in the age of distraction

Like my children, I am often emotionally overwhelmed by the end of a day.


Let’s take this morning as an example:


By 8am I was already losing it, when my increasingly belligerent teen went to school in wet hockey shoes, because he refused to don an alternate pair, “because they slip on the astro, Mom!”


All I could think about was the dose of bronchitis heading our way by the end of the week…


Raising emotionally literate kids


I mention this outcome, because recently I arranged a talk at my son’s local primary school on social and emotional learning.


The title, Raising Emotionally Literate Kids in a Techno Crazy World lured parents to come and listen.


And I think many a parent came prepared to hear about limiting our children’s screen time, banning devices and hastily removing apps.


But the wise speaker didn’t speak to any of that.


What she did speak about was the increasing world of emotional overwhelm and social disconnection.


Where my children tend to go into overdrive, and act out, I (and increasingly my teen) head for the digital world of email, Whatsapp and Facebook. And the research is right.


I inevitably end up more miserable after a dose of device.


It’s about ‘wising up’ on self-awareness


The way to navigate digital overload was to focus on teaching emotional competencies, such as self-awareness and self-management.


But the precursor to teaching my children about emotional self-management, is a heightened awareness of what I am doing.


Where are we going as adults?


When my work gets taxing and my staying power wanes, is it okay to top up on Facebook, where the number of likes feeds my dopamine habit?


Or when there’s a difficult email to respond to, let me just keep a few other windows open on my laptop (and in my brain) to see if something else interesting pops up?


This desperate attempt to multi-task, and distract myself, leaves me frustrated and ill at ease.


And, unless we as adults learn to emotionally regulate in a different way, our kids are going to do exactly the same. And the pattern is set to avoid the difficult conversations, avoid the emotional overwhelm, and disconnect.


The take home – how I’m introducing focus


So as a team facilitator, I will continue to introduce a tech-free zone in the training room and build delegate phone stacks in the middle of the table.

Because both my audience, and I, deserve the focus.


I also commence each session by referencing Robin Sharma, who speaks of our “living in a world of dramatic distraction” and “self-medicating” on our devices. How difficult it is for delegates to sit in training and actually listen to the discussion without checking out on a phone or laptop!


And when I’m next emotionally overwhelmed, instead of heading for a device, I will pause, and see if I can lean into the discomfort.


Because, if we are to break this cycle of distraction, and if I am to impart any of the tools of emotional intelligence to either my adult, or child learners…


Best I learn to choose where to place my focus.





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