It’s a normal Wednesday morning, like many others. You’re on the bus on the way to the station, going to work.
But you’re on your phone.
Because it’s really odd, but somehow you ran out of nappies for the little one. You never do. You should have noticed you opened the last packet and bought some more. You didn’t. Odd.
So while you’re on the bus, you decide to order some online – they’ll be there tomorrow, and it’ll be fine, like this never happened.
Ah, the bus is slowing down – it feels like it’s going to break in a second.
Wait, let me press the Checkout button to buy these nappies. I’m nearly there.
Then I’ll put my phone in my pocket.
Then I’ll hold on.
Oh no wait, where’s the pole gone? Missed it.
Oooops I’m stumbling.
I can’t stop.
Ouch. The windscreen stopped me.
This is embarrassing.
“I’m fine, Mr Driver. I’m going to sit down” (Ever feel like you’re 6 years old again??)
I wasn’t fine. I was bleeding. I had a cut along my eyebrow. And it turns out accidents on public transport are taken pretty seriously.
And yes you can totally laugh at the fact that the police and an ambulance had to be called.
But you’ll be glad to know that I was glued back together in no time by the nurse at the A&E, and that I didn’t suffer a head injury after all.
That is what I call ‘distracted living’.
You can call it ‘surviving’, or ‘coping’ or ‘barely keeping your head above water’ or ‘always being on the back foot’.
You can call it many ways. But the bottom line is that it’s not right. It’s not the way to live.
So I set out to make some changes to counteract the dangers of distracted living, and here they are.
1.Stop living in auto-pilot
There’s a lot of talk about how women can multitask, but men can’t. And you know what? The mind can actually only focus on one thing at the time, so in order to allow you to do a couple of things at once, it uses the auto-pilot mode. That’s what habits are for. They save your brain some power while your mind focuses on something that needs your conscious attention.
But the problem with that is that you’re also doing something else which isn’t getting your full attention. And therefore you’re missing out. You’re missing important moments, or, in my case, important clues – if you’re deep into your phone and refuse to look up when you need to, you won’t be able to judge how quickly you have to move to grab that pole before it’s too late.
Or before your children are all grown up, and you can’t remember what you’ve done with your life. Hard to digest, I know.
2. Slow down
We are living life at an insane pace. I don’t know if where you live determines how fast you go or have to go, but there seems to be lots of pressure these days to do more. It’s coming from everywhere you look. You’re expected to work, to run your household, to be a calm, loving, emotive parent, to be a good partner, a good relative, and friend. Oh and also to make healthy choices, exercise and allow your children to try every sport under the sun, all while you limit screen time and raise tantrum-free little bookworms, who, of course, also have plenty of fresh air and outdoor experiences.
Anything less than all that, and you’ve certainly failed, right?
It’s too much. We’re not built to never, ever stop.
We’re going too fast, and it’s not healthy. This is how we end up with overworked primary-school children and stressed parents who smash their heads on buses.
We need to do less and slow down. It’s ok, really. We need to. We really, really need to.
3. Live in the present, not for your to-do list
You know what? The to-do list will never actually be done. Never.
But you can’t always be doing something and thinking about what’s next. Because once again, you’re missing out on what’s happening right now around you. And you’re left frazzled and overwhelmed, not quite sure about what you’ve achieved, day in and day out. You’re not quite sure about what you did 5 minutes ago, because you weren’t paying attention. You were there, but you weren’t really.
This is where mindfulness will come in and save you. So this is really one for the to-do list. Honestly, drop what you’re doing and go and find out about mindful meditation, and while you’re at it, just give it a go. Start now and keep doing it, and you won’t look back.
4. De-clutter your mind
If you really do start to do less and slow down, you’ll have less on your mind. But what about your worries and anxieties, and that to-do list that never seems to come to an end? You’ve got to work on your mind to be able to de-clutter it too. So back to your mindful meditation practice – do it, do it, and do it some more. And be prepared to train your mind like you train your body. As you exercise your muscles to become stronger and more flexible, you have to exercise your mind to be able to observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions and let them go, without judging them.
You have plenty of stuff to remember? So do I. Write things down; find whatever way works for you, but please do yourself a favour and start de-cluttering your mind. And things will look and feel a lot clearer too.
5. Look after yourself
If you don’t keep yourself healthy you won’t be able to care for the people around you. Your children, your partner, your parents, your relatives, your friends – whoever you need to be there for. You’re made of body, mind and soul, and all these aspects need your attention. Oh yes, you can get away with days, weeks, months, even years of not looking after them.
But then one day you smash your head on the windscreen of a bus.
And it’s deadly embarrassing.
And maybe I was lucky that I didn’t get a head injury, but I certainly had a light bulb moment.
I’ve just shared it with you.
Please think about it.
You don’t want to do what I did.