Why Focusing In Life is So Hard

You want to know why it’s so hard to focus on your own life and ride your own wavelength of zen? Well, I re-discovered the answer today. Wait for it… Wait for it…

It’s because everyone around you is so DARN LOUD!

The Setting

I wrote this post yesterday during a fit of frustration on the plane to a hopefully calming vacation in Las Vegas while attempting to read My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel amidst the cackles and clangor of inebriated passengers as they become new found airline besties.

The Story (and Lesson):

Listen, I’m all for freedom of friendliness, libation, and acquaintance; but by golly, do they have to be so LOUD? Then again this is a country built on freedom of speech, so who am I to tell the new found besties to sacrifice their hyperactive happiness for my peace and serenity. I mentally rummaged through all the fine print I read inside the safety manual. There was a lot of reassuring information about oxygen masks, life vests, safety devices, and “in the event of an emergency” situations, but nothing about being courteous to your neighbors. But wait, isn’t this an emergency? Am I not being forced to sacrifice my page-turning enjoyment to listen to the loudest passengers that have ever flown on a plane, ever? Doesn’t that warrant some kind of rescuing?

With no way to politely ask these chatty birds to pipe down, I decided to make something of this experience and share the lessons this noise has forced me to tackle. What else am I supposed to do? Do you want me to risk a confrontation, get booted off the plane, and possibly get arrested because I had to defend myself against one of these tipsy passengers when they try to punch my lights out? No! I am saying no to violence and that’s my final answer, for now. Instead, I will take a deep breath and patiently hoped for some desperately annoyed passenger to do what I don’t have the gumption to do — ask them to shut up! Oops, I mean to “please, if you would be so kind, might you quiet down a bit?”

As I become more and more frustrated by each screech and shout, the feeling inside reminds me of moments in my life when I’ve felt trapped, frustrated, limited, and a victim of other people inserting noise into my rather happy place. Those were times when I found it most difficult to focus on my journey. Right now, I would do anything to be able to go into my own head and turn up the selective attention dial to “I can’t hear you” mode but nothing is a match for the voices of Godzilla. The more I think about ways I can tune these various conversations out is the more anxious and tense I am becoming. Under other circumstances I would have reveled in the opportunity to eavesdrop on the fascinating conversations around me. Honestly, they are discussing interesting interpretations of life. The two new buddies behind me are shifting in and out of intellectual conversations about love, relationships, passion, religion, happiness, spirituality, God, and new places to experience once we reached our destination. Our other friends across the isle are adding to the noise with topics including food, TV shows, etc. The problem isn’t them per se — well maybe it is because there is no need to shout at the top of your lungs if someone is sitting right next to you– but it is more the fact that I am not in the mood to listen to their stories at this volume at this moment. I want to read my book during this flight and then reflect on life.

Though quite terrifying– if you really think too hard about it– there’s something quite calming and spiritual about flying. The views, the perspective, and the fact that my life is in the hands of complete strangers surrounded by complete strangers for hours while thousands of feet above the ground is both unsettling and kind of magical. That is until turbulence hits and I am reminded that death could be imminent. Oddly, I am sure that fewer planes have crashed from turbulence than during take off or landing, but I could be wrong. Anyone know? Well, just as a wrote this paragraph I can report that I am entering the first phase of a full on panic attack, so let’s change the subject back to the chatterboxes behind me.

As I said before, in my mind this plane ride included a specific plan for my time– me, God, reflection, and a book, not writing a blog post about my frustration with the noise. I’m sure I would have found “the best method for tuning out deafening voices” in the book about anxiety but I was only able to get to page 32 before the voices of Godzilla destroyed my focus. Still annoyed but determined, I am deciding to start talking to myself — in a healthy way. “You’re stronger than this. Don’t let them distract you. You had a goal in mind, so stick to it!” Typically I would be completely oblivious to the loud mouths around me as they are drowned out by my music or a movie. However, I forgot my headphones this time! Thankfully my other-better-equal half is always thinking ahead and he brought an extra pair. Nonetheless, I didn’t planned on plugging my ears with noise-cancelling headphones; I planned on having an intellectually stimulating experience with my books. As you can surmise by now, their volume has reached the decibel that would interrupt even the most focused person’s brain frequencies! So, I am taking the headphones, but it is still not working.

I am asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard to just focus? Why can’t you just push through? Is it really that hard to tune them out or are you just being petty?” Feeling defeated, I am reminded of the times in my life when I felt overwhelmed by the noise around me — times I’ve been focused on something in my life and then every voice begins playing in my head (again, not in the DSM-5 diagnosis kind of way). They are the times in which all the negative, positive, confused, logical, irrational, intellectual, and analytical voices/thoughts tell me how to be confident, worried, certain, and fearless all in the same frequency. Ay dios mios! As my mind is shifting to those moments when I’ve asked the same question –“Why is it so hard to just focus?” — I am beginning to recognize a parallel between my focus, life, and the challenge of tuning out noise. I am not sure I really want to confront it, but here goes. Simply realized, the more voices and noise in my head– including my own at times– is the more difficult it is for me to focus on my own life and my own journey.

Some noises are louder than others — fear, other people’s opinions, opposing viewpoints, societal and family expectations, cultural norms, and internal self-talk. At times, it can just be too loud, too confusing, too opposing, too headache producing, and too tiring to combat. Although annoyed at my clangorous neighbors, I am happy that I had the chance to look myself in the mirror and confront factors that at times make it hard for me to focus. Although a critical exercise, confronting these factors one time on a plane is not going make me a master at tuning out the loudest noises in my life. It is going to require mental maturity and mental martial arts!

Today, I am reminded that I have a lot more work to do. It would be great to block out the noise by creating a magical force-field around my head, but I’m sure that would not prevent me from concocting some ridiculous thinking within my own head.

Today, I have learned two things:

  1. I now understand why people invest in quality noise-cancelling headphones,
  2. no matter how noise cancelling the headphones, it’s much harder to cancel out the noise that exist — or you allow to exist — inside your own head, and
  3. be ready to listen and adapt when life speaks.

The good news is that this lesson has made me more of a noise-cancelling ninja and our neighbors alcohol consumption has finally caught up to them! The four amigos are quietly resting. Maybe now I can get back to focusing on my book or at least enjoying the remaining moments of this amazing view in peace and quiet.

Comment below or chat with me!

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How To Deal With Frustration With Life: 20 Questions

“I have a lot of faith in myself which is why I am frustrated with the fact that I am not doing more,” said my ridiculous-too-hard-on-myself mind. Can anyone relate to this?

About 5% of the month (or more), I wake up with this overwhelming thought that I am not doing enough and/or have not accomplished enough by my age. If I am honest with myself, it’s usually around the time(s) when work, bills, stress, life, and my personal goals collide in competition for my time. If I am not careful, these few days or moments of the month can snowball into longer negative narratives that re-play in my head. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially when it’s being wasted thinking negatively.

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about Having Faith in Yourself. It was a great reminder to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, exactly– the limits that we place on ourselves. It is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people seem like they are against us; however, it is also often true that our worst enemy is the person in the mirror looking right back at us. For this post, I want to chat with you about another side of life’s Rubik cube: When you have the faith in yourself to accomplish your plans/dreams, but things are not moving forward in the way you planned or hoped in your mind. What do you think/do then?

There is so much I want to experience and accomplish and at times it can begin to feel like I am not moving at the pace I would personally prefer. The pace, whether slow or fast, is attributable to either my own action/inaction while other paces are simply due to life and/or God having a better plan or better timing for me. Nonetheless, in some areas of my life things are moving slower than I would like and in other areas the pace is faster than my little life legs want to run.

When I think I am “not moving fast enough” or determine that “I am not yet where I want to be in life,” it is usually traceable to my tendency to over-analyze things. In most of my being-too-hard-on-myself sessions, it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that I overlook past and present victories. Sometimes we need to slow things down, count the blessings, weigh the good versus the bad, and appreciate the accomplishments and victories written in our life’s story.

When I start feeling like life is not moving at the pace I planned, I have discovered that it is very important to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. It is true that sometimes we are justified in feeling frustrated with certain aspects of our lives. On the other hand, sometimes we are dangerously infusing negative self-talk and energy into our life where it doesn’t need to exist. In order to figure out the difference and to minimize the negative thinking in my life, these are some of the questions I ask myself:

  1. Am I frustrated because I am being too hard on myself?
  2. Am I realistic about the goals I have created?
  3. Am I creating more frustration in my life because my priorities are not in the right places?
  4. Am I frustrated because I have not dealt with past frustrations and issues?
  5. Am I sacrificing too much in one area while neglecting other important areas of my life?
  6. Are my frustrations based on things within my control? If not, how can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  7. Am I creating harmful frustration because I am comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. Am I listening to life when it tells me to readjust my plans?
  9. Am I adopting the right attitude for the situation at hand?
  10. Am I creating frustration because I am not organized/disciplined enough with my time and energy?
  11. Am I creating frustration in my life by  having the wrong kinds of people around me?
  12. Am I frustrated because I am trying to copy another person’s life?
  13. Am I frustrated because I have not taken the time to examine whether I am in line with my purpose, morals, principles, and values?
  14. Have I taken the time to establish what I want out of life?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Am I just cranky and tired?
  17. Am I frustrated and just blaming my problems on everyone else?
  18. Am I really frustrated with the right situation or am I deflecting/avoiding addressing other issues in my life?
  19. Am I willing to throw in the towel on unnecessary battles?
  20. Am I creating frustration because I am living in a box that is too small for me and my life knows/feels it?

If you are willing to learn from the mistakes and successes in your life, then you are growing and learning! The faster you learn the lessons, the less time you will waste repeating the same test(s). Your life can change overnight– positively or negatively– so what’s the point in being stuck in a frustrated mindset? We will get frustrated; that’s life. But, we should still be willing to discover the lesson within our frustrations, move forward, and find greater success than before. Remember, you are only stuck if you keep repeating the same mistakes. Life is full of frustrations, but we don’t have to let the frustrations fill up our mental space.

What is one of your frustrations with life? What do you do when you feel frustrated? Care to share, vent, get some ideas, etc.?

Comment below or chat with me!

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Protect Your Optimism

Man, oh man! How much bad, poor, negative news can we handle? Does anyone else feel like every time they turn around there is more bad news being reported? Yes, Facebook is usually filled with positive messages and laughs; Instagram with joyous photos and smiles; but, the news, forget about it– sad news upon weird news upon more sad news. Of course, there are many hopeful stories mixed in, but violence, rape, fraud, cancer, overdoses, war, terrorism, racism, death, and financial ruin seem more prevalent than the positive, the hopeful, and the good.

I often struggle with keeping a positive, hopeful, faith-filled head when I watch or receive dreadful news. In the moment, it really knocks a little bit of the wind out of me and makes me wonder if there is any good left in the world. In some instances, I find myself asking myself “why” this or that happened. Thereafter I usually utter a “God, help me,” put everything back into perspective, and realize more and more that living to the fullest is the only alternative to the negative surrounding us. Herein lies the good news: the more I attempt to live life to the fullest is the more that I realize and believe that there is still more positive than negative in the world.

Some time ago, I began thinking about how often fearful negative things actually happen to me or people I know. Throughout this exercise, I found that more negative instances did happen more in some areas than others, but overall the chances of the negative prevailing were lower than my fears would lead me to believe. In no way does this mean that I believe bad things will not or cannot happen to me or those that I know. It just means that although the negative, bad, discouraging events may happen, they are probably far less prevalent than my fears will allow me to believe.

Sometimes it can feel that negative things unceasingly happen to us. While this may or may not be true, the goal is to not lose hope and try not to become too overwhelmed by them. In the grand scheme of life, the statistics may still fall on the side of hope and good. If life does not feel positive right now, keep living and eventually the numbers will straighten themselves out. Who knows? Maybe the positivity and optimism we all seek lies inside of us all.

Protect your optimism, then, share it with the world.

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Untangle Yourself.

Slaves to the mind, trapped back in time

Freedom seems to be confused with nickels and dimes

Success nothing more than a borrowed image

Satiated by perverted perspectives

Chained to rusty bars of mental prisons

Fighting for the chance to realize destiny

While clothed in costumes of hijacked dreams

Stolen language, borrowed frames

Walking in circles waiting for answers

Convinced that conquering the world will reveal it

Yet there’s still no dirt on the bottom of your shoe

And the real you still stands hidden inside of you

If you ever stopped to take an inventory of your thoughts, frustrations, goals, and priorities, you will often find that they have become wildly webbed with borrowed pieces of other people’s goals, fears, and thoughts. Sometimes those borrowed pieces are beneficial and help us push toward finding our true self. Other times, however, those borrowed pieces weigh us down in knotted webs that seem to make finding our true self more stressful than just living out other people’s dreams and expectations for us.

However, it is necessary to determine how entangled you are with the images, goals, fears, and expectations of others. On that journey of disentanglement, you will find happiness, freedom, and purpose in life. Until you make the first steps to untangle yourself, you will always have the weight of the skeleton of the real you pulling you under water. It may not seem like it at first, but once you bring that skeleton to life — by accepting and embodying who you were created to be– you will feel lighter, happier, and less like you are constantly drowning in a world that seems to enjoy pushing you under water.

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Accepting the Cards I Am Dealt.

Life Question: Why are we dealt different cards in life? And what should we do if we don’t like the cards we are dealt?

“Why them and not me?” Let’s be honest folks. Throughout your life, how many times have you had some variation of this question? Personally, I have had this thought invade my mind probably close to 10,000 times on topics both serious and insignificant. I hope you don’t think that I actually counted because that would mean I am a little crazy ;).

In general, I am not an expert card player so I cannot come up with some great analogy using Poker, BlackJack, Spades, or Solitaire to answer this question. UNO, however, is a card game that I secretly wish I could use as an analogy here because I already have some people in mind that I would make “Draw Four.” Not to mention, I would like to “Skip” some hard work and get to the beautiful ending. Clearly, if the greatest analogy I can come up with is UNO, then I should probably stop while I am ahead.

I love competition (to a certain degree), however, card games have never been my thing. I am sure the fact that my parents used to believe that card games and gambling was of the devil (I think they have since spoken to Jesus directly about this) is probably a better explanation of my level of suck at these kinds of games. My high school also used to confiscate card games at lunch as a violation of the code of conduct. So, if life was a big card game I would be at a great disadvantaged due to my somewhat sheltered childhood! Thank God it is not quite a card game.

Figuratively, I do believe that life has dealt me a “hand” of cards. We all have been dealt “hands.” The good news is that we are not really competing against each other. We don’t need to scheme and trade cards in order to increase our chances of winning the game called life. In reality, we are more than likely competing against ourselves, and the missing or more valuable cards are somewhere hidden inside us (or are close by). If the “hand” we are dealt sucks, there might be a few different ways of looking at it:

1. We are equipped with everything we need to find the “better” cards, therefore we are really not at any disadvantage.

2. We don’t need the best cards to win if we are competing against ourselves.

3. Maybe winning is directly connected to accepting the fact that the cards in our hands are not as important because WE internally possess the rest of deck (meaning we are our greatest strength and our greatest resource)!

4. God is planning on bringing the necessary cards into our lives when the time is right.

Personally, I have concluded on 3 and 4. I trust that God created me just the way I am, that he is bringing the right things and people into my life at the right time FOR ME, and that I have everything inside me to win against myself. If I was indeed given a “bad hand,” life is more than likely waiting for me to dig down deep  inside my internal deck to find the winning card labeled faith, love, confidence, strength, perspective, resilience, hope, and happiness.

If you don’t like the cards you are dealt, start digging down deep inside yourself to find the cards you need. Most times, they are usually hidden behind hard work, insecurity, un-forgiveness, hurt, and impatience. When you finally find them, remember that you are only playing against yourself — your happiness, your success, your destiny.

What’s your theory about why we are “dealt different cards” in life? Do you even believe that?

10 Lessons I Have Learned in the Past Hectic Month

1. Praying for strength might mean I have to experience life puzzles that require me to exercise/expose my weakness in order to gain and maintain “strength.”

2. Be less afraid of standing my ground and fighting (figuratively).

3. Accept that opposition is inevitable and necessary; and then learn how to prepare to win.

4. Being healthy is more important than being Instagram “sexy” Although, being healthy usually makes me feel Instagram sexy and happy. So, win-win!

5. Yes, sometimes blessings come in small things, but other times they come hidden within challenging times and hard work.

6. Be more patient and have more faith, especially in times when the outcome is unknown.

7. Sometimes success cannot be achieved in anonymity.

8. Care less about what people think about me, and then care even less.

9. Count the moments instead of counting the years.

10. Life is not short, maybe we are just wasting time.

What are some life lessons you have recently learned? Share your nuggets of wisdom!

Loving Those Closest To You

Fact: There are usually not that many people who we really share our complete-self with. Everyday we are so boldly confronted with society’s expectations of how we should behave that we learn to leave the house with a brave face, behave according to the norms set out for us by family, friends, and society, and keep most facts private for the sake of not ruining our image. If you’re a man, you have to project to the world that you are strong, confident, and ambitious. You have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and show women, and other men, that the unbearable “weight” is as light as a feather. If you are a woman, you have to show the world that you too are strong, confident, and ambitious. You are expected to carry the portion of the world that society deems suitable for the “woman,” and in addition, be the nurturer to those men, women, and children around you bearing their own load. Thanks to these demands, after birth we quickly realize that we need to “measure up.”

In all of that chaos, it can be very hard to find trusted people to share the real vulnerable “you” with. That is not to say that the true “you” is too much to handle; it just means that the vulnerable “you” requires delicate care. Since vulnerability requires a high level of trust, trusting that individual comes with the strong sense that they will be there for you – in good times and in bad times. Then again, they understand who you really are and are able to decipher your good intentions much easier than a stranger ever can, right? Exactly. Well, it is also for those same reasons that we are usually more likely to hurt those people closest to us. We believe that if anybody in the world should accept us for who we really are, it should be them; that if you make a mistake and say something the wrong way, or in a manner that is harsher then you would intend, they should be able to decode your feelings. Then again, we spend so much time throughout the day monitoring and creating the world’s view of us that when we come home to our family, friends, and loved ones they should be able to “just get it.”

Well, in the transition between letting down our guard and taking off our armor, it is very easy to hurt those that we love. We wear this massive armor all day, fight to maintain peace and success in our lives, are so tired from facing the world that we become careless in our weariness and may become more apt to make “mistakes” with those we love.

This post is just a simple reminder that the people you love are to be cared for, loved, and cherished just as much (if not more) then strangers. They hold your most vulnerable moments within their heart and for that reason they are to be cherished and loved just as you would love yourself. It is hard at times to give any extra energy to making sure that we don’t hurt our loved ones, especially when we are facing the world all day/week. But, if we are supposed to love our neighbors as our self, how much more should we love those that are closest to us? Just think of it this way, if those closest to you decided to stop loving you it would really be you against the world.

How do you show those closest to you that you love them?

Violation.

image

Being violated in any way, shape, or form changes you. It affects your mind in ways you never thought possible. But one thing it doesn’t have to do is permanently change you for the worse. You may never forget it and you may even think about it everyday; but, you should never let it ruin everyday. Once you’ve taken time to hurt – and yes you will think about it even after that – keep living through the thought. Whatever you do, don’t stop living the life you desire. If you’re having trouble moving on, seek help, talk to someone you trust, and get it off your chest so you can find some relief.

What are some things you do to get over a violation of any kind (friends, family, strangers, etc.)?