The other morning I unexpectedly “fell” down a rabbit trail. No, the path didn’t come with a warning that I was about to lose time that I couldn’t get back. It certainly didn’t come with a map or a sign telling me just how far off my intended path the little adventure would take me. Nope, I simply clicked to check the weather on my computer before starting a planned writing session.

Checking the weather led to checking the news, which had an intriguing title of an article that begged to be clicked. The article was kind enough to put a link about the subject right in the middle of the text which pulled me into its vortex. Next thing I knew I was reading the comments below the related article and being reminded how callous too many have become behind the anonymity of a computer screen. sigh.

Have you ever been there – catch yourself down a dreaded rabbit trail? You log on to watch that motivational video your friend sent you only to digress only to be watching cat videos (or cute puppies)  a few minutes later. Or you head out to run on simple errand only to be gone for hours.

“I logged on to just check the weather,” I reminded myself. That’s when I closed my browser and returned to my regularly scheduled plans. In closing the door on my rabbit trail, I was reminded of a few reasons these distractions can be to entertain. Understanding them can  helps us gain power over the infamous rabbit trails on our paths.

1. We’re not honest about the cost.

When we head down the path of a rabbit trail, we don’t stop read the fine print of what it will cost. True, that could be because there isn’t an actual label spelling it out. Think about it, what if distractions had warnings the way medicine ads do… continuing down this path could cause sleepless nights, missed opportunities, increased depression or strained relationships. Except if the warning was to the extent of the medicine ads, the list would continue through the end of this post.

Even without a warning label, we know that rabbit trails come with a cost. First and foremost they rob us of our time – one of the few limited resources we’re given that cannot be replenished. Once it is spent, it is gone. The next time click-bait in social media tempts you, assess if that catchy title is worth making all of your other priorities wait. Do a quick mental assessment when a rabbit trail tempts you. Is this the time? Is this a priority for right now? If not, keep scrolling and say no to the distraction.

2. We’re choosing to procrastinate.

Rabbit trails can provide a welcome respite from that thing we’re dreading. That task we’d rather avoid because it’s challenging or just unpleasant can be kept at arm’s length while we entertain distractions. But, doing so causes us to carry the burden longer than necessary. It’s often far easier to face what we need to do head on. Get it done and be free from it. Recognize when you’re willfully procrastinating and choose to “just do it.”  On the other side of the task you’ll feel lighter and be free to enjoy other things.

3. We’re not really committed to our focus.

Some time ago I saw a video of several people tossing a basketball to one another. The instruction at the beginning of the video was to count how many times the people with white shirts passed a basketball. Mixed in the group of people were others also passing a ball, all moving around quite a bit. At the end of the video a question was posed – How many passes? Then with a twist, they asked “did you see the gorilla?” More than half of the people (myself included) who watched the video the first time didn’t notice that midway through a gorilla sauntered through their game of catch.

In our daily lives we can so easily entertain that distractions that we notice the gorillas, all of the gorillas that attempt to disrupt our routines so much so that we forget our task at hand or the things that we consider our greatest priorities. If that’s the case, we may need to put guard rails up around the things we need to accomplish to prevent us from losing focus on what matters to us most. The gorillas in life can wait.

4. We justify the rabbit trail as a detour.

In life, sometimes detours are necessary. A situation causes a shift for a number of different reasons. The detour may teach us something we need to continue our journey. Or, it may make us either stronger or wiser which will help us down the road. There’s a difference between a detour and a rabbit trail. Detours serve a purpose – to get us around an obstacle preventing us from going where we’d like to go. Rabbit trails instead have the purpose of uncovering our current focus. When we entertain them, we follow our focus down the path we didn’t originally intend. The next time your path is diverted, ask yourself if it’s a detour or a rabbit trail so that you can wisely choose what to do next.

5. Our motivation is shaky.

When we allow ourselves to easily entertain distractions, it’s a good time to check if our motivation is intact. Step back and ask why we were going this direction to begin with. Is our why weak? Or, is it compelling? If we value that why, we may want to step away from the rabbit trail and get back on track. Our progress depends upon it!

6. We can turn back whenever we’d like.

The most powerful lesson I learned about rabbit trails the other day is that we’re in control of their duration. We have the power to close YouTube, to exit social media, to turn off the TV, or to turn away from whatever distraction is keeping us from our priorities. We hold the power for how we spend our time. If we were just checking the weather, get the weather and go. Don’t choose to linger when progress is calling you forward.

It’s your turn

Do you get pulled down the path of rabbit trails sometimes too? What does your trail look like? I think often they start with an innocent click to social media or a quick stop into Target and end up sometime later with a puddle of time that has melted away behind us. As you look ahead to your 2019 goals, be mindful of when you get sucked into the vortex of distractions that pull you down a path with little to show for it. It’s not to say we need to be super focused 100% of every day. Instead, we need to recognizes when we’re the ones who sabotage our progress.

Let me know if you can relate. Or share how you recognize you’ve been caught substituting what you want to do for a distraction. Click to join the conversation? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time friend, be blessed!

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