Chasing Squirrels: How to Effectively Overcome Distractions

It’s so easy to allow distractions to get us side-tracked these days. With ever-increasing new versions of all the latest high-tech devices, temptations to multi-task, and having to be everywhere at once with social media, sometimes it feels like you’re just chasing squirrels.

Chasing Squirrels New

The Story Behind “Chasing Squirrels”

So what do I mean by “chasing squirrels”?  If you’ve ever seen the movie Up by Disney/Pixar, you probably think I’m referring to the dog, Dug, who is constantly getting distracted and yelling “Squirrel!” However, the story behind my version of chasing squirrels relates to a previous hunting experience I had over a year ago.

It’s amazing how much you can learn when distractions are minimal. In the woods, where everything is quiet and still, you eventually find yourself mimicking the quietness and stillness of your surroundings.

I say “eventually” because it initially takes some time “detoxing” from all the noise that daily life has been throwing at you via constant notifications, text messages, pop-ups, and so on and so forth.

Anyway, after several hours of sitting still—if you haven’t fallen asleep by then—you can finally relax and appreciate the low maintenance that the woods provide.

It’s amazing how much you can learn when distractions are minimal.

It was on such an occasion a little over a year ago that I was sitting at my hunting spot, the sun rising over a bluff behind me. After a few hours of peace and quiet, it’s easy to hear the slightest thing rustle in the leaves, even if it’s several yards away.

I was hearing such rustling and began to get my gun ready to fire when I saw, not the deer that I had hoped for, but rather a couple of squirrels chasing after each other. After my initial disappointment, I decided I had nothing better to do and that, since I hadn’t seen anything else yet that day, I would just amuse myself with the antics of these squirrels.

Before I knew it, there were even more squirrels rustling around in the leaves and making all kinds of noise. You’d think a herd of deer had come galloping through the forest. The best I can remember, I counted around 10 squirrels that were running around playing in the woods that morning.

Focus on the Target, NOT the Distraction

All at once I had a thought.

There’s no telling how many deer I’ve missed or haven’t seen because I’ve been paying attention to these nutty squirrels. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the pun.)

I began to realize that because I was too busy “chasing squirrels,” I may have missed the shot I’d been preparing for all season long. Then another revelation came to me.

These squirrels were just like anything else in life. If I allowed myself to get distracted from the target I really needed to be focusing on, chances are I’d miss my chance to achieve the results I’ve been working for all along.

The Antidote to Distractions

It was revolutionary—to me at least. This new idea of letting these small, cute, funny, fuzzy things get the better of my attention. How sly they were, how cunning, how crafty and deceptive, how…distracting.

Even more so, how easy it was to allow the urgent, non-important tasks of each day override my focus in the areas that are most important to me: my goals.

This idea was so powerful, so inspiring, and so motivational that even now, over a year ago on that most educational day in the woods, I haven’t forgotten its lesson: Don’t Chase Squirrels!

If I allowed myself to get distracted from the target I really needed to be focusing on, chances are I’d miss my chance to achieve the results I’ve been working for all along.

So what’s the “antidote” to overcoming the many distractions that plague us on a daily basis? I’m sure there are plenty other strategies than the ones I will cover here. But for me, these are some of the best methods I’ve discovered for overcoming distractions and staying on target.

  1. Discipline: It takes discipline to stay focused; sometimes intense discipline. I once heard a story about the origin of bulldogs. I haven’t taken the time to research it, so don’t quote me, but according to the story the bulldog was bred so that it’s nose angled upward. This allowed the bulldog to breathe while clamping down on it’s target. Discipline requires self-sacrifice and a willingness to remain focused on the goals at hand even if it means doing so with bulldog intensity.
  2. Accountability to Self: Make no mistake, if you want to achieve your goals, you must be accountable to yourself. There is only so much others can do to show their support for you, but ultimately you have to do the work required in order to succeed.  Don’t make excuses, make yourself accountable.
  3. Commitment: Let’s face it, if you’re “in it to win it” chances are you’ll succeed.  And it’s rock-solid, good old-fashioned commitment that will help you get the job done.  Commitment oftentimes requires saying “No” to something you like to do so that you can say “Yes” to something you love to do—or, at the very least, should be doing.  Commitment means you’re in it for the long haul, so be sure it’s something worth sticking with before saying “Yes” to it.
  4. Perseverance: When you have weak moments—and you almost certainly will—it’s imperative that you persevere through them anyway.  According to Dictionary.com, perseverance is “steady persistence in a course of action, purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Are You Chasing Squirrels?

So the next time you find yourself taking on more tasks, jobs, projects, etc., than you can handle, just ask yourself “Is this a legitimate step toward my goals and targets, or am I just chasing squirrels?”

I believe if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll have to admit to the latter.  I know I have many times since my initial discovery of this truth.  But don’t fret; instead, remember the tips I’ve given above, say them over and over to yourself, and know that you indeed can overcome distractions.  All it takes is the Discipline, Accountability, Commitment, and Perseverance to do so.

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Question: What are some of the strategies you’ve found to keep your eyes on the prize?

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