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Distraction Tactics

This article might or might not be what you expected when reading the title. Essentially I was thinking about how we humans use diversionary thoughts and practices to avoid facing the tough challenges we tackle in everyday life. Sometimes this strategy is on purpose and sometimes it is subconscious and we have no control over it. Even more important is the fact that sometimes these daily distractions can be positive, neutral, or downright damaging.

Examples of bad distractions might include things like eight hours of television when you should be working on the laundry, hours of video games when you should be mowing the lawn, reading and posting on the Facebook when there is a pile of dishes in the sink ... And the list goes on all the way to dangerous distractions like drugs and alcohol as a means to deal with your life problems.

Alas, I didn't start this discussion to focus on the negative, neutral, or other down side of distractions. Instead I wanted to offer some potentially handy advice on how to use distractions and diversionary thinking to your advantage in a positive and even inspiring way!

A good example of this is one I often use to describe riding my bicycle up this particularly tough hill that I affectionately call Church Hill, because it is a steep and nasty hill that happens to have a small church sitting up at the top. As I approach Church Hill I know that I am about to get my ass handed to me. I mean this in a good way. It is the acme of my workout, because it is very close to the end of my ride and this ascent is always epic. We are talking maximum effort and maximum heart rate for the entire three minute climb up this steep incline.

It takes serious focus and determination to make it all the way up this hill staying in the saddle and riding the whole way. Just ask one of my many friends who have attempted this hill and found that their willpower or stamina (or both) just are not ample enough to succeed at this daunting task.

The truth is, I have a little secret on completing this part of my workout. I NEVER attack the hill thinking about the whole thing. As a matter of fact, I break it into five pieces in my head. The initial phase ends at this sort of hump where the incline changes momentarily. As I start pumping up this hill, I put my head down and I grind it out, thinking to myself, I'm just going to make it to the hump today. You probably know where this is heading ... Once I get to that hump, I re-gather my spirit and inwardly think things like, "That wasn't so bad ... Let's keep going for a little while longer." From there, I know this one particular house that is three houses up on the left from the hump position ... I simply decide to ride to that point, then I will quit, pop out of my pedals, and walk the rest of the way up the hill. Of course, I make it there and take a few breaths and decide to move on ..

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. There is a street only two more houses up ... Surely anyone could make it two more houses and be satisfied with stopping at that point. By now you've got my devious plan figured out ... That's right, I push myself a little further to the Dodge truck parked a tiny bit further up the hill. Then finally I set my sights on the church. Once to the church I am home free, and the hill grade eases up a bit and I see the T-intersection mere feet away. I huff it out and finish the hill.

I've been using this tactic and technique on this very same hill for six years now. You're probably wondering how I can continue to trick my mind, considering that I've done this same thing day-in-day several hundred times. Honestly I'm not sure how my mind hasn't caught on, but it truly works. Believe me!

I use this same thing for runs and even workouts with weights! I find myself laying on the bench saying, "Anyone could do ONE more rep." You know how this story ends.

Before closing up the post, I wanted to mention that I'm not the only one who uses the strategy and I did not invent it. I'm sure people have been doing some form of this since the dawn of mankind. Recently my buddy, Andrew, mentioned reading a similar usage in a Navy SEAL book where the soldier talks about getting through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) and especially "Hell Week." The author says that he was able to get through Hell Week by going "meal to meal." Meals came every six hours, so he essentially told himself I will make it to the next meal and then quit. Of course when that meal came, he got some relief and rest and then got back into the training with renewed energy. He would repeat his previous statement and continue working with the intension of quitting at the next meal. He continued in this fashion for an entire week and finished Hell Week!

I am sure that you have used this idea in something in your life, but hopefully my article inspires you to find other areas in life to use it. Remember, it doesn't only have to be about workouts. It can be projects at work, yard work, chores, or any number of things.

If you use this technique, please comment and let me know your super secret plan for success!

BTW - I also use this for my writing and even this blog ... HA!

Your faithful meal-to-meal writing buddy,

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Posted by Vaughn Ripley

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  1. I’ve used this tactic for years for distance running, too. To the next mailbox… to the next driveway… to the next group of trees… I always have more endurance than I think I do.

    It even worked when I was the mermaid in the dive show in the amusement park one summer. It’s amazing how much longer you can go without breathing than your mind thinks you can. Train the mind, tame the body.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, V. It’s good to have reminders sometimes that this is a journey, not a destination… All of it.


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