Our environment is full of triggers! Smells, sounds, sights barrage us constantly and can affect our actions in both our personal and professional lives. Some triggers are so powerful they can keep us from focusing on making meaningful change, and we unknowingly become a creation of the world around us rather than who we want to be.
In this digital age, the biggest trigger is the internet and advent of very sophisticated online media in all its varied forms. While the Internet and social media can be very positive, for instance sharing research and information across the globe instantly, they can also take us completely off course and hinder our progress towards our goals. In other words, mindless Googling and Snapchatting can be significant causes of career lag!
How many times have you been at a restaurant and seen a couple sitting together looking only at their smart phones? We may be communicating or learning from social media or the Internet, but we’re not engaging with the people who are sitting across from us – we are disconnected from our environment and the people in it. As a result that relationship does not grow. How about when a favorite TV series of yours is added to Netflix or Hulu? A weekend of binging on your show keeps you from venturing out to be with your friends and family. And, it can keep you from doing things that help your career and expand your horizons.
About 20 or so years ago, I wrote an article and I predicted that media addiction would surpass drug and alcohol addiction combined as a social problem. Unfortunately, this prediction has come true. The average kid who flunks out of school spends an average of 55 hours a week on non-academic media. That’s an addiction. A young man I know who drives me back and forth to Dartmouth where I teach flunked out of college. He has spent 25,000 hours of his life playing World of Warcraft instead of going to school! That is an addiction. He could have earned two PhDs in 25,000 hours!
What happens is that many of us fall into something called the monkey mind. The monkey mind is a Buddhist Concept, which is the idea that our mind is like a monkey, swinging from vine to vine through the jungle or from thought to thought in our heads. Looking at it this way, the Internet is like amphetamines for the monkey mind.
For example, have you ever gone online and said, “I’m going to look up something. It should take me five minutes.” Three hours later, you’re still online and you don’t remember what you started to search for in the first place? This is the monkey mind. You click from picture to picture, story to story, and your mind swings like the monkey from vine to vine without any thought about what you’re doing or where you’re going. You are just swinging. Hours are lost, precious time is gone, and you have now used up any momentum you had for furthering your own growth and development.
How can you avoid this career killer?
I use the daily question process myself and I recommend it to all of my clients and students. It’s very simple. You get an Excel spreadsheet. Down one column, you list the behaviors that are most important in your life – job search, school, family, friends, exercise are often in this column. You list these as a series of questions. For instance, how many pushups did I do today? Did I call my mother today? How many hours did I spend on non-academic social media today? Every question has to be answered with a yes, no, or number. If the question is answered as a ‘yes,’ put a ‘one’ on the Excel sheet, ‘no’ is ‘zero,’ or use a number to answer such questions as, how many pushups did I do? Do this every day for at least two weeks. It takes two minutes a day and it will help you get better at almost anything—it’s amazing how well this works.
Some people might be skeptical, thinking two minutes a day will help me get better at almost anything sounds too good to be true, but half the people doing this, within two weeks, quit. And they don’t quit because it doesn’t work; they quit because it does work. Because even though this is very easy advice to understand, it’s very challenging to do. You have to look in the mirror every day and it can be painful to do that. I challenge you to try this. Let me know how it’s going, and if you’d like a copy of my questions, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a great discipline that takes two minutes a day and will help better than almost anything!