Too much to do, too little time. First you are interrupted; then the interruption is interrupted. Does that ever happen to you?
Surrounded by frantic, breathless, rapid distraction, we have become characters in the video game of Life. The problem is that we are becoming habituated to it. Sensory overload is becoming the new normal.
Jeff Sexton, one of my business partners, sent me an article from Science.org last week. I’ll share a single paragraph with you:
“The researchers then decided to take the experiment a step further. For 15 minutes, the team left participants alone in a lab room in which they could push a button and shock themselves if they wanted to. The results were startling: Even though all participants had previously stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked with electricity, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves rather than just sit there quietly and think… People would rather be electrically shocked than be left alone with their thoughts.”
– Nadia Whitehead, Science.org
Like I said, “habituated.” We skitter and twitch through each day as though the finger of God is mashing the fast forward button on the spacetime continuum.
In her book, My Invented Country, Isabel Allende writes:
“The North Americans’ sense of time is very special. They are short on patience. Everything must be quick, including food and sex, which the rest of the world treats ceremoniously. Gringos invented two terms that are untranslatable into most languages: ‘snack’ and ‘quickie,’ to refer to eating standing up and loving on the run … that, too, sometimes standing up. The most popular books are manuals: how to become a millionaire in ten easy lessons, how to lose fifteen pounds a week, how to recover from your divorce, and so on. People always go around looking for shortcuts and ways to escape anything they consider unpleasant: ugliness, old age, weight, illness, poverty, and failure in any of its aspects.”
But last night I discovered the Nancy Reagan solution: “Just say no.”
You have been telling yourself that you are overcommitted, but you’re not. You are careful about making commitments. You are not overcommitted. You are over-obligated.
Obligations are thrust upon you by people who ambush you with an urgent emergency, or worse, a “quick question.” These people know quick questions often have complicated answers, but they just don’t care. They hide behind the word “Quick” so they can pretend they are asking for nothing more than a flickering moment of your time and attention.
You never committed to do what they are asking of you, but you feel obligated nonetheless.
Just say no.
See how easy that was?
God bless you, Nancy Reagan.
Roy H. Williams
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