All of us get distracted some of the time. We fail to deliver on our commitments. We fall short in leading ourselves let alone others. We get addicted to harmful vices. We get depressed.
While plowing forward at work regardless of what we produce, we do everything in our power to ignore our inner signals that we are not on track. Or we are stuck and making scant progress. That something existentially important to our being is not in place or is missing. Instead of paying heed, we double down on getting distracted and producing trifling results. We presume and portray that we are busy doing important work - to ourselves and to others.
While this monologue sounds more like a therapy session than an entrepreneurship-related blog, it does not reduce the importance of understanding our deeper-self and finding our inner harmony any less.
Our performance at work and happiness in life depends on our ability to sufficiently know ourselves.
Knowing ourselves means we know our flaws and limitations. We understand what triggers our bad behaviors and inspires our inner drive to excel.
Often we ignore the signs of our inner disharmony for the sake of relentless busyness.
We assume that our internal disarray and psychological anxieties have little to do with our work. The slight discomfort when dealing with a difficult conversation. The urge to spend time on social media when doing important assignments. Putting off that sales call for yet another tomorrow because you fear rejection.
We prefer to think of these frictions in life as regular productivity challenges that can be dealt with some dose of motivation and introduction of the latest productivity tools. But that rarely helps. Motivation helps for a week. A new productivity tool keeps us excited and in-line for no more than a week. We return to the old pattern.
That’s precisely why it is critical to understand our inner-self well. It is a mistake to perceive that we can move forward without solving our inner dichotomies. Often our inner disharmonies spill out into our work and relationships. Unless we address these issues we can’t operate at our best.
Frictions and failures that we endure in our daily life often have reasons and roots beyond our immediate action. The chronic procrastination or the frequent anger problem has deeper roots than you would like to recognize. Unless we find these deeper roots to our problems, we can’t become our coherent best self.
For entrepreneurs, this is critical work because the growth of our business is directly tied to our personal growth. As once a wise mentor told me: your business will grow to the exact proportion of your personal growth. You can get lucky in the early days. But unless you develop wisdom, you will not go far.
The way we respond to difficulties, rejections, and failure of a colleague - all have a deeper meaning than what we are willing to pay attention to.
Why do you procrastinate with a certain type of job than others? Why making a sales call or asking for help from someone causes us to shrink? Why do you look for personal reasons in a rejection that is precisely about work? Why do you avoid a colleague who pushes you? Why do you fear to charge your colleagues or teammates when they fail to deliver? Why are you the only one in the office who is easily pushed around? Why do you sometimes behave passive-aggressively? Why do you say yes to everything and then resent yourself later for saying yes?
The way we respond to things such as rejections and difficulties and difficult dealings has a deeper meaning. Take, for example, distractions. When doing an important yet complex task, you often give in to social media, the latest news updates, and other distractions instead of dealing with the task at hand. While it appears to be a harmless pattern, it can be attributed to why your clients are unhappy and your team does not perform at their best, your culture sucks, and you fall short of achieving your goal.
Now you have tried many things. You have read extensively about dealing with distractions. You can quote effortlessly from Deep Work and similar books. You know all the methods of time management. But nothing helps.
That’s why you should look deeper into yourself. If you go deep enough into your memory lane, you will find fascinating jewels providing clues about why you behave the way you do.
There might be events in your past where you had to do unpleasant work despite your unwillingness because some authority figure forced it upon you. To deal with your lack of agency at that young age, probably there were times when you gave into doing things that would distract you from the unpleasant experience. You would do the task but you would also pursue your secret pleasure alongside. At the time, it helped you to cope with the pressure and unpleasant experience. It helped you in a moment of need and rescued you from a feeling of helplessness. At the same time, in your subconscious, you developed a pattern that continues to affect your life even these days. While in your childhood it helped you to cope, it no longer serves you today. But this script of your early life continues to play out and affect your life. And this is the origin of your avoidance behavior.
If you genuinely want to understand your inability to meet the deadlines or failure to deal with the distractions, you don’t need yet another tool to block distracting websites, instead, you need to find the origin of your distractions. You need to go back to your early life and find ways to address your deficiencies.
We all are broken humans. That is not to say that we are not important or beautiful or the best of beings. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran: "We have certainly created man in the best of stature" ~ Surah At-Tin [95:4]. At the same time, Allah also says in the Holy Quran that men are weak and impatient.
Our struggle thus is to overcome these limitations of our characters. In order to meet these limitations, we first have to understand the origin and the making of these limitations. And the path to the source code of these limitations is a thorough understanding of the self - developing self-awareness.
Self-awareness is about learning what makes you tick. Your triggers. Your escapades. Your patterns. Once you know them you can find effective ways to deal with them.
Most of us are sleepwalking. As James Hollis explains in his excellent book What matters most, until we examine our life thoroughly we are other people and living other people’s priorities and limitations and expectations. Thus it is of supreme importance to examine ourselves and become truly ourselves.
Self-awareness is the doorway through which we can find remedies for our inner shortcomings. When we learn about ourselves, our patterns and types, we can find the wounds and wonders in us. We then can take proper initiatives to mend the deeper wounds that drive our inner shortcomings and destructive behaviors.
When we truly know ourselves, understand ourselves, we can become better leaders, better humans, and better entrepreneurs. The journey begins at home.