I was listening to ‘The Knowledge Project’ podcast about business and productivity where Nir Eyal, the author of ‘Indistractable’ was interviewed.

His book teaches us to stay away from distractions so you can do your deep work, but as I was listening to him talk, every time he said ‘work’, I replaced the word with ‘health’ and it worked exactly the same!

Eyal speaks about how distractions are not extrinsic, but intrinsic.

We love to blame Facebook and Instagram for wasting hours of our lives, but what we are actually doing is trying to escape the intrinsic feeling of discomfort. Discomfort of trying to write something on a blank page, discomfort of solving a hard problem, of having a tough conversation, discomfort of growth.

If we can master the intrinsic feeling of discomfort, we can avoid distraction. Or when it comes to our health, we can not give in to temptations.

I had two key take-homes from the podcast:

1. The opposite of ‘distraction’ isn’t ‘action’ – it’s ‘traction’. We often think that when we procrastinate over doing something we are not taking action, but even procrastination is a form of action, just in the wrong direction! 

Eyal explains that once we realise that everything we do is a form of action and that it has a direction, we can make sure our actions have ‘traction’ with our greater purpose, not dis-traction from it.

2. If you feel yourself being distracted and going in the wrong direction, ‘surf the urge’!

Urges to go against your purpose are just feelings, and feelings come in waves. Typically an urge to do anything only lasts 10 minutes, so give yourself a ’10-minute rule’

Want to eat that cake? Do it in ten minutes. Don’t want to exercise? Do ten minutes of exercise first then you can quit. 

Knowing that all urges pass and that all you have to do is aim for ten minutes will make it so much easier not to give in when all you want is that one chocolate Hobnob (which accidentally turns into five).

There were plenty of other lessons I took from the podcast, but I think these are two good starting points that will help you master your intrinsic discomfort and gain traction towards a healthier life.

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