The Mindset We Need to Overcome Distraction

Politicians and corporations see our attention as a commodity, and that's why we must fight to keep it
October 22, 2020 Updated: October 22, 2020

Not long ago, I did a webinar on leading through “the churn.”

I define the churn as the negative social energy and tension that exists between you and your goals. The three primary components of this churn are distraction, disengagement, and distrust—all of which have gotten worse over time.

I want to talk about distraction and, more importantly, I want to talk about how distraction shows up in your life and the mindset you need to overcome it.

Distraction has always been a part of life, but because we live in the information age, distraction has become prolific. I’ve seen leaders get in front of their people and, within seconds the audience is sneaking peeks at their phones under the table. We see clients facing professionals on Zoom calls trying to sell a product, and the person on the other end is checking their email.

There are so many distractions, but the most concerning distraction I see is the way people lose sight of what really matters in their life. In the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” we see how so many of us are getting caught up in the churn because a post about a rival political party distracted them and sucked them in. That’s what really worries me in the context of this churn that we face today.

The fact of the matter is, as Albert Einstein said, humans are mostly energy. Professor James Clawson of Darden University said, “Leadership is the management of energy.” If those two things are true, then the primary way that we manage our energy is to develop a goal-oriented and purpose-driven mindset. This mindset should drive our primary goal to create a bridging trust society where there is a sense of abundance and individual freedom to do what you were put on this earth to do.

That’s certainly something worth leaving for our children—a sense of abundance and freedom. Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, I think that’s something we can all agree with. But, how often are we getting knocked off our game and distracted from that goal? How many distractions do you see as you go through your day? You open Facebook because you meant to do one business post and, the next thing you know, you’re in a political argument or sharing the latest COVID-19 meme. It has completely thrown you off your game.

It’s just one component of the churn, but it’s getting worse. With social distancing, everybody is on their phones even more. People are more connected to the 24-hour news cycle. The distractions are escalating, and it’s throwing us into a sympathetic state of fight, flight, or freeze. Corporations and politicians see our attention as a strategic commodity. They keep distracting us, we keep letting ourselves be distracted, and those deeper goals of abundance, trust, and individual freedom are going to the wayside.

There are three mindset shifts I would ask you to make as you think about creating a world that’s better for our kids, our businesses, and each other in this time of crisis.

No. 1 is commit to being focused. No distractions allowed. We can’t afford it. The stakes are too high. We have to commit to being mindful. We have to commit to being present. We have to commit to being available to the people in our lives—and that includes our kids. With all of this remote schooling, we’re making ourselves less available to our children because we’re around them more. Really work on that, because that’s the management of energy and there’s an expenditure there. But that starts with our mindset.

The second mindset shift is to be intentional with information tools. Let’s start being more disciplined with how we use them. When you use social media, focus on your objectives. Don’t just surf, or see what the latest mask argument is over. That’s a distraction. Filter your news. Don’t just watch it mindlessly.

Third, avoid the triggers that you know distract you. If you flick on Fox or CNN, you’re going to get triggered. If you go into Facebook and start scrolling around, you’re going to find something that’s going to elevate you to a sympathetic state of fight, flight, or freeze. If you know what those triggers are, avoid them. Create a mindset against distraction that is an impenetrable shield.

It’s the little work that you do, day in and day out, the small shifts in your mindset, that will help you overcome the churn and keep you from getting sucked in. That’s what the people who follow you need. That’s what they deserve.

Remember, fear is contagious, but so is leadership.

Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He is the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on TV and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit