Have you ever observed the behavior of a small puppy in the garden on a sunny spring day? You might notice the bugs and butterflies, fighting oh so hard for its attention. As quickly as caterpillar grabs its attention, another bug will come into view drawing it down the garden path… quite literally.
Well, this is called distractibility and unlike a puppy, a healthy brain will know where to put its attention. The part in which humans may come unstuck is that if that healthy brain is an injured brain. As I’ve mentioned before, a human brain is like a filter allowing in all the information it needs whilst disregarding all the information that’s useless. The problem with an injured brain is that there’s no filter for the information coming in (AND out, but that’s a whole new blog right there!).
I’ve grown up getting distracted just like any other young man. Girls, cars, mates, and motorbikes. You name it and it probably had my attention more than what you were saying to me.
“Scott, whatever you do, don’t cut the red wire”, would have gotten the response from me, “Did you see that blonde girl driving the Ferrari over there, OMG, WOW!”
Before I had a chance to cut that red wire, something else would have distracted me. With all that said, a few years later, when I had my accident, my increased distractibility levels went unnoticed for quite some time. It went unnoticed for such a period that this then just became my way of life.
It wasn’t until the ripe old age of 32, that I started to realize that a grown-up kid shouldn’t be like this. I then started to question this ‘way of life’ and I asked myself why was it that I seem to get so distracted? This is relatively harmless when you’re walking down the street minding your own business and a red Ferrari catches your eye. Where this might become a problem though is when you’re driving down the street and you can’t take your eyes off it. Then you see a hot looking, KTM RC 1190 road bike. Then a bright green Lamborghini in the rear view and finally a homeless guy juggling pins for money at the traffic lights you were clearly meant to stop at. Oh no, you ran the red light, nearly mowed down a pedestrian and rear-ended the bright green Lamborghini you should have kept looking at from the start. This is called distractibility and now that I know I suffer from it, it’s a bloody pain in the ass.
I could be sitting writing a blog, book or a speech and as soon as I see one notification on my phone, it says, “Sorry Scott, I’ve just stolen your attention. Whatever it is that you’re doing must go on hold because Jasmine just liked your ‘silly cat’ photo you posted on Facebook last night.”
Before you know it you’re on YouTube watching a race between a red Ferrari, a green Lamborghini and a sleek looking KTM RC 1190, half an hour later. WTF, how did that happen? One thing led to another and all of a sudden you’re down the garden path alongside your new puppy.
The first suggestion I’d like to make is try to build up your awareness of where your focus is. If you’re not aware of this happening – like I wasn’t for so many years – you can’t do anything about it. You can’t fix something that doesn’t appear to be broken as they say.
I first realized my distractibility issue whilst I was down at the local gym, doing my home rehab program, and on this specific day my attention got snagged every time a new person walked through the door. I seriously must have looked crazy. I finished my workout and on the drive home from the gym, once again, everything was grabbing my attention besides the road and my speedometer. It was at a point where it was starting to make my head feel super uncomfortable. No accidents, thank god, but I thought to myself that it’s time to pull my head in. I needed to make an intentional effort to hold my focus. Soon I noticed my attention wavering all the time. This was great because it meant one thing; I could do something about it.
Just like in mindfulness meditation, it’s OK if I get distracted; I do have a brain injury don’t forget. It’s about noticing when this happens so I can pull myself back into line because awareness is the key to the concept here, remember. Once I notice I’m off with the fairies, all I have to do is jump back on the tracks.
It’s now at a point where this whole ‘distractibility’ thing has become a game to me. I see how long I stay focused for before I bust. I’m getting pretty good at this one.
You must understand here though that dealing with an injured brain is a fulltime job minus all the perks. What this means is that being aware of everything, all the time, takes effort. A LOT of effort. You need downtime at some point. Time just to relax, on your own and forget about the shackles of life for just a moment.
Reading this blog isn’t enough, unfortunately. The penny must drop in your own head and you must understand that this may be happening to you as well. Once you’re aware of it, you can then do something about it. Remember, you can’t fix something that doesn’t appear to be broken.
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