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Ignore the Woman in the Red Dress

One of the most epic movies we have ever seen was released in 1999. Even though 25 years have passed since its release date "The Matrix" has not lost its relevance. It was the movie that put Keanu Reeves on the map.


It had many scenes which were way ahead of its time. The scene with the blue or red pill, the "I know Kung fu" scene, Neo dodging and stopping bullets & of course my favorite scene - the one with the woman in the red dress.


Let me refresh your memory. In the movie, Laurence Fishburne (playing Morpheus) is having a walk with Keanu Reeves (Neo) in an artificial simulation created by coders. The purpose of the walk is to train Neo, to be ready to face the agents in the matrix.


Have a look at the scene.


The purpose of the red woman is to distract Neo. She serves as a lesson, to remind Neo not to be distracted, Neo should not take his eye off the ball. Focus is what he needs the most.


“Most of what we say and do is not essential…Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?'” – Marcus Aurelius


They say a jack of all trades is a master of none. But let's face it, in today's world, staying focused is tough. The woman in the red dress, a symbolic representation of these distractions, appears very suddenly, tempting us to stray from our intended path. You know, those things that pull us away from what really matters. Whether it's a quick scroll through social media or getting sucked into random YouTube videos, these distractions add up and mess with our game plan.


Since the wide spread of smartphones, we started complaining that we couldn’t focus in open offices. During COVID we started working remotely, and we found it just as difficult in our home offices. Screen times skyrocketed & focus became an even bigger issue. Is the problem external distractions, or are our brains holding us back from that coveted “flow state”, where we can reach our milestones or generate those “big ideas”?


There’s been a noteworthy shift in the past several years. We are not focused as much on just getting the most things done. Throughout the stressful conditions that the last few years have served us, it has become more about finding connection & purpose. Moreover, finding a way to focus amid interruptions, distractions & women in the red dress.


Long story short, in the last few years staying focused has become even more burdensome. Here’s how to get back on track.


According to Stephanie Vozza, it’s no secret that our attention span is shrinking, as is our ability to ward off distractions. A study by Harvard University psychologists found that people spend nearly 47% of their day thinking about something other than what they’re doing. While harnessing your attention can feel like a losing battle, it helps to understand its two dimensions – challenge and engagement. This is the idea of Dr. Gloria Mark, author of Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness, and Productivity.


“The first dimension is how challenged you are in what you’re doing, The second is how engaged you are in what you’re doing.”


The two dimensions work together to form four attention quadrants. If you’re highly engaged and challenged, you have focused attention. If you’re highly engaged but not challenged, you’re using rote attention – when you are focused on a small task like playing a simple game or knitting. If you’re neither engaged nor challenged, you’re in a state of boredom. And if you’re not engaged but highly challenged, you’re in a state of frustration.


According to Mark, every attentional state has value and purpose, and we have the power to control how we switch attentional states to recover and replenish cognitive resources. Your attention span can be tamed.


Recognizing what state you’re in and if you need to shift to another can help you better plan your day. Finally, you can ignore the shit out of the woman in the red dress to help yourself guard against distractions, avoid burnout, and improve your ability to focus.


At this point you might be wondering; “What or who is my woman in the red dress?”. While you are thinking about yours, I will tell you about mine.


I like those short dopamine releases. Due to my nature of work, I have a scary screen-time average. In between those digital errands - I scroll. Doomscrolling till my finger is numb.


Right in between writing the next paragraph, I went on to a YouTube short video & found out this; Dave Asprey is saying that we should black out our windows. There is this study from Japan, which is saying that the light that is coming from around the curtains is causing a 68% increase in depression. Not only that, every LED light in your room, including that tiny red bulb under your TV, should be blacked out. Sleeping in a black room & bringing the temperature of the room you are sleeping in down - with this combination leading you into a deep sleep, you will wake up like a new person.


In this case, I watched something, somewhat useful. However, 80% of what I end up watching is pure idiocracy. That figure is quite high due to my inclination towards stand-up comedy. The algorithms keep feeding me jokes & funny content.


Regardless of our widespread phone addiction, it is not the problem I would like to focus too much on. I am more worried about how these little distractions add up. Re-focusing on the red-dressed woman can become part of our behavior on a wider scale, affecting even bigger fractures in our lives.


Here are some more interesting findings:

•              The average adult has an attention span of about 10 minutes when listening to a lecture and 47 seconds when working on a screen.

•              47% of adults believe that “deep thinking” is a thing of the past and 49% feel that their attention span is shorter than it used to be.

•              Human beings are designed to constantly seek out new information, but the use of modern technology has made regaining focus difficult. Today, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on track after a distraction.

•              Motivation is directly related to attention span. When a task or project provides a sense of purpose, you’re far more likely to retain focus.

 

This article is not about small distractions. It is about how small distractions spiral into bigger hurricane worms & cause you to be distracted from your end game, from your targeted job, or the business you are trying to create, manage, grow & sustain.


The most essential facet that is taken away from us by distraction is - time.  Use money to gain control over your time, because not having control of your time is such a powerful and universal drag on happiness. The ability to do what you want, when you want, with who you want, for as long as you want to, pays the highest dividend that exists in finance. Time is our most precious asset.


When you're young, you are a "time billionaire". Too many people fail to realize the value of this asset until it is gone. Treat time as your ultimate currency, it's all you have and you can never get it back.

"To me, being a “Time Billionaire” isn’t necessarily about having the actual time, but about the awareness of the precious nature of the time you do have. It is about embracing the shortness of life and finding joy in ordinary daily moments of beauty." - Sahil Bloom


It is about embracing the shortness of life and finding joy in ordinary daily moments of beauty.


We spend most of our lives playing a game: Everything we do is in anticipation of a future.

When it comes, we just reset to the next one:

•                           "I can't wait until I'm 18 so I can [X]."

•                           "I can't wait until I'm 25 so I can [Y]."

•                           "I can't wait until I'm 45 so I can [Z]."


It's natural, but it's a dangerous game – one that we will lose…eventually. We waste a lot of energy on the past and future when the present is all that's guaranteed. Spend it wisely, with those you love, in ways you'll never regret.


Therefore, the key ingredients that the woman in the red dress is taking away from us are our most precious resources - attention & time.  Subsequently, in one way or another, we all lose focus & we all have our women wearing red. However, how we regain focus is quite individual. There are thousands of articles & books to aid you in grabbing your focus by the… & telling that woman in the red dress to keep walking.


Here is one of the simplest ones I could find.


Pura Vida!

Rashad











Sources:


1. Feeling Distracted? Here Are 4 Types of Attention

2. The Lost Art of Concentration: Being Distracted in a Digital World

3. How to Increase Attention Span

Website: Leaders

4. Speaking of Psychology: Attention Spans

5. Why You Can't Focus Anymore and What to Do About It

Website: Time

6. Unraveling the Distracted Mind: Exploring Factors Behind Shrinking Attention Spans

Website: Medium

7. Effects of Distraction on Short-Term Memory and Mental Rotation in Children and Adults

8. Mind Wandering and Task-Engagement

9. The Attention Span Myth

10. Types of Attention

11. Harvard Psychologists Reveal the Real Reason We're All So Distracted

Website: Inc.

12. Why We're All Distracted

13. Easily Distracted People May Have Too Much Brain

14. Study Reveals Why Some People Are Easily Distracted

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