Let’s clarify what obsession means:
An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind. [Google]
I don’t mean obsessive-compulsive disorder. I just mean those itsy-bitsy, everyday obsessions that take you off-track until you suddenly wake up once again and think, “What?”
Obsession makes me spin my wheels, lose precious time, and stress too much. One of my important goals for the year is to recognize when I’m in a state of obsession and let go. I’m intent on releasing these ruling tendencies, bit-by-bit.
Here’s my challenge and my plan.
Everyday Obsessions: The Challenge
I especially obsess about creative ideas, social media, and perfection. How about you? What’s your flavor of obsession?
The lure of a creative idea. When an imaginative idea captures my mind, I’m held prisoner as it throbs again and again and again. It pulls on me to act right now, whatever time it might be, whatever else I might be doing. It pushes me to do more, even though it might be better to do something else or maybe even to rest.
I’m captured by the passion of a new idea far more than going the distance. Someone told me that’s a personality type, but they say I can learn to skillfully work with it.
Social media compulsion. I want to touch people and make a difference in their lives. I’m not a megalomaniac. I just want my writing to be read and my courses to be used and for all of it to benefit others.
So I sometimes feel compelled to be ever-present on social media. If I miss a beat, my writing and courses might be lost and never found in the obscurity of social morass.
But I know too much digital time is not healthy for my body, mind, or soul. Whenever I find I’ve lost myself in the whirlwind of likes, hearts, pluses, and tweets, I’ll go outside for a breath of fresh air.
Making things perfect. Happily, perfectionism is less and less a driving force than before. Maybe you’ve noticed those occasional misspelled words! Yes, sometimes I make mistakes and no longer get all wrought up about it. I’ve even been known to laugh when the error is a weird play on words. Isn't that a step up from embarrassment or shame?
Still, I’ll suddenly find myself spending way too much time looking for the perfect photograph. I'll take that as a clue to stop and settle for what works just fine.
Everyday Obsessions: The 4 Countermeasures
I know it's just human to have a few teeny obsessions so I’m not going to be hard on myself. But I’ll apply these 4 remedies to gradually erase them away.
Every time I notice I’m obsessing, I’ll stop and divert my attention someplace else. It might be a more productive venture, communing with nature, or taking a nap.
I know interceding in obsession is a practice. The tendency will not magically change overnight so patience and humor will come along for the ride. Slowly, with repeated awareness and counter-action, the obsessions will melt away.
I don’t feel I need to analyze or understand every obsession. I can simply stop.
But sometimes, it does help to look and ask, “Where the heck did this come from?”
"Oh yes! It’s that pesky need to be acknowledged subverting me once again. I know of many healthy ways to acknowledge myself without indulging in obsession. I’ll try one of those"
I’ve set up my 16 Zen work habits so I have a healthy way to go. I keep my good habits list close to my side and revisit it several times a day.
These good habits make it easier to hold my boundaries and say no to an obsession that’s trying to seduce me into a non-productive void.
4. Deep Reflection
Most of what I obsesses about is a total waste of time. Asking a deeper question can help me to cut right through.
- Will this matter when I die?
- All this will dissolve sooner or later. It’s not permanent or lasting, so why should it matter so much?
Our own present joys and sorrows are just the fruit of seeds we ourselves planted in the past, and it is pointless to be obsessed by hopes and fears about them. - Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
How can obsession survive truth staring it in the face?
Focus and Obsession Are Not the Same
Last year, I consciously stopped pushing myself so hard and found a healthier balance of work and play. I see these everyday, obsessive tendencies as subtle, stubborn remnants of the inner pusher, waiting to be transformed.
Almost all of us obsess a bit now and then. A little obsession can give you the focus you need to accomplish your goals. But focus and obsession are not the same. When you begin to feel strained because you’re stuck in a loop, keep pushing in a way that doesn’t bring results, or feel out of alignment with your values, it’s time to put the brakes on obsessive thought or activity.
So tell me, what is it that you obsesses about? Do you have an effective remedy?
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