The world is full of potential interruptions and distractions, so why would we possibly add to the maelstrom?

At its core, this question challenges the idea that we are one single entity called “I”. The “I” writing this often finds it helpful to think of himself as a coalition of voices representing different parts of his psyche and being (fear, fun, joy, hunger…..). These “voices” may in reality be understood as the manifestation of different neural processes.

Imagine a circle with the voices towards the centre being the loudest but also the most integrated into your concept of you. Those further out are somewhat turned down and if you go far enough out, you will come across muted voices as well – those voices you do not allow to speak – those parts of yourself you may not even want to acknowledge.

Zen masters would argue that the key is quietening these voices. The sitting practice (Zazen) is ultimately about helping with this process. And yet, in my experience, these voices all serve a purpose or in some instances served a purpose in the past but are still hanging around, so I do not dismiss them out of hand or try to repress them.

Instead, I respectfully listen to them and let them know I have heard their concerns but that it is under control. In my case, this can happen when I am doing something and suddenly feel fearful that I will fail. Intellectually, I am pretty happy with failing.

You only truly fail when you step outside multiple comfort zones, so it is in fact a sign that I am pushing boundaries. I put my arm around Mr. Fear and say “Thanks, but I have got this!”

The same can apply to any other voice that interrupts me when I am in the middle of creating something that requires extended work. In my case, the voice of effort often arises asking “Why don’t we do something that would be much easier? This feels too hard!”.

I often tell it that it is in the diary or that we are almost there and that it would be a shame to give up now. This same voice often uses hunger as a distraction – you haven’t eaten in a while – get something nice for yourself!

Just becoming aware of how your own psychology is nudging you in certain directions can be helpful. If you want to dig deeper, ask yourself: “Why this voice? And why now?”

You may have strayed into some realm where you failed in the past or that represents some perceived risk for you, or that is still with you from years ago and your system may be trying to protect you from some discomfort. Make note of this! This is your psychological gold!

Questions in the Image:

  • How do I interrupt myself?
  • What voices interrupt me?
  • How might I ask them to stay quiet?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle (link to Amazon.co.uk). The book offers insights and practices for living in the present moment and breaking free from the grip of the past and future. It emphasizes the importance of being fully present in order to experience true joy and fulfilment.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. For example, talking to friends, family and colleagues it is possible to sense deeper unspoken emotions and these questions often accompany me – What isn’t being said? What conversation are we not having? How might I offer support?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

How Might Tom Help?

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