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Brad, a financial representative at a major broker-dealer, complained about email and phone interruptions. He was getting so caught up in trying to figure out how his smart phone could filter his messages that he was sacrificing hours of real work.

“You make choices,” I told him, “about how you want to spend your time. If you think you’ve made the wrong choices, don’t beat yourself up. Just make better choices going forward.”

“But I get distracted and can’t help myself,” he responded.

“Well, now you’re creating a story about yourself that you can use to continue being distracted,” I explained. “We all create stories, but does this particular story (that you can’t help yourself) serve you at all?” I asked. Brad agreed that it didn’t.

As author and coach Steve Chandler points out in his book, Reinventing Yourself: How to Become the Person You’ve Always Wanted to Be, the things we say about ourselves — the “stories” that describe our personalities — are invented. And they can be altered at any time.

David Ward, a colleague whose coaching and consulting work focuses on marketing for attorneys, wrote these words recently:

“You can do anything you want to do in life; you just can’t do everything. You have free will. You have unlimited choices. But you don’t have unlimited time. So you can do anything, just not everything. You must choose.

As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do. The word ‘decide’ means to ‘kill the other option.’ When you chose to go to law school, you also chose not to go to medical school.

If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good. Give up good to go for great.”

What is important to you? Family, faith, career, community? It’s probably not a long list. What’s important to you is where you will find your greatness. Get those things right, and you’ll have a happy and fulfilling life.

Brad and I discussed what he wanted to do about his attention issue: He wanted to power-down his phone and get away from his computer’s email program for an hour or two each day. He acknowledged that it would be preferable to simply shut off these devices than to spend hours trying to modify them to be “less distracting.”

He replaced his story about losing focus with another, more powerful one: Brad used to get sidetracked and then end the day without having finished the things that were most important to him, but now’s he has taken steps to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.

Some of us allow distractions into our lives as a way of avoiding work. And often, we stay with those behaviors because we’re afraid to change our stories about them — the stories we’ve been accustomed to telling for so long.

If last week you chose to reorganize your filing cabinet instead of calling that long list of prospects, you probably regret it now. But don’t be hard on yourself — let that behavior go and make a better choice tomorrow. Let your story be that “up until now” you were making poor decisions, but “from now on,” you will not.

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Sandy Schussel is a speaker, business trainer and coach who helps sales teams develop systems to win clients. He is the author of The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet. For more information, go to


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