For most of us achieving calmness in our lives is a worthy and desirable, albeit somewhat lofty goal. A friend shared with me the following formula to achieving inner peace, something she heard on a popular TV show. “The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished.” Sounds good, right? Ok, so she continued, “I took that advice and looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished, and before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of Tequila, a package of Oreos, the box of Dunkin’ Munchkins, the rest of the cheesecake, the bag of Doritos, and a box of chocolates. You have no idea how freaking good I feel right now!”

A NY Times article this week highlighted how mental stress can be caused by our gadgets. The gadgets, for the most part are electronic and computer related. Now, we adults look at the younger generations and poke fun at video games and how they can’t be good for the developing mind. But we ignore the power our “adult” gadgets have over us. In the article, the author discusses how real-time computer information, emails, text messages, Bluetooth, iPhone, iPod, iTouch, iPad, affects our ability to focus and complete our tasks. The more distraction from more sources induces the necessity to multi-task and creates the belief that we need to do so to order our lives, keep the peace, and be happy. The information pouring in represents a danger trigger. How? Stress is the physiologic expression of the automatic brain (AB). Since the AB reacts only to danger, threat, or vulnerability something about these gadgets, and the information they deliver, is tripping the switch. The danger – if you miss a piece of information it’s curtains for you (dramatic, yes, but this is how the AB works). Another danger is the sheer lack of control we have over our gadgets. Always looming is the threat of them failing us. And if that happened, you guessed it, curtains.

So these 21st century saber toothed tigers present potential danger, threat, or vulnerability and set us in a constant fight or flight mode. Even though our AB has evolved to protect us and to do so it enlists evidence from our immediate environment and five senses, it usually misguides us. What seems to be good for us – to fight or flee the danger – often goes astray because the premise is all wrong: there is no danger in the first place! The way we fight and flee the information overload of these electronic gadgets is to multi-task; trying to take it all in, be better prepared, more organized. In the end, we become less prepared, less organized, and even more stressed.

So how do you suppose I was able to survive these last two weeks when the electronic system in my car went off? I mean, there was no radio, CD player, Bluetooth, Navigation, or iPod. I was alone with my self—scary thought! During travel, I found myself in a vacuum, removed from the outside world. But a funny thing happened. The solutions we seek to challenges in our lives, our AB has us believe will be found by searching on the computer, or in the next email message, or in the next phone conversation. Disconnected from these devices, while driving, I decided not only to take advantage of the silence from the outside, but also not to engage thoughts from the inside. That is, although my AB wanted me to utilize this “quiet” time to figure out solutions to my life challenges, I chose not to believe, trust, or take direction from its persuasions. I chose to think about nothing in particular. And guess what? The answers seemed to flow into my mind.

The extreme is turning everything off. I had no choice, mine just stopped functioning. Though for most, turning these gadgets off is really not an option, unless one decides to move into the wilderness and live off the land as Richard Proenneke (a topic for another time, but a fascinating real story). Therefore, I have some advice. When faced with the overwhelming distraction and the impulsive reflex of the AB driving you to believe that multi-tasking will solve your problems, I suggest that you take a step back, breathe (something we don’t really do well during the flurry of the fight or flight of multi-tasking), and begin to organize priorities. Once you identify certain priorities, focus on them to completion. If that is not possible, do as much as you can to address the most important points, before moving on to the next task. During an interview last week, the host complained to me about feeling enormous stress over his emails. He receives hundreds a day and feels stressed about responding to them. So he either flees the danger and doesn’t answer them or fights it by just randomly deleting them. I suggested that he creates email filters and organizes certain groups with labels so that they automatically go into a certain category rather than the inbox. If he is stressed over the fact that he doesn’t know how to do that, I suggested he hire a high school or college student/intern to do it. For them it might take an hour or two and cost him only a few dollars.

As we seek inner peace and calm in the 21st century, try to keep in mind that no matter what happens around us it is important to think about completing tasks that we started. The more we address them, the less dangerous they become. Now, completing the package of Oreos or the bottle of Tequila is not the type of task that needs completion. In fact, those are examples of what would go way down on a priority list. Take a few moments to ask yourself questions. For example, “What do I need to do right now to make my day successful and calm?” “”How will I organize my day so that I accomplish all I need to accomplish?” “What will I do today to be calm, assertive, and productive?”

If you can’t finish what you started, at least step back from the overwhelming and false threat imposed by your gadgets. Learn that no matter what advancements in information technology, one advancement cannot be touched or altered—the human mind. When you focus on a single task, you remove the distraction and your mind becomes exposed and open. An open mind, like osmosis, allows the solutions to flow in. Even thinking of nothing, as I tried to do while driving the past few days, permits the flow of solutions. And what emerges are always solutions for inner calm, inner peace, and outward success.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Glassman is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Brain Drain - the definitive guide to connecting mind, body, and spirit.
With his book, private practice, internet radio show, public appearances, weekly message and newsletter, hundreds of articles, and Coach MD, Dr. Glassman can show you what he has shown thousands of others: how to live a healthier, successful, and more abundant life.
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