The Curse Of Distraction

We are the first species to evolve past simply surviving, to give ourselves the time and energy to focus on aspects of life outside of our basic needs, and to think about whatever else we wish to think about.

Since this time, we have begun to perfect the art of distraction. Avoiding the things that are hard to think about, avoiding the questions that may not have a clear, calculable answers. We fill our time with activities and leisure that allow us to escape from our own heads, and avoid the intense discomfort that comes when we are confronted with the uncertainty of the questions that matter the most.

This distraction is a disease, seeping into our heads unseen, diminishing our ability to think, and our ability to live meaningfully. It stops us from focusing on what truly matters.

When we have a task that is worth doing, it is almost a guarantee that it will not be easy, and it will not be perfectly comfortable or safe. Distraction is the antithesis, it is easy, comfortable, and safe.

It sounds like distraction should be a good thing, right?

Why should we deal with difficulty and discomfort, if we don't have to?

What distraction looks like

Distraction is any and all things that pull you away from what you deem important. Distraction is built of short-term solutions to ease difficulty, and shift your focus to somewhere else, somewhere cheap and comfortable.

Distraction is a means to escape. To escape from difficulty and from the harshness of reality.

Nowadays you can find distraction and cheap dopamine sources almost anywhere you turn. 

Social media, with its endless scrolling and short form entertainment that is quickly forgotten. 

Television and movies, with relatable characters, interesting plot-lines and creative outlooks. 

Video games, that allow you to feel all the sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something in the real world, with the push of a few buttons.

Not to mention the physical means of escape through the use of drugs, shopping, or busywork.

This easy escapism is addicting, for how could it not be?

Distraction is the overarching addiction to avoiding reality, discomfort, and all the hardships that come with them.

 How distraction hurts us

Over time, we settle into routines of distraction throughout our days, speeding through the essential components of our lives, and spending any overflow of time in the easiest way possible, distraction.

This routine stops us from spending our time chasing meaningful goals and accomplishments that matter to us the most. We have exchanged our freedom for escapism, and it's killing our creativity and critical thinking.

If we live in distraction, we begin to forget the rewarding feelings that come from meaningful focus. We forget the pride that comes from finishing a task, the satisfaction from doing something to the best of our ability. As we continue living in distraction we place comfort and ease on a pedestal, and see the discomfort that comes with hard work as completely undesirable.

We lose our drive to do something, anything. Everything we do becomes a means to end, so that we can relax and escape later. We deteriorate our own ability to focus, and leave it as a skill unpracticed. We stop reflecting, on our lives, our progress, and get lost in the monotony of living the same day, over and over again.

Breaking out of the distraction cycle

Fortunately, we can break out of this cancerous addiction.

No matter where you are, what your routines are, you have the ability to change directions, and do all the things that you want to do.

It all starts with being conscious of your habits and routines at present, and finding the wiggle room, where you can begin to make a shift. 

Picture the ideal version of yourself, picture their habits, routines, day-to-day tasks, and find out what you need to change in order to get there.

Start small

Start small, change one habit, and continue emphasizing that habit until it becomes second nature.

Then change another habit, and another, and before you know it, you will have changed the direction of your life, now pointing where you have always dreamed of going.

If the biggest distraction you face is doom-scrolling on social media, you should consciously be aware when you pick up your phone most, and why you pick it up. You can then ween out your scroll by replacing it with a different habit, such as reading.

You can replace your distraction habit with any other habit that matches the characteristics of it, for scrolling; find something you can do in short bursts, at any time, that stimulates you.

Reduce friction for these new habits by stacking them into routines you already have in place. If you always eat breakfast while scrolling on your phone in the morning, try opening your book instead. If you want to write more, carry around a notebook in your pocket 24/7. If you want to spend 30 minutes a day working towards your goals, block out a certain time period every single day, and sit down to work on it.

You can also change your environment to help you out. If you find it impossible not to distract yourself when doing work in your bedroom, try out a different location.

The rhythm is the important part, not the productivity, if you sit down and give yourself the choice between working or doing nothing, then you will probably end up working. With the added benefit that if your really not in the mood, you can spend that time thinking, and the habit is still being strengthened.

Find a project, a goal that is meaningful to you, and incorporate work on this project into your routines. This will give you a chance to build something, and give you a productive use of your time outside of the monotony.

Reflect after Distraction Vs. Focused work

After you spend a couple hours in your normal routine, whether thats watching tv or scrolling on social media, notice how you feel afterwards, do you feel replenished, do you feel relaxed, do you feel foggy or confused?

Write this down.

Now notice how you feel after spending some time doing focused work.

How do you feel? Satisfied, tired, relaxed, foggy?

Write this down.

Compare the two, what are the differences, and make up your mind over the cost/benefits of each.

Purposeful Relaxation

You should still find time to relax in your day.

You are human, you should have fun, you should socialize, and give yourself plenty of time recharge.

All I am saying is don't do all of these things on autopilot, choose to rest and relax with purpose and intention.

Maximize your time

More and more our society is turning mindless, focused on doing the minimum and dwindling the rest of their time through distraction and escapism. 

We have made amazing advancements in the realms of science and technology, which consistently improve our lives. But the technologies that improve our lives, are more and more focused on making our lives easier, and more comfortable. 

Every day we have more and more ways that we can spend our time, ways that we can entertain ourselves and deter us from doing hard things. 

But we also have more and more options for how we can make an impact on this planet, and ways we can spend our time building something of value, something that can help more than just ourselves, and leave behind a legacy after we are gone.

Our time on this earth is limited, and any finite resource has value. We should aim to maximize the value that our time can provide, using it meaningfully and with full awareness of all the choices we make to spend it.