Understanding Why We Get Distracted
Last week I attended Catalyst West, a Christian leadership conference..
Catalyst is one of the premier leadership resources. Each year they pick a different theme for their conferences. This year it is Be Present.
The habit of Presence is lost today.
Presence is more than just showing up, it is being engaged. It is more than attendance, it is being involved.
Using this definition, absence is a plague in our society. We are here, but not really here. We talk on the phone, but are busy with our computers. We sit at lunch with friends, but are thinking about a big meeting later that day. We sit with people everywhere and stare at our phones.
Our bodies are present, but are minds are focused on something else, absent from the now.
We are absent because we are distracted.
Distractions keep us from our work. Work that is important. Instead of gaining experience through our labors, we are lost in what will never matter.
I don’t believe that we can completely eliminate distractions, but I do believe that they can be minimized.
If asked what distracts you, it is easy to blame your smart phone or social media. Yes, they are culprits, but the real culprit isn’t the device or the app. The real culprit is you.
Twitter is not ineherenly evil, but our obsession with it, reveals something about who we are. To understand a distraction, you have to understand the motivation beyond the activity.
Here are 5 “true” reasons I get distracted from my work.
1. Personal affirmation. Yes, Twitter and Facebook take me away from the present at times, but they are only a sign of a deeper problem. My distraction is really rooted in my need to receive affirmation. My desire to be loved by others. Instead of finding my identity in God’s love for me, I look for significance in the number of followers I have.
I am distracted by my insecurities
2. Dreams. I think everyone should dream big, but sometimes I let my dreams distract me from my work. Instead of focusing on the work I have to do today, I imagine the success I desire tomorrow. Ironically, the dream itself can keep me from doing the work necessary to get better at my craft.
I am distracted by my daydreams.
3. Tommorow. I can be so caught up in what may or may not happen tomorrow, that I lose sight of what is going on today. A guaranteed way of creating more problems for later is not taking care of what is important now. Today has plenty of worries of it’s own. We need to focus on the now.
I am distracted by what hasn’t happened yet.
4. Yesterday. I recently did a talk that could have gone better than it did. I was frustrated because of mistakes I made due to poor preparation. I spent days worrying about something I couldn’t change. Instead of making the talk better, I was angry about the past. I focused on something I couldn’t change.
I am distracted by what is behind me.
5. Fears. We have all experienced it. Paralysis caused by fear. Fear of anticipated bad outcomes. Fear of poor health. Fear of what others think of us. Fear of death. Fear of criticism. My fear convinces me that I should stay at home and hide. But fear is irrational. Most of what we are afraid of is unlikely to ever happen.
I am distracted by my desire to play it safe.
What distracts you? What takes you away from the present?
Share with us in the comments.