Its most notable effect is on driving. Most of us have encountered at least one distracted driver on the road, and some of us have probably been one of those distracted drivers--talking on the phone, trying to read a billboard, looking for something in the car, changing radio stations, eating, etc. Any one of those things is distracting enough, but in today's world it is not uncommon to see more than one event other than driving taking place.
I was astounded the other morning to see a woman driving a minivan (with kids inside) eating a bowl of cereal and putting on makeup. I prayed, "Lord, help that woman," as I accelerated to get away from her bob-and-weave style of driving.
There are many complaints of this type of event, and some states are enacting laws to try to prevent distracted driving. (Good luck with that.) There is a major awareness campaign being waged in the media trying to get people to wake up and understand the dangers.
Will this serve to end the problem? It is doubtful.
Distracted driving is only the latest manifestation of a disease that is mutating to an ever-increasing resistance to a cure. Distracted driving is not the problem. Distraction is.
While much has been written and lamented about the current causes of distraction, it is certainly not a new phenomenon.
Maggie Jackson quotes Fernand Leger, an early 20th century artist as writing: "Present-day life, more fragmented and faster-moving than preceding periods,..."
Her opening lines, however, come from a period before that.
She quotes from an 1880 novel, Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes, "...although alone all day, she did not lack social intercourse."
Jackson seeks to explore the outcomes of living such a distracted life.
"Does intimacy survive a seemingly limitless realm of infinite prospects? Can we bolster the quality of our life by split-screen living? How do lives of perpetual movement shape our attachments to each other and change our experience of place?"
Every person involved in any kind of helping profession should read this book.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with a life of faith? Or, what does this have to do with my life in this world?
Distractibility--the ability to be distracted--or distractedness, is a key component to both procrastination and stress.
It is the one obstacle not often mentioned when showing people how to have success in their life. The Law of Attraction, for all its popularity, hardly pays a passing nod to this malaise of modern society. Yet, until one becomes focused, the Law of Attraction is merely a popular New Age thought helping its promoters become wealthy.
For people of faith, distraction is the devil's tool used to keep you from God's highest and best. Distraction robs you of your power. Distraction is the enemy of focused attention.
Golfers pull back from their shot if there is a distracting noise from the crowd. A hitter at the plate is totally focused on the little white dot coming from 60 feet away at 90 miles per hour. Any distraction would prove devastating. Any aspect of the sports world is replete with examples of the necessity of focused attention and the denial of distraction.
Corrie Ten Boom once said, "If you want to be discontent, look within. If you want to be distracted, look around. If you want to be delivered, look to Jesus." Unwittingly perhaps, she addressed in these few words an aspect of human existence that few understand, and most disagree with--you are only capable of one emotional focus at a time.
As a society, we have bought into the notion of multi-tasking, thinking it is the way to get more done in less time. We have bought a lie.
Yes, you can do many things at once, but you are doing none of them well.
When it comes to the day-to-day things we must accomplish, this sort of multi-tasking only adds to our already over-stressed existence. There is no way the woman mentioned earlier arrived at her place of work relaxed and ready to deal with whatever stresses her job provides. (More than likely, neither did her kids arrive in a relaxed state of being.)
Jesus addressed this sort of life style when He visited the home of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Martha got upset that her sister, Mary, was not helping with the hospitality. Jesus chided her, and said that while she was anxious about "many things," ONLY ONE THING was needful.
That's all. Just one.
David wrote, "One thing have I desired...that will I seek..." (Ps. 27:4).
Paul wrote, "This one thing I do..." (Phil. 3:13).
Look closely at these passages, and you will see that while the "one thing" is somewhat different, the necessary requirement is the same--PAY ATTENTION.
I tried to teach my middle-school students that the most important skill in life is the ability to pay attention.
Paying attention, ie., staying focused, is of paramount importance in the goal of accomplishing anything. Its nemesis is distraction. One or the other rules your life now.
I still recall the day in 1972 when the Lord first began showing me the power of distraction. i was in church and the preacher was already well into his sermon. Someone came in late, and it was as if every single person in the room had a string attached from their nose to the door. Every head turned as the door swung open--mine included. I knew in that moment that I had disrespected the speaker. From that day to this, it became an exercise of discipline to not turn my head when everyone else does.
As a result, I have learned much about paying attention and avoiding distractions.
Are you easily distracted? Do you find it difficult to stay focused for more than a few minutes before shifting your attention?
If so, what ONE THING could you begin doing this week to slay the demon of distraction in your life?
Comments, questions, and criticisms are welcomed to help further the discussion.
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