Are you living a distracted life?
The short — and honest — answer is YES.
Our culture has made it both acceptable and expected that you will multitask — or attempt to engage and be quasi-attentive to several different things at once.
This invitation to live a distracted life and fragment your attention into a sundry of people, experiences, and/or tasks has to do with two compelling ideas.
The first is that you can do more.
You can do more than you’re currently doing. Why limit yourself to simply eating a meal when you can eat, talk on the phone, listen to music, and do your homework all at the same time. Or why limit yourself to driving from one place to another when you can drive, listen to music, talk with friends, answer email on your phone, and people watch in the cars your zooming past. Or why limit yourself to paying attention in class when you can be physically present in class, pass notes back and forth with the person sitting next to you, send text messages to your friend not in your class, update your status (to *bored* in class), and complete your homework for your next class.
Sure, you can probably do more than the one thing that is right in front of you — but should you? Who’s asking that question??
The second idea that draws you into living a less than present kind of life is simply that you’re going to miss out on something while you’re doing whatever it is you are doing.
We fear missing out, or being left out, on — well, everything.
So if we can somehow “be present,” even if only through technology and the second or third-hand updates we can receive via text or status update — well, then we’ll do our best to be in as many different places (at least mentally) as possible.
But what’s the end result? Do we really feel more “connected?”
We might be more in the know, but we won’t be anymore connected.
And what will be sacrificed as a result of us living this kind of distracted life? Consider these four possibilities:
We will damage relationships. One of the biggest casualties that will result from our attempts to live a distracted life will be the relationships of those closest to us. Everyone wants to feel important — especially when we’re together. But what we communicate to others when we obsessively check our phones, or talk about what happened last night, or what’s going to happen later this weekend, is that this person we’re with is not very important. This might not be what we believe — but it’s what our actions communicate.
We will give less than our best effort. Whether it’s a j0b, an assignment, a leadership role, or something else — if we’re not focused on it (because we’re attempting to do too many things), then we will be unable to give our very best effort. This will result in us being a less than exceptional employee, student, leader, etc. And if we’re not going to give our best — why bother to waste our time with it in the first place? (Well, probably because we fear missing out on something…)
We will be unable to find joy and/or contentment in our own experiences. Because we’re so distracted, we won’t be able to glean from our experiences that which likely drew us to them in the first place. More often than not, we have a choice about what we are going to give our time and energy to. And yet, as we allow ourselves to live distracted, we will limit our capacity to get the most from the experiences that we are physically present at.
Finally, we will struggle to see the beauty and excitement in our own life. If we allow ourselves to continue to live a distracted kind of existence, we will ultimately be unable to see the gifts and blessings God is providing in our own life. We will be so distracted by what is happening elsewhere — in other people’s lives — that we will fail to live our own life, and fall prey to the dastardly task of constantly comparing ourselves (and our lives) to those around us.
Are you living a distracted life? Yes. I believe we all are to a degree.
The real question is: What are you going to do about it? What can you do to limit the kinds of distractions that have the potential to wreak havoc on your relationships, effort, experiences, and lives as a whole?