Sitting down to write, my mind is already beginning to swirl with everything else I have to do, except for what is in front of me. Distraction is a real, well, distraction… especially in today’s world. Sometimes I wonder if in simpler times one’s mind would be able to be more at rest.
The other evening at dinner, my husband and I were sharing about our days. I told him that sometimes I feel divided in my attention throughout my day as I spend it with our 5-month-old. From time-to-time, as I play with her I’ll find myself on the phone, or responding to a text or quickly doing this or that. Although my daughter is only a baby, when I do that, I am not communicating any value to her. Not only that, but if I was spending time with a friend it would be so rude to be on the phone while ‘being engaged’ in my interactions with them.
As I reflected on my day, trying to verbalize what was happening in my mind, I had an epiphany. I visualized my thought processes. It started with a picture of one big white circle right in front of me. All around it, in my peripheral, there were colorful, sparkly, flashing lights. Although small, they capture my attention quickly from one to another to another. Not only that, but even though the big white circle was the most dominant, I lost focus of it as my eyes went from one glittery flash to the next.
I realized this is totally my mind lately. I try to focus on the obvious priority and then all of a sudden, I think of every single little thing I have to do, should do, could do or didn’t do yet, but should have already be done. This leaves me to accomplish nothing and feeling disengaged and completely exhausted.
This probably does not sound so unfamiliar to you. As a teacher, it’s an evident pattern which I’ve observed in both my middle and high school students. Check the phone, oh, nothing there. Log on to Instagram, oh, what was I going to do? Oh yeah! I need to respond to so and so…it is a million miles an hour these days. Sometimes when listening, despite appearing as though engaged in conversation, our minds are wandering which robs our focus. It can leave us disengaged in our reality and lost in an artificial one.
Even though we may view it as multi-tasking, it often takes away from our relationships and makes us bad listeners. In fact, in one of my grad school courses about how the brain functions, I learned that multitasking is actually just our brain going back and forth between two tasks rather than them happening simultaneously. We’re not wired for it.
So the question is, how do we keep our focus and prioritize the present and what is actually important? Well, we need to stop giving attention to the constant tug of the sparkly, flashing lights. It’s as though we need to put our blinders on. They will never actually disappear unless we stop giving our attention to them. The more we cater to distraction the more it will grow and eventually consume us. It takes intentionality and mindfulness.
Since having this revelation, the racing of my mind is slowing down. That’s not because of happenstance, but rather due to intentionality and focus. When I find myself overwhelmed with the ‘could-have, would-have, should-haves’ I’ve been trying to stop and disconnect from them, all while returning back to what’s most valuable. Trust me, I am in the process and it’s going to take work, but ultimately if I want a heart that’s undivided, I need a mind that is as well.
What are your distractions? How much time do you spend on your phone compared to being with people, being engaged in the reality of the world around you, or spending time with the Lord? Just because your phone beeps or you receive a new notification, does not mean it needs to be given your immediate attention. Re-evaluate your priorities to reality and people in front of you rather than getting lost in the doing or a virtual world. Let me challenge you to put your phone down, set limits on technology, detox your mental to-do list, and refine your priorities.
So far on my journey of refinement in this area, I have realized how much lighter I feel. I am a better wife, mama, and friend as a result. Furthermore, my walk with the Lord has been much more focused and intentional. My texting conversations may be neglected or I may not have responded to all the messages that I have received, but I am present. Some days those dishes are still overflowing in my sink and the house is a bit messy, but I am engaged in relationship with those around me. Rather than being lost in the swirl of unimportant tasks, I have been able to slow down, be still, enjoy the smiles and embrace life. Through it all, I am learning to savor the beauty of simplicity. As you turn down the noise of distraction, I truly believe you will too.