Our current tendency is to spend our time on drudgery related activities, such as binge-watching Netflix, swiping on our phone, eating, drinking and perhaps go for a walk if the weather is ok. But why? Are we so distracted constantly that we don’t find enough headspace to really feel and understand what we need? Which part of our choices is based on consciousness?
How technology messes with our brains
Various technologies are vying for our attention and the current pandemic has only made this more apparent in order to do our jobs and continue an active social life. We rely on these devices more than ever. The very thing that was designed to help our productivity is in fact doing the opposite and that’s no coincidence. Companies have optimized products to take advantage of our inherent distractibility. The same mechanic of pulling on a slot machine in a casino is also at work when scrolling a feed. It’s exactly the same psychology of variable reward.
But is technology really the reason we get more distracted? It’s definitely not helping to focus, but it’s not the main cause. Distraction has been around forever, well before these modern tech tools. The source of the distraction is not technology. Most distraction starts from within us. Our desire to escape an uncomfortable sensation like boredom, anxiety, uncertainty, stress and fatigue. This is the real source of distraction and if we don’t tackle what’s called the internal triggers we will always find distraction somewhere.
So how do we handle these internal triggers? We can’t control the feelings and thoughts that pop into our heads, right? Well no we can’t, although we can control how to handle these internal triggers. First of all, start listening to those internal triggers and explore them. For example; the urge of eating chips when watching a movie or reading your phone while driving. Are you really hungry and can’t that message on your phone wait until arrival? Ask yourself why you want to give in on that specific trigger. Are you hungry or is the movie lame and do you feel bored? Give yourself 10 minutes to see if those same internal triggers keep appearing. I bet you totally forget them.
What actually makes us happy
So if we aren’t preoccupied with fighting our internal triggers or with something we need to do. What do we then want to do that actually makes us happy? Well, first of all, allow yourself the time to think about stuff that matters. Change your environment or go for a walk. Isolate yourself from every worry you have, from your chores, and from everything else. Take some time for yourself and think. Avoid thinking of negative things in your life, instead focus on solutions and lessons you learned. Connect with your inner self and enjoy your thoughts.
Don’t forget your surroundings
Lastly, let’s not forget to find a balance between looking inside ourselves (introspection) and looking outside ourselves (outrospection). We live in an age of hyper-individualism. An era in which an overdose of free-market culture and simplistic self-help has let us believe that the best way to lead a good life and achieve human happiness, is to pursue our narrow self-interest to follow our personal desires. Me, myself and I. Outrospection on the other hand, is the idea of discovering who you are and how to live by stepping outside yourself and looking through the eyes of other people and discovering other people’s world. Empathy is the ultimate art form for the age of outrospection and it’s trainable. So please don’t forget to look around you and help your neighbour, repair or deepen your relationships and start a conversation with strangers. It will not only do you good, but your environment too.
Inspiration and sources:
Book: Indistractable by Nir Eyal
Book: Find your Ikigai by Eiver Stevens
Book: Empathy by Krznaric
Netflix: The Social Dilemma