Why do we get distracted? I’m not talking about a sudden loud noise that makes you look up from your book. I’m talking about the longer, more enduring distractions – those that plague our days or even years.

What mechanism in our brains causes it? I want to work on a particular project – so why do other parts of my brain compete for control of the whole vessel? What disagreement do they have?

Some part of that mechanism must be something that was once helpful. Certainly, losing yourself in some delicious berries in the savannah may have made me vulnerable to tiger attack, and so different parts of my brain would have kept pulling my attention to my surroundings. If that’s the case, then is distraction no different than fear – a voice to be recognized and thanked, but ultimately unheeded?

That might be a paradigm to help me focus. It helps to not be afraid if you consider that the source of your fear isn’t the object of your fear, but rather your own brain. Likewise with anger – outside things can’t make you angry, they can only give you something to be angry about, but the choice is yours.

So perhaps distraction is no different! It’s my brain asking me to look at something else, not the thing itself. I can politely say, “Hey, thanks for keeping me alert for tigers and stuff, but I’m good. I’m gonna work on this for now.”

Perhaps you can, too!

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