The sirens can be heard approaching as you make your way out of the building. You’re not sure what happened initially, but whatever’s going on now, it’s loud.
There’s a crowd formed across from you.
Curiously, you make your way to them. You proceed hesitantly, cautiously. You’re naturally pretty squeamish and don’t want to see anything you can’t unsee. Or worse yet, that will make you sick in front of everyone.
You spot a neighbor amongst the crowded mass and approach her.
Much too many
“What’s going on?” you ask. “Feel free to spare the gruesome details.”
“Not much to tell,” she says over the roar of a growing crowd. “It’s the fifth one this month. Such a shame.”
Another one? You can’t believe it. How does this keep happening? Why does this keep happening? Who is responsible? Curiosity gets the better of you and, standing on a nearby fire hydrant, you peer into the center of the mob.
To the cause of the sirens and commotion.
You already know what’ll be there, but you need to see for yourself.
The cause of commotion
There, in the middle of it all, is a young man. His clip-on tie is attached to a wrinkled shirt and his pants are clearly disheveled. He sits, restlessly, on the ground. His eyes are blank and his right thumb is stuck in a state of perpetual scrolling.
He’s… he’s… You stumble off the hydrant and barely make it to a trash can in time before losing your lunch.
The paramedics cart the young man off. Phone in hand, scrolling endlessly, he’s clearly distracted and, from the looks of it, has been for some time.
You pay another visit to the trash can.
Working through it
Back in the building, you discuss the events with your neighbor. “I don’t understand,” you say. “He seemed so determined, so driven. How could he let this happen?”
Coldly, she replies, “The game isn’t made for him, for us, to win. They want our attention and will do whatever it takes to get it.”
She interjects, “But nothing. As soon as you learn to accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to move on with your life.”
You sleep poorly that night; your dreams filled with unanswered questions. Why does this keep happening? What is the cause? And most importantly, what is the solution? Is there a solution?
You vow to find out.
By the time the sun reaches your window the next morning, you’ve already left. First stop, the local police station.
When incidences like these first began to occur, they were met with nothing more than silence. But as one case turned into five into ten into a thousand, officials were called upon for their involvement.
Eventually, the mayor, feeling it in the best interest of the public, made available the official records of all such incidences – solely for the sake of any volunteer detectives who could help solve this most perplexing of cases.
Truth is in the data
“Hello… Umm… Err… I’d like to see your public records relating to soul-crushing distraction from the last month,” you mutter to the officer at the front desk.
“Down the hall, to your right.”
You make your way into the specified room and begin to dig through the files. The answer is in here somewhere.
Several weeks pass and, at last, you’ve found it. The cause of the distraction. You’re happy for the discovery, but know that’s not enough. You need to both understand the cause of the distraction and how to treat, or better yet, prevent its occurrence.
You head to the lab.
By trade, you are a scientist. When people ask what you do, you simply say scientist. That answer is often met with disinterested eyes and so you’ve learned to keep it brief.
The nice thing about being a scientist in this case, though, is that you have a lab. A lab equipped with everything you need to devise a solution. In other words, you’re going to find a cure to the soul-crushing distraction that has plagued your city for far too long.
More weeks pass and you’ve tried everything but to no avail.
You’re tired, exhausted even. But you can’t quit. That’s what they want you to do. You can’t give up now. No, no, you won’t give up now!
You return back to your desk.
The mayor speaks
Several more weeks pass. The sun is shining upon the mayor as she makes an announcement to the public.
“A cure has been found for the soul-crushing distraction that has ravaged our community for far too long.”
She continues, “Thanks to the noble efforts of a volunteer detective and chief scientist who has wished to remain anonymous, we now know what must be done to combat this terrible disease. In fact, at this very moment, treatment is already being distributed.”
The goals of many
There’s a brief pause in her speech as she absorbs the applause and cheers from the crowd.
She once again continues, “Soul-crushing distraction is an ever-changing, amorphous disease and, though we have a solution this time, we must continue to stay vigilant and combative if we are to achieve our goals. For now, though, let us celebrate our return to focus once again.”
The speech concludes with shouts of joy from the audience before her.
Somewhere in that crowd, amongst the celebration, you stand. Relaxed for the first time in months. A smile works its way across your face as you envision the goals so many are now about to achieve.
The lesson of the story
If the mayor didn’t make it clear enough, allow me to reiterate her point – distraction is an ongoing battle to be fought. It could be a notification on your phone, a “quick” pop-in from a coworker, or a correspondence placed upon your desk.
Regardless, distractions of any kind can and will deter you from achieving your goals. They will damage your focus and result in lack of progress.
Sometimes they must be entertained, but more often than not, they don’t.
How I prevent distraction
You must play detective. You must sniff out the cause of the distraction. And from there, you must be a scientist and test out different means for countering said distraction.
For me, that looks like having 99% of the notifications on my phone turned off. It means listening to a very specific kind of music when I work. It means keeping everything I need to do my work nearby and within arm’s reach.
And it also means keeping everything that could damage my focus away from where I sit.
Moving forward as detective and chief scientist
Distraction is part of daily life. Instead of accepting it though, instead of letting it wash over you, you can take action. You can do something about it.
Every distraction you face is but a problem to be solved.
As soon as you realize that, you take goal success into your own hands – which is where it deserves to be. Don’t be like the neighbor from the story, content with mediocrity. Be the detective, be the scientist. Uncover the truth of distraction and devise a cure for it.
Good luck in the lab.