Children are easily distracted.
A cookie can solve the most heartfelt tragedy; a toy can detract from a pinched finger; a hug can calm night terrors.
One of the characteristics of maturity is the ability to set aside distractions and focus on work that needs to be done. However, the reality for many of us is that as we get older, we don’t learn to focus better, we swap distractions.
The new distractions aren’t necessarily evil. They may include hobbies, vacations, time with family and friends, downtime, me-time, and many things done in the name of a “balanced life.”
But what if we want a significant life? What if we want to grow as Christians and truly pursue becoming like Jesus? What if we want to create a book, blog, video, or podcast that will enrich the kingdom of God?
If that is our goal we must deal with distractions.
An example of what a distraction-free environment costs and the extraordinary results of it
This morning I read an article about Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novel that said he wrote many of his books in two-week marathon writing sessions while checked into a bland hotel where there was nothing to do but write.
He intentionally designed his environment to be conducive to productivity. The article described it in this way:
The simplicity of this choice architecture is a classic example of ‘egonomics’, a concept where one shapes their environment to steer behaviors towards desired outcomes. It’s a matter of making deliberate choices about one’s surroundings and habits to support their goals and well-being. Proper self-management is not limited to one’s internal traits and behaviors but extends to shaping external factors that can influence one’s productivity. Individuals like Flemming practice egonomics by properly designing their lives and environments to align better with their objectives.
In the realm of social psychology, this aligns with the idea of temptation avoidance. By removing distractions, Fleming essentially reduced the cognitive load required to resist them. This strategy is akin to Ulysses contracts, where one intentionally limits their future choices to avoid temptation. Fleming’s method demonstrates an understanding that our environment heavily influences our ability to focus and produce work.
The process is understandable; the application challenging
The process of creating an environment that shapes positive behaviors and avoids temptation makes sense. We can see how distraction-free surroundings would help us focus. We can see how a schedule without multiple commitments would free up time for significant study or creative work. We can see how less scrolling through screens of news or social updates would give us more time to perhaps do our daily Bible reading or listen to a spiritually challenging podcast.
Actually implementing any of it is gut-wrenching because it requires us to say “no” to good things.
At a certain point in our Christian lives we are most likely past the practice of obvious and outrageous sinning. We don’t fall down drunk or cheat on our spouses or taxes; we go to church, tithe, and are most likely decent human beings.
We’ve gone from the negative in the behavior/morality/progress to godliness scale and reached zero.
Zero isn’t enough if we want to accomplish anything of eternal value
To go beyond ordinary human decency, which we overly congratulate ourselves for, takes effort.
I believe we’ve all been given dreams of who we could be and what we could accomplish for the Kingdom of God. And I think we all know what we need to do to make them a reality or at least to start in that direction.
Today take ten minutes (set a timer) and think, pray, and journal about a possible change in your life to help you focus on what you need to do, and what you need to say “no” to. It isn’t the two weeks Fleming set aside but it is a start and from it, you might gain a bit of clarity that will enable you to gradually set aside more and more time to do meaningful work either in tangible creation, study, or prayer you need to do to accomplish something of eternal value.
It won’t be easy. The cost of saying “no” will be more painful and more difficult than you are led to believe you need to endure as you grow to Christian maturity or produce works that will encourage others on the path.
If you want the results the cost must be paid.