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Why do we get distracted all the time?


It is becoming more and more difficult for us to keep our attention on one task, and many blame the technology. Indeed, the 20 open tabs in the browser is not something that helps to concentrate on the working draft. But even the one who blocked all social networks and entertainment sites, or even went into the wilderness without access to the Internet, discovers that something still interferes with focusing.

Instinctively, we tend to divide distractions into two categories. The first is the temptation: when you are trying to cope with a complex creative task, the thought of a couple of relaxed minutes on Facebook or going to a cafe with friends after work can be unbearably attractive. The second category is external interference: colleagues who stick to questions, emails that you would prefer not to answer, or, for example, a building near an office where workers compete, who will hit the iron sheet louder.
When we think about a problem from the point of view of temptations and interventions, we designate it as something that has come from the outside – therefore, the appropriate decision comes: to block distracting websites, put on noise insulating headphones, disperse annoying colleagues; run away finally to a cabin in the mountains. But there is a reason why all these methods do not work especially or do not help for a long time. The real culprit is not external stimuli, but an inner desire to avoid concentrating on what is most important. The bell comes straight from the head.

No one has ever diagnosed this problem as accurately as Friedrich Nietzsche: the wayward German philosopher stated in “Untimely Reflections” that we ourselves are looking for reasons to distract ourselves. Thus, we constantly occupy the thinking process, which allows us to avoid meeting with the really important questions – for example, about whether our lives fill any meaning? People tweet, put huskies and dive into angry Facebook debates, because, as Nietzsche said: “We are afraid when we are alone and in silence that something is whispered in our ear”. Worse, even work that seems at first glance productive, may in fact only be a reason to distract from something more important. “We surrender to the barshchina of daily labor with such fervor and rabies that we do not need at all for our life,” Nietzsche wrote, “because, it seems to us, it is most necessary not to regain consciousness. All are full of this haste, for everyone runs from himself. ”
Why are we so actively fighting against concentrating on the truly significant? One explanation offered by psychologists is that we desperately want to feel our own autonomy and significance. As a result, we oppose everything that, in our opinion, was imposed on us in an orderly manner, even if this order was given by us. And so you decide in advance to spend Wednesday morning drawing up a business plan or writing the next chapter of your novel … But when Wednesday morning comes, you arrange a rebellion against the internal guard who gave the order, and start flipping Facebook instead of working. Congratulations – you are a rebel, but unfortunately you are undermining the fulfillment of your own goals.


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