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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Distracted from Distraction by Distraction Creates Distraction

Written by: on September 22, 2019

Distractions are inevitable!  T.S. Elliot explained, “Distracted from distraction by distraction creates distraction.” That clears up the dilemma! (lol) Webster defines distraction as a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. Newport explores how distraction can be detrimental to us in both our personal and business worlds. The author’s goal is to convince that deep works hypothesis is real and to teach how to take advantage of this reality by training our brains and transforming our work habits to place deep work at the core of our professional and personal lives.[1]

I found it interesting that Newport used Carl Jung as a model for his research and writing. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I studied Carl Jung extensively and I also found him to be a fascinating psychoanalyst. Jung believed that the psyche is a self-regulating system, rather like the body. One seeks to maintain a balance between opposing qualities while constantly striving for growth, a process Jung called “individuation.”[2] Jung saw the psyche as something that could be divided into component parts with complex and archetypal contents personified and functioning like secondary selves that contribute to the whole. Distraction plays a role in our ability to self-regulate and our brain’s ability to divide into component parts.

Yet, distraction can be a dual-edged sword. I think that at times distraction can create within us a way of coping. In Gonzales’ book, Deep Survival, the author shares that “the brain simplifies reality and only perceives a part of it to effectively deal with the chaos of the situation we may find ourselves in.”[3] When we are in troubling times, sometimes distraction can actually be a blessing, so that we are not dealing with overwhelming situations that are surrounding us.

I have found that, at times, distraction can help us on our journey through life. I found this to be true as my dad was dying. My dad suffered from prostate cancer and I remember the many hours I spent at his bedside before he traveled home to Jesus. During that time period of literally living at the hospital with my dad while supporting my mom (his bride of 56 years), the United States was suddenly down on to her knees. It was during the time of 9/11. I remember watching the horror on TV, but not receiving it personally at the time because of my focus on my dad. I grieved for everyone involved, but I also realized that our brain truly does simplify reality – and my reality was the four walls surrounding my dad’s ICU room. Our brains can only perceive a part of reality at a time, so that it can effectively deal with the critical situations we are in. It is fascinating to me when I think about it afterwards, because I was truly not processing anything around me other than the loss of my dad at that moment in time.

So, Carl Jung’s theory of compartmentalization may play a more positive role during times a chaos in our lives, I found Newport’s theory of deep works to be both invigorating and inspiring. Distraction in our daily lives takes away our ability to achieve our goals. Utilizing the tools and techniques of Newport can help us become more focused on our goal.

And, to conclude…a final quote from Christopher Columbus: “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” He would know!

[1] Cal Newport, Deep Work (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016).

[2] Ibid

[3] Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival (New York: WW Norton, 2017).

About the Author

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Nancy VanderRoest

Nancy is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and fulfills God's calling on her life by serving as a Chaplain & Counselor with Hospice. In her spare time, Nancy works with the anti-human trafficking coalition in her local community.

4 responses to “Distracted from Distraction by Distraction Creates Distraction”

  1. Karen Rouggly says:

    Nancy – this is a great post! I totally understand your perspective on compartmentalizing. Sometimes that is definitely easier than wading through everything all at one time. I appreciated your thoughts on Jung and his work alongside Newport. Good stuff!

  2. Thank you Nancy, this is great post, I really like your perspective of distraction as a dual-edged sword, being beneficial in creating a way of coping in times of chaos and detrimental in hindering our ability to focus.

  3. Love the post Nancy. I learned something new. So it appears like our body/mind will involuntarily focus on deep work on things requiring our undivided attention during times of stress in order to accomplish the most important thing for that moment.

    I can think of certain occasions when that was certainly true in my experience.

  4. mm John Muhanji says:

    Thank you, Nancy, for your thoughts on distraction in life. I believe life without a distraction would be boring and people would not even be working hard to achieve anything beyond a certain level. Therefore distraction to me is the means through hard work. As we all know when there is a distraction, people would always want to ensure that they go beyond the distraction. its a learning process of life. An African saying on distraction says, “do not dance to the tune of the dancing grass when going on a special mission.” The dancing grass was a distraction that would make you not arrive or achieve your mission goal. This is where distraction would cause distraction on your mission.

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