Distractions lead to disaster – how can we stop distractions running our lives?
By Sue Ellson
6 August 2013
I was at a friend’s house on Saturday a week ago and was happy to be watching young children playing. After a while, like all kids, they made some noise, showing that they were frustrated. I knew exactly what to do.
With years of parenting and child minding experience, I knew that the key to keeping them quiet, stop their crying or consoling them was to DISTRACT them. So I simply went over and showed them another toy, or picked them up and gave them a hug whilst trying to divert their attention to something else.
On the drive home, I started contemplating this concept even further. What had I subconsciously done by distracting them from experiencing their emotions? What would have been my other options? What long term emotional damage was I causing by not honouring them and their experience?
Well I know that sounds a little dramatic, but I really did have some options. I could have explained why something didn’t work or shown some empathy first before moving on to something else. I could have let them cry for a few minutes and work it out themselves rather than try and ‘shut them up.’ I could have talked in an understanding voice, validated their experience and then helped them work it all out.
So then I was at a work office on Friday last week and the situation occurred again. This time a very sweet two year old needed to be occupied whilst Mum and I were trying to continue working. After trying all sorts of ideas, drawing, colouring, games, interactivity, food, we resorted to the tried and true formula of a video on a tablet. At last, for us adults, we could get on with our work.
But that made me ask another question. Why do we all spend our lives being distracted? The reality is that most of us are now using our phones, our tablets, televisions and our computers in every available spare moment. There is no time left for us to experience daily life, have and experience emotions or really connect with people without responding to a buzz from one of our devices.
The current ‘Distractions lead to disaster’ Transport Accident Commission Victoria @TACVictoria campaign is a fantastic initiative. These videos sum up exactly what is happening in cars all over the world. They are a reminder that it is not only our mobile devices that are causing the problem, they list distractions in two categories:
1. Technology-based – mobile phones, navigation devices, DVD players and MP3 players) and
2. Non-technology based – talking to passengers, eating, drinking and smoking
These distractions affect our visual, auditory, physical and cognitive abilities.
Apparently, a ‘US observational study has found 80% of collisions are caused by motorists whose attention is taken away from the road. The study found distraction was the single biggest cause of crashes and near misses – with road users who take their eyes of the road for two seconds or longer, doubling their crash risk.’ A frightening statistic.
But are these distractions also causing personal crashes in our daily lives?
On Sunday night, I was the driving instructor as my daughter is currently learning to drive. I have made a very strong point about not using my phone and certainly not letting her use her phone whilst the keys are in the ignition.
You can imagine my horror when most of us in the car started wondering whose mobile phone was ringing when we heard a ringing phone on a radio advertisement. It is as if we are becoming zombies who have been programmed to ‘answer’ a phone now. Particularly dangerous on this occasion because it was one of the passengers in the car who started asking ‘whose phone is ringing.’
Some years ago, Oprah Winfrey started the ‘No Phone Zone Pledge’ where people can sign up and declare how they will not use their phone whilst in the car – it currently has 423,330 pledges. It would be nice to see a lot more!
However, the bigger question I want to ask is, how can we stop distractions running our lives?
How can I personally live a more mindful life, one where I am truly in the moment, where I honour myself and those around me by avoiding the distractions so ever-present in modern life? Every moment is truly precious, let’s stop our ‘distracting’ behaviour and reconnect with the human experience. Now that I am more aware, I am going to take notice of how often this invasive default behaviour occurs in my own life!
Werner Herzog Documentary About Texting While Driving – From One Second to the Next – gripping – please, do NOT use your phone when driving.
I welcome your comments below.