Letting Go of Distraction

By Leo Babauta

Let’s be honest. We all get distracted, especially by our devices and the Internet.

This is a daily occurrence, perhaps an all-day occurrence. And if we’re being honest, while some pleasant distraction isn’t bad at all, too much distraction can become a problem.

How is it a problem? If it stops us from doing the important work we want to do, or keeps us from paying attention to loved ones, or keeps us from exercising and getting outdoors, or keeps us from being mindful. Distractions can keep us from being the people we want to be.

It’s important to pause and give some thought to the pain that distractions can bring us, because without being conscious of that pain, we won’t really try to give them up. This is the first step.

And once we really understand that pain, we can see that this pain is all self-caused. We are causing our own pain. If we’re causing it, we can end it.

So letting go of distractions becomes a compassionate act. Compassionate for us, to relieve our own pain, but also compassionate for the other people in our lives, and perhaps the larger world if we go on to do work that benefits others.

Be clear on the benefits of letting go of distractions. This is the second step. If you’re going to do work that helps others, you’re letting go for these people. You’re letting go to improve your relationships. You’re letting go to improve your life, your health, your mindfulness, your work.

Once you’re clear on all that, letting go becomes easier.

Notice the urge to go to distractions. This is the third step.

This urge is normal — distractions are pleasurable, they’re easy, they’re comfortable. It’s perfectly normal to want to go to the easy, comfortable, and pleasurable. Avoiding these things is hard.

But we’re going to stay with the discomfort. This is the fourth step in letting go. Stay with the discomfort, don’t go to the distractions. Let them go, and stay in the present.

Once we let go of a distraction, even for a moment, we should notice the freedom. We’re no longer burdened by the distractions. We can live the life we want to lead. Noticing the awesomeness of this present moment, without the distraction, is the fifth step.

Stay with the moment. When the urge comes up, do it all again. When it gets hard, reconnect with the reason you’re doing it. Remember the pain the distraction causes. Remember the compassion and benefits of letting go of the distraction. Remember the freedom of releasing that burden, remember the awesomeness of the present moment.

Then stay with the moment.