Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"That's Distracting!"

I always cringe when people talk about something being a distraction.Why? Because when you say that something is a distraction, you're telling someone else what to focus on. You're establishing that they should be on a certain path, and things that take them off that path are distractions. And many times, those things that you call "distractions" could be exactly what the person wants to focus on.

The concept of distraction isn't all bad. There times when it's okay, and times when it's not okay. I'll give a few examples:

It's okay to say that you can't concentrate because you're distracted by something like a light or a noise. It's also okay to say that another person can't concentrate because they're distracted by something like a light or a noise. This is because we're assuming that the person has no desire to just sit and listen to the background noise or stare at a flickering light - they want to do something else, and are unable to do it because these things (the light or noise) that they have no desire to focus on distract them.

It's also okay to say that you can't get something done because you'd distracted by Facebook, computer games, TV, etc, because since you're talking about yourself, you obviously know that what you want to do is more important to you than the things you're distracted by, even if those things do give you pleasure.

What's not okay is when you say that someone else - your student, your child, etc. - is distracted by their games, computer, cell phone, etc. when you haven't even asked them what they want to do. When you refer to things as distractions, you're establishing what's important and what they need to focus on, when what they want to focus on might be very different from what you want them to focus on. The things I did for fun were always more important to me than school. My daydreams were never distracting me from school - school was distracting me from my daydreams! School was interfering with all the fun things that I liked to do - NOT the other way around.

If someone asked you for directions, the first thing you'd ask is, "Where are you going?" because you obviously can't give directions without that information, right? Well, we try to do that all the time. What would you think if you were walking to the store when someone started yelling, "Hey! You're going the wrong way! The car wash is this way!" And you try to tell them that you're not going to the car wash but they just won't accept your answer. That's what we're doing every time that we refer to something as a "distraction" without even taking the person's own desires, interests, and focus into consideration.

I've had a lot of distractions in my life, a lot of things that interfered with what I was trying to do, and frankly, most of those distractions were the very things that I was told to focus on.

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