Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 30

Leo Babauta – USA

Medley Focus 320 2 changes

Making changes at a broader level

Most of this series on Theosophy Forward is focused on the individual — how we can make changes in our individual lives — but can and should we be thinking on a broader level? Is it possible to change society as a whole to one of fewer distractions and a greater degree of simplicity? Is that something we should even desire?

I think it is possible, but that we shouldn’t expect overnight changes. The tide of rapid and invasive technology is strong and possibly irreversible. We’re not going to get rid of the Internet, or email, or Facebook or Twitter or Instant Messaging or text messaging, and I’m not sure we’d want that anyway.

What we might change is the extent to which this technology invades every minute of our lives, and the ability of people to find focus, quiet, disconnection. Maybe not everyone will change, but perhaps pockets of society. Maybe not overnight, but over time.

Is it worth trying for the change? This is a more difficult question, but we might ask: what would the outcomes be, of changing society to one of fewer distractions vs. allowing the trend of more distractions and connectedness to continue.

A society where people can find focus, time for creating instead of just consuming, time for reflection … this is a good thing. If we have time to reflect, we have the ability to improve, to become conscious of what we’re doing rather than mindlessly obeying advertising and government. Creating is a fundamentally different act from consuming, and a valuable one. This is worth striving for.

A society filled with distractions … it’s my belief that people will adapt, that the younger generation already is adapting, and that people will learn to be just as happy with distractions as they were before them. But we may lose something — solitude, quiet, peace, reflection, contemplation … these are important things that might get lost along the way, victims of technology and connectedness.

I also worry that the true human connections we make when we disconnect from technology and truly focus on talking and listening to each other, in person … that these will be lost. I don’t know this will happen, but it’s a fear.

So societal change would be accomplished with a two-fold strategy: 1) Set the example, and 2) Spread the word.

Setting the example 

Modeling good behavior has always been one of the most powerful tools for influencing others. Children learn from parents and others by watching, not by being told. We become inspired by those leading lives of imagination, of determination, of brilliance.

So model those behaviors that will lessen distractions and increase the time we have to focus and create. Show others, without being smug about it, that a simpler, more mindful, more focused life is possible, and that it’s a good thing.

You don’t have to be perfect, or a saint, but just make small changes that others might follow. A few examples:

  • Don’t always be connected or available for interruptions, and let others know when you’re not available.
  • Keep emails short, succinct. Keep email subject lines meaningful rather than vague. Cut down on chatter.
  • Don’t send a lot of texts, instant messages, tweets, or emails.
  • Take walks or get away to find focus. Create. Others will notice.
  • Keep meetings to a minimum and keep them short.
  • When you meet with others, put away and turn off technology, and focus on them completely.
  • Do one thing at a time.
  • Slow down. Don’t rush.
  • Reduce clutter in your workspace.
  • Simplify your workday.

Little changes like these can make a huge difference. Others will take notice, and these changes will have a ripple effect on the lives around you.

Spreading the word  

Setting an example is one thing, but if no one knows about your example, it will have less of an influence. And by spreading the word, you can increase your influence beyond just those who see you every day.

I should warn you, though, not to be smug, arrogant, judgmental of others, or righteous in any way. Your way is just one way, and it’s not necessarily superior to the lives of others, so don’t make it seem that way

if you can help it. It will only turn other people off and have a negative influence rather than a positive one.

Some ideas for spreading the word:  

  • Talk to friends, family, co-workers about the changes you’ve been making and the positive effects they’ve been having on your life. Again, don’t brag, but just share.
  • Share what you’ve been doing on Facebook, Twitter, or any other forums you participate in.
  • Blog about it. Blogging can be a lot of fun — you share what you learn with others, help others to do the same if they’d like, learn from others doing the same things. Perhaps most importantly, blogging forces you to reflect on what you’re doing and what you’ve learned.
  • Tell the media about it. OK, most people don’t have this opportunity, but if you make major changes in your life, there might be a reporter looking for someone like you out there for a story. Tell them about it. Share with the world.
  • Write a book about it. Or an ebook. Help others learn from what you’ve learned. It doesn’t have to be long.
  • Share this book. The free version of the book is uncopyrighted and freely distributable. If you share the paid version with a few people, I won’t get mad (though encouraging them to buy their own copy will make me happy!).

To be continued


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