Distractions aren’t the Enemy. WE are!

Know all those distractions that seem to band together to clobber us when we sit down to write? Ever wonder what kind of monstrous villain would create such bullies to keep us from realizing our potential? Try this on for size: Our foe is us.

by Patrick Allan

Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker’s weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and how you can use its waters to reflect on and improve your life.

This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius’ and his Meditations. He has some thoughts on the things which distract us from our goals in our day to day lives:

The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgement of them calm and they too will stay still – then you will not be seen either to pursue or to avoid. – Meditations, 11.11

What It Means

One of the main ideas Aurelius focuses on in his stoic writings is the notion that the mind is immune to all external things. For example, you can’t control a situation’s circumstances, but since they do not affect your mind, you can control how you react to them. The same goes for all of the “external things” you pursue or try to avoid when you’re trying to get work done.

You do not pursue distractions because they command you to do so; you pursue them because your mind chooses to. You do not avoid distractions because of their nature; you avoid them because you believe you can’t control yourself around them. Basically, something is a distraction because you allow it to be, because you judge it so. All distractions require your input for them to exist—otherwise they are just a thing that exists in the world.

But if you adjust your input, if you choose to see those external things as just that, as things, they lose their draw. When you’re not pursuing or avoiding something, it’s simply there. Out of judgement, out of mind.

This concept can be hard to grasp at first, so perhaps a real-world example is the best way to explain its practicality. Say, you have a video game that’s eating up all of your free time. You know you have side projects to work on, errands to run, and relationships to maintain, but this game is keeping your from getting anything of value done…

Read it all at Lifehacker