Distractions are lethal. Small distractions result in temporary lost of concentration, which may lead to producing a piece of work with lesser quality; big distractions often have much worse consequences, and they sometimes drive one into making unethical decisions with much dire consequences.
We often place much thought on the things that distract us and attempt to remove them in the hope of stop being distracted. When on a diet for weight loss, many would fill the fridge and lunch boxes with healthy food instead of the previous less healthy options; when feeling attracted by a handsome woman/man while in a committed relationship, many would choose to simply avoid the person they feel attracted to. Offices would ban access to social networks in the hope of forcing their employees to concentrate on work, and parents would restrict access of screens from their children to help them concentrate on “things that are good for them”.
However, it’s not things that distract us, it’s the ignorant mind that makes decisions to allow things to distract us. How many overweight people end up leaving healthy food rotting in their fridges while making additional purchases for junk food? How many adulterer end up having affairs after months of trying to avoid the handsome woman/man? The inability to access Facebook at work would not stop one from accessing over the phone, and even the most strict parents would find their kids accessing screens without their consent: either from a friend’s phone or from a public internet cafe.
Whenever we decide to assent to a emotion, we should pause and think: is my decision rational and in accordance with virtue? Would a wise person stuff his face with junk food knowing it’s important to loose weight? The attraction to a handsome woman/man is natural, but it’s irrational to give assent to accepting a private lunch/dinner invitation from that person, and one must have the courage to decline it. When getting paid to do a job, it’s only just to fulfill your end of bargain by completing the work before catching up with personal affairs. When it comes to children, since their rational minds aren’t fully formed, it’s up to the adults around them to demonstrate the virtue temperance, so they will develop the ability of self-control.
Epictetus said: it’s not things that disturb us, but our judgement of things.
It’s not things that distract us, but our willingness to allow ourselves to be distracted.