“Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”  

Bryan Dyson

I was chatting with a friend the other day when I suddenly realized I had missed a good chunk of the conversation. At some point my brain had jumped the focus train without me being aware of it and had gone off on its own little excursion. Of course I didn’t do it on purpose. It just happened. I felt bad and instead of trying to fake my way through the rest of the conversation I thought I better confess and ask her to repeat what I had missed. We’re still friends so everything is a-okay!

You could definitely say I was not being “in the present” so to speak. I was guilty of being distracted.  A distraction is something that takes your attention away from what you’re supposed to be doing. Being in the present on the other hand means having your attention fully fixed on the task at hand. You know, kind of like when you ram your pinky toe on the corner of a piece of furniture. It doesn’t matter what is going on around you, all five senses plus some are totally focused on cradling that throbbing little toe. Talk about being in the present! 


Distractions are a natural part of life and people have dealt with them forever. However, the world we live in today is increasingly being filled with more and more distractions. Consider the vast amount of information we are exposed to daily overwhelming our brains. People work more, days are crammed with activities, information comes to us faster, louder, and brighter than ever before. All of it splintering our attention in so many different directions it’s hard to really focus on anything. We might be better connected and informed than ever before but at what costs? Our lives are often more rushed, hectic AND distracted.

We try to stay focused but inadvertently slip into the habit of paying partial attention while we try to do many things at one time. I believe we call that multi-tasking. However, while we hone that skill we aren’t exactly training ourselves to focus on many things at once. What we are really doing is teaching ourselves to do things without requiring our focus.

Examples of external distractions

External distractions are unexpected and unpredictable. You might have limited control over them but you can learn to manage them.

  • Chatty co-workers
  • Digital device notifications (cell phone, computer, emails, social media)
  • Noises (clock ticking, kids playing, radio, tv)
  • Interruptions (unexpected visitor, phone calls, package delivered)
  • Smells
  • Temperatures (hot making you sleepy, cold making you uncomfortable)

Examples of internal distractions

Distractions can also come from within ourselves. Our thoughts, memories, plans, worries, daydreams have the power to distract us from being present and in the moment. Such was the case I mentioned earlier about being with my friend. Instead of being fully engaged and present with her, my mind was being distracted by thoughts and plans tugging at my brain for attention.

  • Daydreaming
  • Mind wandering
  • Personal problems and worries 
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Mental chatter
  • Stress 
  • Hunger
  • Boredom

Living distracted has many consequences. 

It erodes our relationships with family and friends. Those closest to us deserve our attention. Have you ever shared your heart with someone only to have them absentmindedly respond in a way that you knew their mind was on something else. What message are you sending your children if you ask them about their day but your eyes never leave your cell phone, computer or tv screen? Communication is the foundation of any relationship. And effective communication involves both engaged listening and nonverbal communication (body language). When you repeatedly pretend to listen or don’t focus on who you are with your relationship will eventually decay.

 It wastes and steals time. How many of our waking moments are spent either in the past over things we cannot change or in the future over things we cannot control robbing us from the joys of today. And it’s a no-brainer to recognize the countless hours peoples attention have been diverted by their devices and technology instead of remaining on the task at hand. It not only affects your personal life but your productivity in the workplace as well. 

It can cause you to be careless. Our minds are often not on what we are doing. A case in point is me finding an opened bag of shredded cheese in the cupboard the other day. Of course no one in the house admits doing it. We all know it belongs in the refrigerator but obviously someone was distracted while cleaning up and mistakenly put it up in the cupboard. That was just a petty and slightly humorous act of carelessness. On the more serious side distractions cause missed appointments, missed important information, costly mistakes, misplaced belongings, etc.

It can be dangerous. Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. That is approximately 365,000 per year! We all know that texting while driving is dangerous but I think people would be surprised to learn that 61 percent of fatal crashes from 2012-2016 involved a driver that was daydreaming at the time of the accident. And we have unfortunately all seen the stories of parents being distracted and forgetting their child in a hot car leading to horrendous outcomes. Not because they were bad parents but because their mind was somewhere else.

Of course living distracted does not always produce such dire repercussions (thank goodness for that)! But all distractions do come with a cost. Instead of allowing distractions to cost you missing portions of your life, now is the time to take the bull by the horns and make the choice to live in the now, being more conscious of life as it happens.

Therefore, I invite you to stay tuned for next months blog where I will offer some tips on how to tackle this problem of distracted living and how to live life to the fullest by being present. In the meantime, if you recognize that you have been living with a distracted mind and would like to address it immediately please call me, (Kris Henderson) at 616-516-1570 or schedule an appointment online today!