RSS Feed

Are all distractions worthless?

Posted on

Just last week, Mrs YWS hit me with a question that has given me great food for thought – ‘Are all distractions worthless?’

Um, ‘No’…

Well, thanks for reading.


If only it was that easy.

There’s a murky complexity in striking the balance between immersing ourselves in the transcendent and important, and a healthy level of engagement with the fun, less serious aspects of life.

I mean, what can people do who are in genuine need of downtime? There are people who are carers or who give and give in their lives already, looking after family or friends. And those who are perhaps involved in caring professions who struggle to switch off from the myriad needs around them.

And of course there are those of us who are simply stuffed after a day or a week at work.

How can they get a break from their burdens?

Obviously, I don’t think that innumerable hours spent with heads perusing our fantasy football team is the answer, but distractions like fantasy footy, movies, TV, footy tipping, poker etc aren’t in and of themselves worthless.


I do see that we use these activities to medicate ourselves from our overriding issues. We don’t stop and purposefully address our deep levels of fatigue, pain, disillusionment and burnout, creating change to sustain a healthy, balanced pace of life.

We seldom make a habit of examining our habits. For the most part, they are passively acquired. Most of our decisions are made re-actively, not pro-actively. They lack intentionality.

And why would we?

In Australian culture, it’s not hard to see why. We rank 29th in the OECD in ‘employees working very long hours’. Half of Australian fathers with young children are working over 45 hours a week. We are 28th in the OECD in time devoted to leisure and personal care.

This is not working.

No one in other countries is looking at the Australian model, or the U.S. one for that matter, and holding it up as an example to behold.

What we as a country have created as ‘the norm’ in relation to our work-life balance is broken. It has placed irresistible pressure on the individual, fracturing our relationships and our connectedness to the outside world.

It’s no wonder that when our time is our own, we switch to our default cocoon, engaging our empty emotional tank in the safe, the familiar, the known. Ironically, it’s the constant engagement in these activities that’s preventing us from addressing our apathy, our hurt, our disengagement.

The wrong question

This reminds me of the couples who are waiting until they get married to … well, you know! And they ask the question, ‘How far is too far?’ The thing is, though; it’s the wrong question.

If that is their goal and their starting point is to love and respect the other person, then the ‘technicalities’ of what is and isn’t permissible become irrelevant. They don’t need someone else to set down guidelines for them. There’s a greater narrative driving the story.

Back to the beginning

This piece started with the question, ‘Are all distractions worthless?’

Again, it’s the wrong question.

It reeks of opportunism, seeking to justify a lifestyle and set of behaviours which we are too exhausted, too distracted or too proud to genuinely examine.

This forum has never demanded complete eradication of activities that, when overindulged, can lead to many of the issues mentioned above.

Some of them I will actually re-engage with when May 24 ticks around. Others, I won’t.

9+ months of space from many of them has, however, enabled me to identify them for what they are – fun, engaging, yet ultimately unimportant; for me, a very positive realisation. At the same time, my own level of engagement and understanding with the transcendent, the truly important, has been deepened and widened.

This will not be a journey that I will ever look back on and regret.

Just tell him straight up! This things doesn't have to be 8 movies long...!

An answer?

I hate having a question responded to with a question. It makes me feel like I’m talking to Yoda, or Dumbledore. Still, I get the purpose behind it, infuriating as it may be at the time.

The question I have consistently asked myself over the last 287 days hasn’t been whether a given activity is worthless or worthwhile, but more, ‘What are you distracting yourself from?’


About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

10 responses »

  1. I saw your first pic and wondered, Why am i reading blogs? Do i really need to do so?

    • I spent a little amount of time wondering if this was the best back-handed compliment I’ve received on the blog yet, before deciding, ‘Of course it is!’ and looking back at the pic myself for a little while. It’s compelling. What did you decide??

      • Hahaha. It was more of a general question to myself. coughs* I think.

        Of course I dont need to, but its a good time killer if I have nothing else to do.

  2. Great blog E!

    Loved the well reflected and balanced ponderings.

    Thanks! love your work

    Numerous years ago I became aware of my tendency to hide in distraction – and that there were underlying needs and motivations. I realised (and I think it’s particularly male, and particularly Gen-Y) that I fill ever time gap and relentlessly busy myself. I asked one of the pastoral care lecturers at college about what was going on, and she said – “I’ll ask you a question, and when have answered it, come back to me and I’ll give you the next question”. Her question was – what happens when you stop?

    In many ways, I still feel like I am attempting to answer that first question.

    I wonder if you’d be willing to talk about some of the ‘demons’ you’ve had to deal with – what you’ve found has arisen as you’ve neglected to fill the space with the sport default.

    Again, enjoyed the blog E – you little ripper!

    • Another comment from Cutler! I am on a roll.

      Great to hear from you again, my man.

      I hear you about the Gen Y stuff, but think that women are al-most as liable in this as men are. Their distractions are there – it’s just harder for us guys to identify them!

      You were always someone who went at a frenetic pace. Did the question from the lecturer change anything in your day-to-day or bigger picture? I’d be keen to hear.

      Fill me in, though, on what you mean re demons; you mean some of the things that have filled the place of sport as an unnecessary distraction?

      Cheers my friend…

  3. ‘Are all distractions worthless?’

    Um, ‘No’…

    Well, thanks for reading.

    I actually laughed out loud and had people looking at me. Gold.

    It’d be funny to open an evening TV news bulletin with: Good evening, some people died, others got arrested, the government announced a new policy, the stockmarket fell, Essendon won, Collingwood lost, today’s temperature was 22 degrees and tomorrow it’s going to be 24. May your news be good news, and goodnight.

    • Ahh, the ‘may your news be good news’ bit made me a little sad…

      Hope I didn’t out you as a blog reader during work hours. I’ll be less funny, I promise.

      A shorter news bulletin? Unfortunately that might mean more airtime for ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘Today Tonight’ (in Melb) and I can guaran-damn-tee you that’s not a good thing. But it could be worth unpacking what it’s like to go without news. I’m close to 2 weeks now as I’ve given it up ‘for Lent’, and it’s been pretty freeing…

  4. The other Pete

    It can open a bit of a can of worms when you start to question what activities in your life are worth it. Good questions to ask, but you can drive yourself a bit crazy making sure that you are using every moment of your life.

    The real question is what counts as a distraction and what counts as entertainment / relaxation.

    I think the answer lies in how you feel after the event. Its a bit like binge eating. There’s a big difference between watching The Lord of the Rings because that’s what channel 9 decided to show, and actually deciding to watch it. I suppose that’s where sport and social media can be such a wasteful activity – they are on all the time so give us more opportunities to get distracted before we know it.

    • Mr Steele – he rises again!

      Great to hear from you, my man. Yep, you can do your head in if you’re questioning everything that you do and it cripples your ability to make a decision and / or be present and at peace with where you find yourself at any given moment.

      I think many of us shouldn’t use that as an excuse to not to be intentional. So few of us make a habit out of re-examining our habits that we end up setting ourselves up as masters of our own domain (George Costanza!). In that space, we refuse to be questioned and end up missing out on the honesty and wisdom of those around us.

      I liked your Lord of the Rings analogy and that theme of ‘distractions’, which is rearing its head regularly at the moment. And that’s where I think I will find myself in a couple of months – sport won’t go on the tv because it just happened to be on but because I have made a choice to genuinely and enthusiastically engage with it!

      Thanks for reading and giving your 2 cents worth, buddy…

      Btw, I watched all 3 LOTRs again late last year – they weren’t as slow and tiresome as I feared they might have been. Though those trees in the 2nd one – just make a freaking decision!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: