Coming Into Focus

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Photo credit: by margolove

With all this chatter lately about “breaking up” with our phones, devices, etc. and even with my own reflection upon my old Project Eye Contact of four years ago, along with the general buzz of mainstream momentum the movement of living “distraction free” seems to be gaining, I thought I’d begin this week by looking up what the antonym to the word distraction actually is. Instead, I was surprised to read of the many synonyms: frenzy, bewilderment, absorption, inattention, forgetfulness, interruption, disturbance, confusion, disorder, turmoil, interference, agitation.. All so true of how I feel about relationships these days. One word that really stuck out to me was blurry. That was it! That is exactly how I feel. I have this gut reaction, a gnawing feeling, about the current era I call the age of digital distraction: that it has blurred us from one another and our ability to really see each other, to communicate with focus. Which is really to say, we are blurred from truly connecting meaningfully anymore.

I believe this is why I was drawn, originally; those few years ago in ancient history (2009), and still today, to the humble idea of a revival of simply making Eye Contact. What is the opposite of blurry? FOCUS. I want to offer up this notion. Let’s all start choosing to come into focus in our relationships. It won’t be easy, but there seems to be plenty of folks around these days filling up your distraction keepers, (newsfeeds, smart phones, tablets, TV’s, etc.) with other catchy ideas to stop you in the frenzy, (syn. Distraction) to help you pause and perhaps come into focus.

When we begin to take a look around and take inventory of what our lives have become lately, there is an undercurrent of addiction in distraction for sure. There is also money in it, lots of money.. and so the world keeps turning. I say to us all, let’s focus our attention back to those right in front of us; our spouses, children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, real friends (that word seems so watered down these days, I almost choke on using it.) It doesn’t cost a thing to re-focus, like a camera lens, on these pivotal players in our lives, and learn to blur the distractions into the background. Let’s do this. Here are a few hopefully helpful suggestions I can come up with to help us all come into focus. Maybe they suck, if they do, be brave and help come up with some others! I’d love to hear some of yours. I need to come into focus as much as the next guy, so forgive me if my mind is still a bit forgetful, absorbed, bewildered, blurry, as I try to think through this process.

1. Have a basket/bucket/bowl in a prominent place in your home, maybe the kitchen counter? Or near the front door, where all smaller hand-held devices (laptops, smart phones, tablets, etc.) are placed for a set timeframe each day. Every member of the household should add theirs to the basket during an “In Focus” session. This should be a set timeframe, that is logical and do-able for you and your family. A period of time focused on interacting with each other, distraction-free. The basket will act as a visual reminder to those tempted to grab their device “just for a second.” Practice on making the meaningful connections with those you care about during this time. Read a story together, take a walk. Talk to your wife. Do something completely ridiculous like have a staring contest with your husband or your kids. Nobody will know if you make a fool of yourself while finding your focus.. you won’t be updating your status or tweeting the picture later to blur the memory, you will be focused in the moment; connecting.

2. Take an opportunity to de-clutter your “friends” lists. Sometimes there is power in the simple act of pairing down people, pages, sponsored ads, links to more worlds of distractions that may be unknowingly blurring your time, (perhaps without you even being aware of it) and keeping us from those in our life we’d rather focus on. Its simple, its free, and its powerful. Let go of the need to be connected to meaningless clutter. Focus on the important.

3. Start a timer when you do allow yourself to “zone out” in the devices and distractions. It’s easy enough to do from just about every smart phone these days. You may be surprised at how many minutes, maybe hours you spend focused on the blurred images and text of the nothingness. Ever wonder what you took away from a session of giving into the blur? Bewilderment? (syn. distraction.) What about confusion? disorder? agitation? (syn. Distraction, Distraction, Distraction.) By setting a timer, you may find that the only thing you took away was time, precious time; the only thing we all have exactly the same amount of; from making the relevant, important people in our lives in that same span of time our focus, and who were likely right there in front of us, blurred into the background.

4.  Join or volunteer your time to a charity you care about. Pick up the phone and speak to someone, a live, breathing, feeling someone, on the other end who can educate you on the vision and purpose of the charity, and then commit to investing some of your time, even if its just a small bit, into contributing to their cause in some way. This will not only make you feel good about yourself, (and who doesn’t like that?) but it will help retrain your focus; shifting it from “me” to “you.” How can we look up every once in a while, focus on helping each other, instead of feeding all of our extra energy after our responsibilities are done, or during them, endlessly into the blurred lines of “free/me time.”

What ideas do you have? I encourage you to share them here! Let’s all come into focus.