“It’s incredibly easy,” Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “to get caught up in the thick of thin things.” To become so comfortable skimming the surface of our lives that we begin to consciously avoid the depth. Intentionally sidestepping meaning, even as we claim meaning is the very thing we’re after.
In today’s world, with its constant feedback loop of information and entertainment, distraction has become more than a way of life: It has become an escape. A shot of novocaine to numb our gnawing doubt. A wild, flailing diversion from the tough questions we don’t know how to answer. An ejector seat, ready to propel us up and out of whatever challenging mission life happens to be inviting us to accept.
We seek distraction every day: with the clicking of the refresh button, with the re-filling of a wine glass, with Netflix and gossip and food. We work more than we should. We obsessively reach for our devices whenever we’re left alone with our thoughts for more than a few uncomfortable moments. We convince ourselves that a busy life is a meaningful life, yet despite all our juggling we still know something is missing.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote: “To live the good life: We have the potential for it. If we can learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.” An outlook that requires us first to make peace with whatever ambient, low-level discomfort we may feel in the background and then, to explore it. To answer its call to our evolution instead of pushing it away.
Because the only way out of our restlessness is through it. Reaching a higher plane often requires us to dive deep. And it’s usually only when we are able to lean into the tension of a life not yet resolved, that the meaning we seek finally begins to make its way to the surface.