I’ve come to realize that our minds and bodies are those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Without getting overly scientific, here are a few truths I’ve picked up recently:
- Humans have been evolving for roughly 2.5 million years
- For all but the most recent 12,000 of those years, we’ve been hunter-gatherers
- Evolutionary adaptations generally take about 25,000 years
- This means we’ve got about 13,000 more years until we adapt to our current lifestyle. Don't hold your breath.
Here’s my point: Our minds are easily distracted because our DNA still thinks we’re living in small tribes and camps on the savannah. Back then, if we heard a rustling in the bushes or caught some movement in our peripheral, it was either trying to eat us or was an opportunity to sustain our own lives by eating it. In other words, we’re programmed to react to each and every stimulus we encounter, and it’s no longer necessary.
Be aware of all movement/sound in this scenario...
...But this one?
And my, how advertisers and sensational journalists take advantage of this. You’re probably reading this on your smartphone or computer (in fact, I can’t think of another way). Take a moment to consider how many billions of dollars are being invested into stealing your attention. Silicon Valley is working overtime to create apps as addictive as crack (Candy Crush, Pokemon Go), food companies are pumping out sugary nonsense to exploit your tastebuds (Funfetti, anyone?). and media is coming up with clickbait and sharebait to ensure nothing ever gets done.
Make it stop!
It took me 35+ years to figure this out, and this quote from the homeboy Ryan Holiday summarizes why I’m fighting back: The more we say no to things that don’t matter, the more we can say yes to things that do.
A few things I am eliminating in 2017 and beyond:
- Smartphone addiction: I recently realized that, since purchasing an iPhone in 2011 and using it as my alarm clock (amongst other things), I have looked at my phone immediately upon waking every day for the past six years. This means I’ve started every single goshdarn day in a state of distraction. As of January 1, my phone charges in another room while I sleep. I use an old-school alarm clock, and begin my day in relative peace.
- Push Notifications: Just turn 'em all off.
- Bullshit Food: If it’s true that addiction is defined as when we no longer have the ability to abstain, then I’ve long been a junk food addict. Those days are now over.
- Marginally Enjoyable Social Events: These have gobbled up quite a bit of my 20s and 30s. From now on, if it’s not a “Hell Yes!” it’s a no.
- Pants: On second thought, I’ll keep it up for the time being. Pants matter. Put it on a shirt.
If anyone is aware of a software that will limit the number of tabs/windows I can have open at a given time, please let me know in the comments. At the moment, I have five tabs open--four of them unnecessary.