So many people these days are being diagnosed, or are self-diagnosing themselves, with Attention Deficit Disorder. While there are some who truly suffer from the disorder and need to develop special coping skills, I have a hunch that most of us are simply being overwhelmed by environmental overload.
In the November 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, there's an excellent article by Martha Beck entitled “Wait! Stop! It's All Too Much!” Her premise is that, “For the vast majority of world history, human life—both culture and biology—was shaped by scarcity.” Yet these days, the opposite is true and we're faced with a surfeit of attention-grabbing information, activity, and even friends. What this can result in is what Beck calls “attentional blindness.”
Think about how many people you are in contact with in one day, especially via email and cyberspace networks. Compare that with the number of people your grandparents may have encountered in a single day, particularly if they lived in a small town or rural area. I probably interact with more people the first hour of my day (which is when I generally check my email) than my grandparents did in a week!
Beck continues, “Handling overwhelm . . . is not for the fainthearted. It means resisting deep instinctive and cultural tendencies.” We need to learn how to focus on what is truly important for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and to weed out the unnecessary and the unwanted from our lives. As I embark on my year of decluttering, the first and perhaps biggest step will be most likely be merely learning to identify what is truly important as opposed to unnecessary and unwanted in my life.
The next biggie will be some serious prioritizing and honing my skills of saying “NO” and pushing the “REJECT” button. Those terms have such a negative ring to them that it will help to remind myself of Beck's admonition: “The reality of the 21st century is that you simply can't fit in every social obligation you think [my emphasis] you absolutely have to.”
With all the demands on our attention in our daily lives, it's no wonder that so many people (most people?) have deficits in their ability to pay attention. Once more, in Beck's words, “Guarding against surfeit is as essential for us as guarding against scarcity was for our ancestors.”
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