Into the Book

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Our lives are so full of distraction. Especially on the internet, millions of services and websites clamor for our short attention spans. We jump from this to that, always hovering and never really sitting down and focusing anymore. In effect, we’ve become the society with ADD. Leo Babauta in his book Focus takes a look at how we can clear these distractions away and buckle down to real work.

The first half of the book is dedicated to proving that we really do live in an Age of Distraction, and how it’s important to find focus in the midst of that. I don’t much disagree with Babauta there, and I don’t think anyone really does. Especially among the creative fields, people crave the sort of focused inspiration that he holds up as ideal.

But agreeing that this distraction is real and actually clearing some of it from your life are different matters. In section ii, clearing distractions, Babauta looks mainly at online distractions. But rather than saying ‘Facebook is evil, Twitter is terrible, and Email will kill you and eat your liver,’ Babauta goes up against the attitudes that make these services take up so much time in our lives. He urges us to unplug from the desire to always be connected, while at the same time recognizing that all of the services, used intentionally, have their benefits.

According to Babauta, we’re hurting ourselves by paying attention to these distractions. So the last third of his book is about focusing, sitting down to finish a task and not moving or checking Facebook until we’ve done so. The third section of the book is how to focus once these distractions are cleared away. I found this part of the book very helpful: I’m applying a lot of what he talked about here in my own life.

The main thrust of Babauta’s book is peace, when it comes down to it. He uses the word ‘peace’ 21 times according to my eReader. He frequently holds up his ideas as a way of finding peace of mind, and attaining inner peace. Unfortunately, he’s got the cart before the horse. Simplicity and eliminating distractions can only come once we’ve gained inner peace. They’re the result of peace, not the means.

Inner peace comes from a soul that is at peace. And there’s no way to put your own soul at peace. Peace comes only through Christ. In John 14 Jesus says “my peace I give to you.” With that peace as the centerpiece of our life, we can truly pursue simplicity and focus in our tasks, seeking to honor God and always keeping foremost that peace that we’ve received.

So there’s a lot of good stuff in Babauta’s book. I’m putting a lot of what he suggests into practice myself. But without a knowledge and understanding of true peace, the book is flawed. I recommend it if you’re looking to simplify your life, but I recommend it conditionally: read carefully, and keep your filter on, and choose what you accept from the book (isn’t that how one should read everything, anyways?). When you do that, you will find a lot of use and value in this book.

~ Andrew


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Published on 27 July, 2012. Last updated on

12 Comments

    • Andrew Joyce

      I think it’s something our whole society needs to work on really. =P And this is a helpful book for it.

      You’re welcome!

      ~ Andrew

    • Andrew Joyce

      I’ve never been good at it, personally. =) But yes, you should. Look one comment above and you can see there’s a free version, so now you have no excuse. πŸ˜‰

      ~ Andrew

  1. Bryan

    Focus can be attained by sheer force of will, but I think there is a better way. What if you find at the end of your life that you have by sheer force of will been very focused throughout your life, but on the wrong things? The best route to a healthy and strong focus in life is to see the meaning of life and the relative importance of all activities in relation to that meaning.

    We are very focused as humans when it comes to our eating. We don’t let a day go by that we don’t eat unless it is intentional. It is easy to focus on eating because we physically feel its importance. When we are bleeding, we are pretty focused. We know (well, some of us anyway) that it probably isn’t a good idea to get distracted by Facebook or the latest viral video on YouTube when our lifeblood is draining away.

    In the same way, we need to ask God by his Holy Spirit to show us clearly the meaning of our lives, which is the glory of God. Desiring the glory of God and understanding that his glory is centralized in human history at the cross of Jesus Christ will do more to strengthen our focus than our bare human will could ever do. To the extent that we see and feel and internalize the importance of Christ’s work on the cross and his resulting kingdom, it will bring focus to our lives and keep us from wasting not just precious minutes, but precious years.

    So the question then becomes, how can I increase the extent to which I am conscious of the importance of God’s glory manifested in Christ? Here’s my short list…

    Daily Bible reading and meditation and journaling
    Daily prayer in which we worship God (fed by the above Bible reading)
    Reading literature that reminds us of God’s glory in Christ.
    Spending time with individuals who have this focus and “catching it” from them
    Regular worship together with God’s children-the Church
    Sharing with others the good news of God’s glory in Christ.

    This last one especially (but I guess all of them to some extent) is more of a result than a means. The more we are focused on Christ and his kingdom, the stronger will be our desire to share that with others. However, sharing it with others is a means of reminding ourselves of what is truly important.

    May God grant all who read this the grace to live a life focused on God’s glory revealed in Christ. The old-timers called it “seeking God.” A.W. Tozer called it “The Pursuit of God”. John Piper calls it “Desiring God”. J.I. Packer calls it “Knowing God”. All of those are book titles and I challenge the ITB reviewers to read at least one of those books in the coming year and post a review here on the site.

    It will help you FOCUS!

    • Andrew Joyce

      Yes! I especially like one of the first sentences you wrote: “What if you find at the end of your life that you have by sheer force of will been very focused throughout your life, but on the wrong things?” This is exactly the point I was trying to get across in the review, but I think you get across even better. Really, focus on Christ is the only focus that’s going to be worth much, when it comes down to it.

      ~ Andrew

    • Andrew Joyce

      Glad to do it, Eustacia! A couple comments up I posted a link to download it for free, so if you have the time, you should give it a read!

      ~ Andrew

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