- Do you feel like you are living in a world full of distractions? Do you struggle to find your purpose, joy, and love in the midst of the noise and chaos? If so, you might want to read Undistracted: Capture Your Purpose. Rediscover Your Joy by Bob Goff.
- In this article, I will give you a summary and review of this book and share with you some of the lessons I learned from it. If you are interested in learning more about how to live undistracted, keep reading!
Undistracted (2022) is a call to arms against one of the greatest forces stopping you from living your best life: distraction. Life is full of it. The 24/7 news cycle. Your smartphone. Worrying about what your colleagues think and what your neighbors have. Endless to-do lists. All those sources of distraction get in the way of what really matters – a life filled with joy, love, and intention.
Introduction: A guide to finding your focus.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: A guide to finding your focus.
- Distraction gets in the way of joyful living.
- You don’t have to chase every bolted horse.
- You know more about your true path in life than you think you do.
- Overthinking things keeps you distracted.
- Recognizing where you are now will help you move forward.
- Final Summary
- About the author
- Table of Contents
Guh-guh-guh-guh-guh. If you’ve ever drifted to the side of a highway, you’ve heard that sound. It’s the noise made by rumble strips to warn inattentive drivers that they’re in danger.
Undistracted, the title we’ll be exploring in this summary, is a metaphorical rumble strip. It’s designed to help you stop drifting: to get you back into your lane and onto your life’s true path.
What is that path? That’s for you to decide. But here’s author Bob Goff’s argument: whatever paths we choose for ourselves, we all face common obstacles. And the biggest obstacle of all is distraction.
Distraction means losing focus. Our minds wander. We forget our real goals – the things that matter most of all. That’s when we start drifting off the highway.
In this summary, we’ll explore techniques that will help you regain focus and lean into a rich and fulfilling life. For Goff, a Christian, that life is centered on God, and lots of the stories and advice you’ll be hearing are filtered through that lens. Don’t worry if you have a different perspective, though – there’s plenty of insight here for everyone.
Distraction gets in the way of joyful living.
Life is full of uncertainty. How could it be any other way?
We enter the world helpless and the people who we rely on for everything – our parents and guardians – are pretty much amateurs. There’s no owner’s guide to raising happy, focused, successful kids, after all. Like the folks who raised them, they have to make it up as they go along.
Sometimes, they get it right; often, they don’t. We’re the products of that mishmash of triumphs and failures. The good and the bad. And then, around the age of 18, it’s suddenly up to us to weave those contrasting threads together and craft the tapestry of a life worth living.
That, too, is an ad hoc process. It’s improvised. Made up on the go. No wonder there’s usually more ambiguity than clarity, more confusion than certainty, in our lives. Thing is, though, getting those ad hoc, improvised decisions wrong can leave us miserable and broken. The stakes, in other words, are high.
It’s no surprise that we’re plagued by uncertainty and fear knowing what we do about those stakes. We anxiously watch what others are doing and wonder if we should follow in their footsteps. We worry that we’re not popular, or attractive, or rich enough to be happy. We question our choices. Our ambitions. Our partners. The advice of our parents and teachers. Oftentimes, we get downright angry and resentful.
Add all that together and you have the perfect recipe for distraction – a life that’s lacking a sense of true north. That’s unguided and feels purposeless. That’s full of stress and short on joy.
But the fact that life really is confusing – there’s no getting around that, unfortunately – doesn’t mean you’re helpless. Hiking through unfamiliar terrain is hard, especially when it’s full of terrifying ravines and tangled forests. It’s a lot harder, though, if you don’t have a map and a compass. Or, even better, a smartphone with GPS.
The real question, then, is about tools.
What’s going to help you navigate this big scary world? What’s going to help you plot your journey toward goals that really matter and ignore all the distractions around you?
Finding answers to those questions is what Undistracted is all about. So let’s dig in!
You don’t have to chase every bolted horse.
A while back, Bob Goff bought a horse called Red for a single dollar. Red had injured a tendon, so his career as a racing horse was over. That’s why he was so cheap – his old owner had no use for him.
Horses are measured the way they have been since ancient times – in hands. That’s exactly what it sounds like. Before standardized measuring tools became common, people counted the number of times their hands – the palm plus a thumb – fitted between the ground and a horse’s shoulders. Today, a hand is defined as four inches.
Red came in at 17 hands – that’s eight feet from hoof to head. He was an imposing animal.
You can’t just throw a saddle on a horse that size. To break Red in, the author took him for a walk in a pasture. That’s when Red got spooked. He reared up on his hind legs and bolted across the 100 acre field. Bob didn’t know what to do, so he ran after him.
You can imagine the folly of that pursuit. Even with an injured tendon, Red was quickly out of sight, leaving Bob panting and clutching his sides. After gulping down some air, though, he came to his senses. There was no way he was catching this horse. And so he went back to the barn and waited. A quarter of an hour later, Red trotted back.
What does that story have to do with distraction? Well, the short answer is: sometimes, you need to stop chasing that bolted horse to go back to the barn. The longer version goes like this:
We all chase after things in life. There’s the dream job – the position that’s not just well-paid but also deeply fulfilling. Or the dream partner who promises domestic bliss. Or popularity, acceptance, or the respect of our peers. You can add plenty of other ideals to that list.
Point is, we run across life’s field in pursuit of these things, but we end up doubled over, out of breath, watching those dreams recede ever further into the distance. Dream jobs don’t solve all our problems and dream partners turn out to have their shortcomings, too. Or we find out it’s possible to be popular but lonely, or respected but disliked.
So what if you stopped chasing these follies and distractions and returned to the barn? What if you returned to the basics – your faith and family, your purpose and joy, your authentic life? If you hit the brakes in your exhausting life, caught your breath, and focused on the things that really matter?
There’s a version of this idea in the Bible. In one of his letters, Paul calls for us to set aside the things that are wearing us out and tripping us up and instead look to the things God has given us. You don’t need to worry about what other people have, he says – you already have everything you need. That’s what the barn represents: the safe place where you can find clarity about your purpose in life.
To live a life of great purpose isn’t to chase everything that’s available – it’s to cast aside distractions and focus on who God made you and find the life best suited to the person he wished you to be. Do that and the things that really matter are much more likely to come trotting into your barn.
You know more about your true path in life than you think you do.
The average adult’s brain weighs around three pounds. If it’s especially big, it’ll weigh in at four-and-a-half pounds. That’s plenty of room to fill with everything you learn as you go through your life.
But as American author Annie Dillard says, we should be careful about what we learn because what we learn is what we know. So what’s in your brain – what do you know? Are you filling it with distractions? Even four-and-a-half pounds of half-truths is a recipe for half a life. To live a full life, you need the whole truth. To be clear-eyed about your path. To be honest with yourself.
Of course, we can’t control everything that goes into our brains. Before we get to make any choices about what to learn and believe, our parents, teachers, and friends fill our heads with stories. Often, it takes years before the penny drops and we realize what we’ve been told isn’t quite right.
But you don’t have to live with false stories. Instead, let’s go on a little journey into the past:
Think back to what you believed when you were five, ten, 15, and 20. Or, if that’s too long ago, try 30 or 40. Knowing what you know now, what would you say to the five- or 20-year-old you? The author, for example, would tell his heartbroken 15-year-old self that the hurt goes away and he’ll find true love one day. His 20-year-old self, meanwhile, could do with hearing that it’s okay to be scared – he’ll do better than barely making the rent soon enough.
So what did you tell your younger selves? Chances are, you dispelled some myths and cleared up some misconceptions. Real life doesn’t work this way – more’s the pity! We can’t go back; we have to live in the slipstream of decisions we made based on faulty assumptions. But here’s the thing: just because you can’t change the past doesn’t mean you can’t change the future.
Let’s do the same exercise again, but shift focus: If your future self could go back in time to give the “you” of today some advice, what would you say?
Here’s the author’s bet. You probably know some of the truths your hypothetical future self would lay down on present-day you. Sure, those truths might not be bubbling around on the surface of your mind, but they’re not exactly buried deep on the seabed, either. Once you start looking, they’re right there, in your grasp. The reason you’re not grasping them is simple: it’s scary. You don’t know how embracing these truths and acting on them will change your life, but you know it will.
But isn’t it better to thrive in a messy full-truth than to survive in a neat and tidy half-truth?
Overthinking things keeps you distracted.
Back in the fourteenth century, a scholar called William of Ockham came up with a simple but effective rule he could apply to philosophical debates.
The rule, which is now known as Occam’s razor, says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. For that reason, it’s wise to avoid making unnecessarily complicated or convoluted assumptions.
Philosophy is all about avoiding logical errors. You need special rules like Occam’s razor, though, because this skill doesn’t come naturally to our large, but flawed, Homo sapien brains.
In fact, we love overcomplicating things. So much of what goes on in our minds is driven by the weird and deeply human urge to ignore simple explanations.
Say your friend is short-tempered, for example. Her behavior surely can’t be explained by the fact that her young child is keeping her up at night, and lack of sleep tends to make people grouchy. It’s got to be that ever-so-slightly ambivalent remark you made three weeks ago that, read a certain way, sounded like a criticism of her husband. Yes, that’s it – she’s specifically mad at you for a variety of complicated reasons relating to a weeks-old conversation she definitely hasn’t forgotten! Right?
When these kinds of whirring thoughts fill our minds, we become profoundly distracted. We’re no longer really paying attention to what’s in front of our noses because we’re so busy coming up with complex and hurtful explanations in our heads. To get away from that behavior, it’s a good idea to remember Occam’s razor, which isn’t just useful in philosophical debates.
Is it bugging you that your date always arrives late, for example? Or have you started obsessing over how your friend constantly interrupts you when you’re talking? Pick the simplest explanation and you’ll save yourself a lot of painful ruminating. Maybe her watch is ten minutes slow, or she’s just a bit forgetful. Isn’t that likelier than the story you’ve told yourself about how this is her way of subtly telling you that she’s lost interest? And maybe your friend talks over you because that’s how conversations played out in his family, not because he thinks he’s more important than you.
The bigger point here is that this approach won’t just spare you needless heartache. Going with the simplest explanation also means resentments are much less likely to creep into those relationships.
Recognizing where you are now will help you move forward.
So far, we’ve looked at how distraction can get in the way of joyful, purposeful living. We’re going to shift gears now and tackle a more practical question: How can you start leading a less distracted life?
Before you can move forward, though, you need to take stock of where you are right now. Here’s an exercise that’ll help you do just that.
Start by drawing a circle on a large piece of paper. This circle represents the 24 hours given to you on an average day. Your task is to divide it up like a pie chart, assigning each differently colored segment to a particular activity. We can start with sleep.
How much time do you spend sleeping? Say it’s eight hours – color in one-third of your circle and label it with sleep. What about work? Be honest. Shade in how much time you actually spend working, including commuting – not how much or little time you wished you spent working.
Those two activities probably take up a large part of your circle – and your day. So what’s left? Ask yourself how much undistracted time you spend with the people you love. Put differently, when are you being authentic and going deeper with friends, family, or your partner? Next, shade in the time you make to pursue joyful activities – things like reading, taking walks, or whatever it is that gives you a sense of purpose and peace.
Now take a look at your circle. Are you happy with what you see? Or are the sizes of your pie pieces off? If the way you’re allocating your time doesn’t match the shape of the life you want, there’s a good chance you’re distracted. Recognizing that can be painful, but remember: change begins with clarity. So here’s how to fix things:
Start by surrounding yourself with reminders of who you want to be. A simple way of doing that is to set alarms to remind you when one activity ends and another begins. You can also create a collage to remind you of your deepest values. Fill it with images and symbols of what matters most to you and your family and keep it somewhere prominent; it’ll be your daily prompt to act on those values.
You’ll also want to take a close look at your relationships. Reach out to friends and loved ones who’ve grown distant – you’ll be surprised how often they hold the keys to unlocking the person you want to be. Try to pay closer attention to the people around you, too. Don’t tell your friends that you hope they feel better soon when they’re in trouble – go out of your way to actually help them! Commitment and sacrifice are integral to an undistracted life.
Most important of all, though, you need to have that difficult talk with yourself – the talk you’ve been deferring all this time. Think of it as breaking up with your past. It’s awkward, like all breakups, but it’s vital. You need to make these changes. You need to declare yourself free from distraction and make room for routines and habits that support the person you’re becoming.
You can lock in those changes by writing your own Declaration against Distraction. What’s distracting you? Negative self-talk? Jealousy? People-pleasing? Following your parents’ dreams rather than yours? Whatever it is, note it down and write a sentence about what you’re going to do instead. This document is a statement of purpose – the foundation of a new life of joy and focus!
Your smartphone. Your inbox. The dreams you’ve been following because your friends or parents said you should. Overthinking relationships and clinging on to half-truths. Distraction is everywhere and it takes many forms. And it keeps you from living a joyful life. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The key is honesty. Take stock of the distractions in your life and you’ll find it much easier to make purposeful changes that make space for the things that really matter.
Bob Goff is the author of the New York Times bestselling Love Does; Everybody, Always; and Dream Big as well as the bestselling Love Does for Kids. He’s a lover of balloons, cake pops, and helping people pursue their big dreams. Bob’s greatest ambitions in life are to love others, do stuff, and most importantly, to hold hands with his wife, Sweet Maria, and spend time with their amazing family. For more, check out BobGoff.com and LoveDoes.org.
Motivation, Inspiration, Mindfulness, Happiness, Religion, Spirituality, Christian Living, Stress Management Self-Help, Christian Personal Growth, Christian Self Help
Table of Contents
1. The Destruction of Distraction
2. The Keyhole of Eternity
3. Breaking Free by Coming Home
4. The Happiness of Pursuit
5. How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up?
6. All-Access Pass
7. Jesus in the Room
8. No Stalking, Please
9. Tooth Fairies and Shrinking Airplanes
10. Count Yourself Among the Stars
11. “Cease Fire!”
12. The Wrong Button
13. Pinocchio’s Nose
14. The Misadventures of a Serial Reject
15. Stop Chasing the Horse
16. Driven Out of the Shallows
17. “Oh my gosh!”
18. Five Minutes from Now
19. Finish Your Work
About the Author
The book Undistracted is a collection of stories and insights from Bob Goff, a bestselling author, speaker, lawyer, and humanitarian. Bob shares his experiences of living a life of purpose, joy, and love in the midst of a world full of distractions. He challenges the readers to examine their own lives and ask themselves what is keeping them from pursuing their dreams, serving others, and following God. He also offers practical tips and advice on how to overcome the obstacles and distractions that prevent us from living fully and freely.
Undistracted is a refreshing and inspiring book that will make you laugh, cry, and think. Bob Goff has a unique way of storytelling that captivates the audience and draws them into his world. He is honest, vulnerable, and humorous as he shares his successes and failures, his joys and sorrows, his hopes and fears. He is not afraid to admit his mistakes and flaws, but he also celebrates his achievements and strengths. He is not shy to express his love for God and people, but he also respects different perspectives and beliefs. He is not content to settle for the status quo, but he also appreciates the simple things in life.
Bob Goff is not just a writer, he is a doer. He does not just talk about his ideas, he acts on them. He does not just dream about his goals, he pursues them. He does not just preach about his faith, he lives it. He does not just love with words, he loves with actions. He is an example of someone who lives undistracted by the things that don’t matter, and focused on the things that do.
Undistracted is a book that will challenge you to rethink your priorities, values, and choices. It will encourage you to discover your purpose, rediscover your joy, and live undistracted.