If you find yourself getting distracted by “all things digital,” I can relate. It’s so tempting to immediately check your phone when you hear a call, text, email, message, alert, or any other kind of notification that someone, somewhere wants your attention. That’s why I liked the reminders in P.M. Forni’s The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction.

With so much information coming at us, it’s easy to get distracted. We can end up focusing on what’s right in front of us instead of what’s most important to us. But if we really want to make our life meaningful, we have to set aside time to actually think. To discover what we really want and then figure out how to get it, we need to focus…and that requires thought.

Following are my notes from reading The Thinking Life. To get the full benefit, I recommend you get the book.

My Notes from The Thinking Life

In this age of digital media, distraction has become a way of life.

What constitutes a good life is not a mystery. “The good life is a life nurtured by a healthy sense of self-worth, brightened by a positive outlook, warmed by a loving family and loyal friends, grounded in congenial and challenging work, and made meaningful by an involvement in something larger than ourselves.”

Bypassing the ever-present temptation to divert and amuse ourselves is the first crucial step toward an engaged and meaningful life.

Stoicism was a school of thinking that flourished in Greece and Rome. Marcus Aurelius believed most of what we say and do is unnecessary and recommended doing few things and doing them well.

Thinking is hard work…which is why so few people do it.

In order to find time to think:
1. Learn to say no. A firm “No” is a form of self-respect.
2. Delegate.
3. Do things right the first time.
4. Schedule your daily think time of 15-30 minutes.
5. Turn “waiting time” into “thinking time.”

The time has come to question the wisdom of spending so much time online, where much of what we do is technology-driven rather than real-need-driven. What are we really accomplishing?

Comprising our faculties of awareness and focus, attention is the very bedrock of thinking. (Epictetus: Attention is a handmaiden to wisdom.) Attention is indispensable to learning.

To improve our attention, we must maintain our psychophysiological system: get enough sleep, maintain a balanced diet, eat healthful snacks for an energy boost, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, and avoid stress.

The great problem of our times is NOT the need to achieve work/life balance. Work is part of life. As long as we regard work as a burden, it is going to feel like one. When you enter the state that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow,” the burden of work disappears. The bottom line: Concentrate at work, and you will produce better results with less effort.

The good life is a conscious life.

A positive outcome of regular meditation is the sharpening of attention skills.

If you come up short in paying attention to the world around you because you are too focused on yourself, explore the reasons behind that.

When you reflect, you mull over and ponder. You reflect to review the past, take stock of the present, and build a better future. When you fail to reflect on the causes and consequences of your mistakes, you do not learn from them.

Confucius: “A smart man learns by his mistakes; a wise man learns by the mistakes of others.”

It is through introspection that we obtain the self-knowledge that allows us to bring positive change to our lives. By engaging in it, you will be able to see when it is not the world that needs to reform, but rather yourself. Do not waste that moment of clarity.

After an extensive study of the world’s religions and philosophical traditions, Martin Seligman and his collaborators identified 6 virtually ubiquitous virtues: wisdom & knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, and spirituality & transcendence. Seligman listed the strengths that lead to these virtues: love of learning, open-mindedness, social intelligence, bravery, perseverance, honesty, leadership, self-control, and prudence.

Lack of self-esteem has been called the problem behind all problems. That may be an exaggeration, but it is often the cause of self-inflicted misery – like making underachieving a way of life in order to avoid failure. A healthy self-image is arguably the most precious of our earthly possessions.

Self-control is a building block of good character. Other building blocks include caring, justice, responsibility, and trustworthiness.

As the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus observed two thousand years ago: It is not things in themselves that disturb us, but rather what we think of them.

Worrying is irrational and unproductive. The most common forms of worrying are filtering (ignoring the positive aspects in any situation and focusing on the negative ones), overgeneralizing, and catastrophizing (being inclined to expect the worst).

The quality of our lives depends upon the quality of our decision making, and the quality of our decision making depends upon the quality of our thinking.

If you are interested in purchasing The Thinking Life or in reading the official book description and reviews, please visit the author’s Amazon Page.

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