“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives…”
― Oliver Sacks
A lot of us try to escape our problems in life and if you are one of those people, you are not alone. I tried to escape from my life for many years. Life can be harsh at times, and it’s easier to find something which takes our mind off our troubles instead of dealing with them.
Escapism, by definition, is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
So in that context, escapism is a bad thing. Unpleasant realities include hating our jobs, our relationships, and our lives. Maybe we are unhealthy and just unhappy, and we use escapism to forget about these things.
However, I also think escapism can be a good thing. Sometimes we need to escape, and there is nothing wrong with it.
For me, escaping from some of the mundane things in life is like pressing a reset button. It’s a break from some of the hardships and misery life can bring.
But when we use escapism and distractions to help us forget or avoid our major issues instead of dealing with them, it becomes a problem. We are all guilty of escapism and as long as we don’t take it to extremes, there is nothing wrong with seeking distraction occasionally.
Common forms of escapism and distraction include television, phones, video games, social media, alcohol, and drugs. And it is all around us. It is hard to avoid and takes away our ability to improve. Distractions keep us from accomplishing what we need to do. They take our sleep, stop us from getting our work done, and waste time. They also keep us from confronting the real problems in our life.
Distraction, by definition, means a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. You can’t be 100% present when you are distracted. Your attention is not focused on what you should do and it stops us from concentrating on the desired information.
Along with the external distractions mentioned above, we can also have internal distractions. Internal distractions include things such as hunger, fatigue, and daydreaming. To focus and get what we need to be done, we need to limit these distractions.
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
For me, my escapism and distractions are no longer drinking and procrastinating for hours on end. It is no longer spending hours on the internet looking at meaningless things.
Now, it is running, working out, and writing. It is working on improving my life. Even though they may not be classified as normal entertainment, those are two things which I use to escape. I also don’t allow myself to get distracted like I used to. I focus on what needs to get accomplished and don’t let distractions get in the way.
But the one thing which has allowed me to avoid these things altogether is that I’ve taken control of my day and my time, and now I don’t need to escape like I used to.
I took control of my health by running and working out. I took control of my career by finally pursuing what I wanted. I took control of my mind by meditating and learning how to better deal with my thoughts. By doing these things, I don’t need to escape. Because the activities I engage in are not unpleasant.
I made the choice to no longer do things I don’t want to. And I took action to change my life.
To get started in minimizing distractions and escapism, set yourself a schedule and have it as part of your daily routine. Schedule and allow yourself an hour or two to escape. There is nothing wrong with doing that occasionally. Go play the video game, watch the movie, surf the internet or do whatever makes you happy for that brief time. Take a hike or a walk around the neighborhood. It’s beneficial for mind and body.
But, stay away from things like alcohol and drugs which are addicting and potentially bad for health. You also have to be careful to not let escapism take over your life. If you are using escapism regularly to avoid dealing with personal issues, then you need to recognize and confront those issues.
Something I have found to be helpful when I delay what I should do is to use the words “I choose.” By framing my actions with these words, it gives me a powerful message of how I choose to spend my time. Instead of using “I don’t have time to exercise”, I say to myself “I choose not to exercise.”
In reality, I am choosing not to exercise by making excuses such as not having enough time. The same can be said for any activity you are avoiding. “I choose to watch television instead of writing” or “I choose to play another hour of video games instead of studying.” If you use phrases such as these, you will find where your priorities lie.
Track your time spent each day for a week. At the end of the week, total all the time spent doing each activity. Look where you can cut back on non-productive items and what is keeping you distracted. See where you can add in exercise, pursuing your passions or whatever brings you joy. And find where you can cut out the distractions and escapism.
Write down your tasks for the day, then rearrange them by order of importance. You also should list the time it will take to complete along with the actual time to start. By completing your most important tasks first thing, you have already had a successful day.
Your time is not wasted when you fill your day with activities which mean the most to you and add value to your life, and there is nothing with escaping for a bit every day.