Avoid chatter.

“So how do I pay attention to what matters?” I asked Tim. “I make lists, I start projects, I make plans, but I get distracted all the time.”

We were sitting in Lystra Tea Company, a coffee shop I just discovered in our town. Tim’s mom and grandmother have been running it for years. It’s small and quiet, perfect for conversation. Unless, like me, you get caught up in other people’s stories.

“I have a simple suggestion for you,” Tim said. “Avoid chatter.”

“Like those two people who were arguing about who said what and who meant what?” I said. (I mentioned it to you yesterday, I think.)

TalkingTim nodded. “That argument is a perfect example of what happens to you all the time. You read a short opinion and then you start to read the responses and suddenly you start shaking your head about the foolishness of people. You are involved in the argument, figuring out what you would say.”

“And I don’t even really care about the subject,” I said. “Not really. But why do we do that? Is it because Facebook is scheming to distract us, like that TED speaker Tristan Harris says?”

“I know that you want to be able to blame social media,” Tim said. “But chatter has always been around. There have always been theories and conspiracies and gossip. There have always been people who want your attention and your time and your distraction. Some of them mean well, but are distracted themselves. Some of them are people who don’t mean well.”

“But it’s worse now, right?” I said.  “Now that we are immersed in a stream of debate and demands for responses?”

Tim shook his head. “That’s not a debate that I care to engage in, though I understand the appeal. That’s why my mentor reminded me over and over to avoid chatter and arguments. The question for you isn’t who has had it harder. The question is whether you are willing to make choices away from the argumentative places that are in your life.”