Thursday, March 11, 2010


Do genetics or environment determine our ability to contend with distractions? My husband and I are complete opposites in this matter. My husband needs complete quiet to concentrate and shuts himself away from the world. I, on the other hand, can tune out almost anything. This ability of mine caused great speculation and wonder when I was in the working world. I always left my office door open, even in the busiest of offices, but was in total concentration on my task at hand. The only sounds that obtained my attention were the fire alarm and the buzzer on the phone on my desk.
I now work from a home office that has no door and my desk is directly in front of a large window overlooking my front yard and the woods beyond. My two dogs and I are the only ones at the house most of the day. There is usually a television turned on somewhere in the house. I have a stereo in my office with a variety of music. My computer screen has my total focus when I am writing. I notice nothing around me when I read. How can this be?
I believe environment is the answer. My husband and his sister were raised in a quiet house by their grandmother. My husband’s bedroom was the only room lived in on the second floor. He grew up in a quiet sedate environment. On the other hand, I was raised with three more siblings, a dog, a cat, a parakeet, a turtle and the occasional snake. My sister and I shared a bedroom. The cat took great pleasure in attacking the dog or any person walking by. Sometimes the snake would escape. Four kids and their friends were always tromping through. There was only one television in the house but we all had our own radios and record players and often they were all playing at once! Life was never quiet at our house.
The noise did not bother me. I thought everyone lived like we did. I was an avid reader and could read with total absorption, never noticing all the hoopla going on around me. In fact, my entire family was composed of avid readers. If you wanted to get into serious trouble at my house, read one of my mother’s books and not return it before she got home! We all loved to read and there was no quiet place to do so. Therefore it is my contention that the ability to focus is determined by the environment in which you were raised.
Do your experiences agree with my contention?


Anonymous said...

Agree-I was raised with 4 siblings and my husband was an only child. He needed quiet, I didn't.
BUT, do want to clarify the book situation. My textbooks had to be in place when I came home from work so I could grab them and run to class.
The author's mother

Beth Mithen said...

I knew that was guaranteed to get a comment from MOM. Isn't it nice to have a mother who supports your endeavors?

Cathy said...

I can block out a LOT - noise is not something that bothers me at school.
My coworkers find it interesting I can block out so much when I am concentrating.

However, there are times I want complete silence - silence that I can HEAR.

As I travel through life, I find the quiet times golden and I am seeking them out more and more.

Naomi said...

When I entered grad school discoverd I could not study in the quiet library. I had to sit in the lounge with activity and talking around me.

ZenBear said...

yes, the ability to focus in what appears to be pandemonium has worked wonders for me over the years. My previous workspace had my desk literally in a hallway of considerable foot traffic, there was constant conversation in this area and yet I managed to focus on my tedious task of html coding for the website. I have fond memories of curling up in the wingback chair with a book while the whirlwind of our family carried on throughout the house.

Beth Mithen said...

ZenBear, I had a great laugh over your workspace in a hallway!!! You have to love those wingback chairs-like your own private world.