I find myself occasionally dwelling on a word or idea.
Over the past few weeks, I have been considering the word “attention”.
According to philosopher William James, attention is defined as, “the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what may seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought…It implies withdrawal from some things in order to
deal effectively with others." (The Principles of Psychology, 1890).
The dictionary defines “attention” as, “the process whereby a person concentrates on some features of the environment to the (relative) exclusion of others.”
So, basically, attention is focusing on one thing and as a result, excluding from your focus, something else.
Wow… that is pretty powerful if you think about it. Attention is the ability to see this and not see that. Actually, if you really think about it, that is crazy powerful because what we
see and focus upon is that which we become. That which we recognize and that which we omit completely influences our reality, shapes what we know, and defines the parameters of how we know what we know.
I suppose... we must then be very, very careful where we place our attention.
In fact, I believe attention is one of our greatest resources.
Perhaps the ability to place our attention wherever we want is like a superpower we have as being human.
In our modern age, it seems there are SO MANY different competitors for our attention. Many of us are bombarded by various entities doing their best to grasp our attention. Powerful businesses have exploded in growth dedicated exclusively to the purpose to create strategies to clutch our attention and hold on to it for as long as possible. News agencies survive on their ability to convince us that they are the best and most reliable source of information and that they alone are worthy of our attention. Our peace of mind is the greatest casualty as we are relentlessly bombarded by urgent and breaking news again and again. Social media excels in creating inventive and effective schemes and algorithms to hold our attention hostage… they call it keeping us engaged. Marketing firms exist to captivate and convince us we need to give them our attention. Our electronics are carefully monitoring our every move, acquiring information they will use to more effectively persuade us to give them more and more of this limited and very precious resource… attention.
With so many persuasive competitors for our attention, I fear if we are not acutely aware of where our attention flows, we will be unknowingly seduced into allowing this valuable resource to be squandered on topics and activities that truly do not best support our evolution and happiness.
If by definition, attention is focusing on “this” and not “that”- then we must ask ourselves the important question, “What is getting our attention, and what is not?”
What do you pay attention to?
Where and to what do you consciously and/or unconsciously allow your attention to go?
What is currently getting way too much of your attention?
What in your world is not getting the attention you would like?
What is the greatest thief of your attention?
Are you intentionally budgeting this precious resource?
Things will be the way they are until they are different. And if they are to be different, it is because it is you that will make them different.
Where your attention flows is only up to you. You are the only one that can consciously choose where your attention goes. You are the only one that can intentionally harness and direct this focus. Only you can decide how to use this valuable and limited resource. And with your ability to be intentional with your attention, you also control the power to influence and shape your entire life. While there are many external forces fiercely competing for your attention, ultimately it is only you who can choose what gets your attention and what does not.
Choose wisely… or don’t.