Pretty much your entire life as it is today … runs on autopilot. When you wake up, what you eat, when you shower, what you say to your loved ones, how you think. It’s all been built from previous behaviors, lived on previous days. It’s the track of a train that you construct slowly over time. And this is good! If you had to pay attention all the time, every day would be a complete reset, a mystery full of an infinite amount of decisions. Your nervous system would burn out from overuse. It takes energy and brain power to pay attention and make new decisions. We should be thankful for the ability to not have to think about every decision, every day, thankful for the tracks that we have built.
But, if we want to improve (or build a new track) then we have to guide our attention toward the new thing. And then of course take action. This can only be done by consciously paying attention to what it is that we want to improve/build. The more attention you can give to that new thing, the faster and more efficiently you can build it.
Think of attention as a tool we use to improve our lives. When we begin to shift and move our attention, we begin to shift and move our lives, or “track”. Over time this becomes the new actions we have on autopilot. Our new track. We begin to shape our own lives, the lives that we really want. Not that we don’t like our current lives, but we all can agree there is a better one “out there” for us. Wanting to be better is in our DNA. It’s part of being human. When we focus on improving our own lives, and take action, we feel better about ourselves. We become more confident, happier, and productive. This is part of the human condition (its hardwired into us), to want to improve. When we are not improving, the exact opposite happens. We become depressed and less confident. We have to improve if we want to be happy. It’s attention that makes this happen.
Below are a handful of things to help bring more clarity and understanding to attention. Over the past couple of years, I have begun to think of it as a thing—something that needs to be used, like a tool. I think the better we understand attention, the more effective we will be at guiding it to improve our lives. And if you are in my world, our health.
It Needs to Be Directed
Often, our attention seems to have a mind of its own. Facebook, IG, the cat, the dog, TV, the news, our friends. They all fight for our attention. So, we have to consciously choose where it goes, and how we spend it. The first step is deciding what you want to improve. Then writing it down and having it somewhere you can see it. You need to be reminded of that thing. Daily. Deciding and then forgetting will do you no good. Remember, you need to pay attention to it. That means consciously reminding yourself of the thing that you want and taking some action towards it. And I’ll say it again—daily. This is how you direct your attention and direct your tracks towards what you want.
It is in Limited Supply
From the moment you wake up, your attention technically is at your disposal. You have the ability to choose entirely what you spend it on that day. Make no mistake about it. BUT we’ve been alive for some time now and have already built tracks. Lots of them actually (remember, that is a good thing), so we have a limited amount of attention we can spend. The key to making improvements in your life is directing the attention you do have towards where you want it to go. If your attention is already tied up most of your day, stop and take a look at your life. See if there is anything that is wasting your attention, or not adding value. Maybe you pay attention to social media, or watch TV for an hour or two every day? Reducing this can free up attention so you can apply it somewhere better, somewhere that will improve your life.
Some Things Keep it, And Some Things Don’t
Did you ever notice how some things interest you and keep your attention, (a very small amount of them) and 99.9% of the other things out there in the world don’t. Why is that?? Where does that come from?? Some people love cars, some hate them. Some people are laser locked on their finances; some are focused on relationships. Some love to crochet. Some love MMA. What keeps our attention is incredibly varied from person to person. Be aware of this, because if your intentions are good, what gets your attention might be something you should pay more attention to. It might be a place of unique ability that if fostered and nurtured could bring an incredible amount of fulfillment to your life. The true test of this is if it will add value to you or others. If it’s not, it’s probably not where you should direct your attention, and therefore your life. Keep searching.
Let Your Conscious Be Your Guide
None of us are spending our attention perfectly in the most productive direction all the time. We are still human, and prone to getting off track. But, if you know you are wasting your attention and not sure where it could be better spent, just ask your conscious. Your conscious is usually trying to point out what you could be improving, or what needs your attention. Sounds hooky and woo woo, I know. But if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that “still small voice” usually knows best. So if you do find yourself off track and wondering where the best place to spend your attention is, just genuinely ask yourself, “whats one thing I could do today that would improve my life or others?”. You’ll get an answer real quick. It will “appear” from who knows where—your mind, God, the Cosmos? That I don’t know, I think thats a bit irrelevant. The amazing thing is that it is there at all, and its right most of the time. Most likely the answer will be something like; clean your room; go to the gym; be nicer to people today. It’s the small things that add up. Just be sure to do it, even if you don’t want to. It’s usually the things that we “don’t want to do” that are building us, and the ones around us, a better future. We just need to pay more attention to them.
So that’s it on attention for now. In a follow up article I will cover how to start directing your attention in a more productive way. Some basic steps you can take to direct and improve the value of the attention you have.
For a healthier future through personal responsibility.
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