The Magical Power of Attention, Your Most Valuable Asset

attention power presence

Think and Grow Rich

Kate Northrup also makes this point in regards to money. By giving your attention to your money in a positive way, it grows. I tried this out and kept a super-detailed spreadsheet of my income streams, my hours worked, and my savings. And, without any noticeable change in my behavior, my income doubled.

Maybe it was because I was working really hard to fill in the chart sitting in front of me all the time, or maybe it's because I have magical powers.

Probably it's a bit of both.

But there can be no denying that holding your focused attention on something makes it grow.

This makes it extremely powerful. Refining and focusing your attentive powers is a substantial investment in your ability to be present, and that can make you a force to be reckoned with.

The Many Uses of Attention

And Everyone Wants a Piece

In our information-saturated era, attention is also a valuable commodity, bought and sold on the online marketplace. With so many of us immune to traditional advertising, long gone are the days when a company could simply make a good product, tell us about it, and sign up customers. Now, they must entertain us and entrap us.

This isn't all bad, and has led to companies paying attention to what we actually care about, not just what is easy to sell, but it is still hard work. Luckily for them, we already put attention into things like searching the internet and socializing, so Google and Facebook literally sell access to your attention, which you give them in exchange for their services.

Supporting them is a budding industry of attention-grabbing content--funny cat videos, "you won't believe what happened next" posts, shocking news stories, bite-sized picture captions--that has gotten really good at convincing you to part with your attention. They only ask for a few seconds or a minute here and there, but it adds up.

The result: persistent attention leaks. Your phone buzzes, your Twitter feed tweets, your email dings, you get a text, Facebook updates, a text chimes in, a banner ad flickers, a popup gets in your face.

Your reality goes from a seamless sheet of plate glass to a dingy bug screen, riddled with the holes of distraction, from a crystal digital HD signal free of lag to a spotty, static-filled radio wave in the middle of Nebraska.

How to Stop the Leaks

Do you remember the days before smartphones? Me neither.

The truth is, distractions have always been around, since humans started living in large groups and competing for each others' attention. The key to stopping the leaks is to realize what they are and to develop some awareness around how you respond to them.

Lately I've simply been labeling my behavior. Bored or waiting for a train, I tend to default to checking my phone. I know don't need to, and I simply call myself out on that. I'll say something like, "I am doing this out of habit. There's nothing there that needs me."

Once I was able to pick up on my compulsive self-distraction, I started trying to curb it, by simply saying, "I don't HAVE to check Facebook right now. I have a choice."

I do this with food too. I am a compulsive eater. I eat when I'm bored, stressed, or anxious. I'll simply notice it and tell myself, "I don't HAVE to eat that extra spoonful of peanut butter. I have a choice." This gets my attention back on what I'm doing.

Since we can't change behavior we aren't aware of, or engage with people we aren't attentive to, our attention is vital to empowered living.

When your attention is scattered among a million different channels, your presence dissipates. Protect and cultivate it in the same way you would your money and your health.

Photo credit: barockschloss on Flickr