Congratulations to me for getting your attention! This is no small feat.
In 2020 it is estimated that the average person is exposed to between 6000 and 10 000 communication messages per day! So the competition is sky high… Not only that, but out of doing a million other things with your time, you are still reading this post!
Let’s see if I can keep your valued attention…
For most of you it is normal and realistic to evaluate how you invest valuable resources like time and money, but do you reflect on how you invest your attention?
Every waking moment of every day of your life your attention is directed at something. It is more intense for uptime activities that require concentration and less intense for downtime activities during relaxation. However, you are always paying attention to something. Attention can be directed internally – to your thoughts and feelings and externally – to your sensory perceptions.
You don’t just give your attention to something, you pay attention.
Why is that?
The fact that you “pay” attention to something implies that it’s an expensive, finite commodity, which it is. Attention takes energy, mental and physical. To focus on something means you are using a lot of brainpower. Your brain is a very energy hungry organ.
Attention is a survival mechanism. If you had to pay attention to all the environmental stimuli around you, your nervous system would be completely overwhelmed. Your brain developed the ability to selectively pay attention to what is most important to your survival. It’s a way of being selective and efficient with limited energy. However today we are living in a very artificial environment with different distractions or threats than our ancestors. Most of these stimuli are not essential to your survival but it is designed to get your attention, manipulate your thinking and influence your behaviour.
If environmental stimuli are above a certain threshold of awareness you will pay attention to it. It is like the feeling of your bum on the chair or the low level noise in the background. You were probably not aware of this until I directed your attention to it.
Marketers, journalists, politicians, art directors, social media gurus etc. have mastered the art of getting your attention. This is done so you will view and consider their message. To sell their product or ideology. They know once they have your attention they can direct it and influence your thinking and behaviour to their benefit. They know how to manipulate words, images, sounds and colours so that it will stand out above the noise and clutter. They compete for your attention. They realize and know this is a valuable resource.
Attention direction is also your choice. You can choose what you direct your attention at. It is part of your free will. That being said, we easily allow our attention to be hijacked and we get distracted with a variety of things. Thoughts, emotions, people, media, etc.
Although you can shift attention easily, it will wonder back if you don’t change the higher-level thoughts of your intentions.
Attention is what is immediately in front of you, what is “on your mind” What are you paying attention to? What are you aware of? Our attentions come and go. It rises and falls with the currents of your immediate environment.
Intention occurs at a higher level. It describes the things in the “back of your mind”. At this level you experience your motivations, reasons, agendas, outcomes etc. Intentions describe what you seek to accomplish through your attentions.
Here you set direction or orientation for yourself – where you want to go.
But during everyday life, your intentions seem to vanish; overwhelmed by distractions. It appears as if your attention is much more powerful than our intention. But it is not. There is much more power in intention.
The problem is that you have old intentions in place that was set earlier in life, and if you do not revise your higher intentions or goals as you go through life and if your new intentions are not sufficiently established your daily attentions are doing what they do best, they act as the perceptual radar for the higher intentions.
Typically we “chose” most of our highest intentions by default. We “chose” our intentions by absorbing the typical cultural values from our society where we grew up. We experience our mind as just running its pre-programed programs. Higher intentions run the show. This is how willpower works. Intentions operate as the boss and give instruction to what you attend to.
While this typically occurs outside of awareness, you can do it deliberately. In fact, to consciously choose you highest intentions enables you to live much more purposefully and motivated. It enables you to take an intentional stance in life and to align all of you attentions with your highest intentions. And when you do that, you experience the subjective sense of “willpower”. You feel in control of your mind, emotions, responses and actions. You feel “at cause”, you feel motivated. It’s a great feeling.
Intentions are the leverage points of true transformation. Most people do not achieve their goals and dreams because they lack a strong intention and reason for staying with their goals. They have not developed a big enough why. Unlike people who strongly want something and know precisely what he or she will do with it, how it will enrich life, and what it will do for them.
Not only does attention cost you energy, it also directs energy. We have a secret in neuro-semantics that that says:
Energy flows where attention goes. As determined by intention.
This means that your energy is directed towards that which you are paying attention to. And if you have established you higher intention or goal, this will determine or guide what you pay attention to.
On the positive side, this could be something beneficial like a goal, positive outcome, project, dream or healthy desire. On the negative side this could be dreading or fearing something that may happen. Either way energy is being directed and funneled through your power of attention, which is governed by your higher lever intention or desired outcomes.
How much of your finite attention is being wasted every day? How much of you attention is distracted into thoughts of fear, worry, depression, bitterness, anger, etc. and how much of it is invested into something constructive like love, hope, compassion and gratitude that is building you up?
What you are paying attention to every moment of your life has a big influence on your mental and physical health.
Are you on autopilot?
At the mercy of others who influence what you pay attention to?
Or are you aware of your choice and ability to direct your attention at will?
Return on investment (ROI)
Is the object of your attention worth the energy? I always like to think of ROI if I do anything. For example an activity like an exercise session, conversation, interaction, reading a book etc. Is what I am investing my time and attention into providing me with a sufficient return?
Does the end (reward) justify the means (investment)? If not then you have the choice to re-direct your attention.
Is your attention, in service of your intentions, helping you move in the right direction?
Is it taking you where you want to go in life?
Through some channel, your attention has led you to this page. Something got your attention and brought you to this sentence. Through the use of words I managed to retain your attention up to this point. You chose to be here, based on what you were attending to. You have a choice to be here.
Is reading this article giving you a return on investment? If not then you can close this page and direct your attention elsewhere.
Or you may as well finish reading; you’re nearly there…
Be austere with your attention; do not give it away freely.
About the author:
Reinhard Korb is a thought leader in the application of neuropsychology, neurobiology, neuro-semantics and epi-genetics.
He optimizes health, wellness and performance while preventing disease and disability. As the founder of Thrive, he has facilitated and helped organisations and individuals actualize their potential.
He is a certified Fitness & Nutrition Coach, Meta Coach, Neuro Coach, Stress Management Coach and Wellness Coach.