There’s a whole lotta buzz about attention these days. Marketers compete for it. Brain games claim to improve it. I myself work hard just to harness it. Remember the days when a cup of coffee with a friend wasn’t interrupted by the beeps, burps and blinking lights of a cellphone? Those nifty little wonders breed a level of distraction that makes full attention a real challenge. And even if you’re all in on that cup of coffee, chances are your companion will be checking their own little bugger because that biochemically-propelled imperative is frankly hard to resist. And it’s not just the phones. Shiny new objects are everywhere, convincing us that be here now isn’t nearly as rewarding as the promise of that thing over there.
Unless of course you decide to resist. You tell yourself that you will no longer bow at the alter of distraction, that you and you alone will decide what’s worthy of your attention.
My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those things which I notice shape my mind. William James / The Principles of Psychology (1890)
Productivity, to say nothing of mood, energy and optimism, is exponentially plussed by a well-harnessed attention, particularly, according to research from the field of positive psychology, when attention is far more often directed to those things that bring pleasure, delight and purpose than to those things that detract and disappoint.
I sometimes think that the mind needs a bouncer–a worthy opponent that meets all new arrivals at the door and decides who gets to stay and who has to go. Meditation in all its varietals can in many ways serve as that bouncer for its potential to bring increased awareness to the mind’s various comings and goings including thoughts, feelings, distractions, attractions and yearnings. Eric Maisel notes that when attention is refracted in multiple and competing directions creativity will surely suffer. Ideally, the artist is equipped to bring a laser-beam focus to their projects and to remove all elements in their creative environment that would impede this.
Your attention is a precious commodity. No matter who or what may want it, you own it. And you’ll need it in full supply to do good work.