What is Attention? | Emily Hightower

Issue #13

 

A late middle English word worth 9 Scrabble points, “attention” is defined first and foremost as:

notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important”

The similes for “attention” include: 

Awareness, Notice, Observation, and CONSCIOUSNESS

Our attention is the currency of our consciousness. When we PAY attention we are in a transaction with the objects of our consciousness that reciprocate something in return.

If you pay attention to cleaning and resetting your rooms throughout the day, you get a tidy space in return. Pay attention to your finances and you can generate wealth. Pay attention to your breath, body, and what’s right for you and you create more health.

If it’s that simple, why are we experiencing declines in mental, physical, emotional, financial, and interpersonal health?*

Our economy now relies on grabbing people’s attention to get us to spend our time (ourselves) in front of platforms with ads to hopefully buy more and more things we don’t actually need or even want. The more things we buy, the more things need our attention. The more distracted we are, the less we notice what’s right for us and the more uncomfortable with our reality we become. Enter more distractions to avoid reality. If we don’t have agency over our attention, we spend it on things that are not actually ‘important’ and lose ourselves, our values, and our health along the way.

To regain agency over health in this era, we need to reclaim our attention. This requires skill. 

There are many forms of attention from the perspective of your neurophysiology. For example; you can be hyperfocused on something acute like giving a talk or driving on ice, casually attending to something like stirring noodles, dispersed and distracted switching from things every few seconds, spaced out watching TV, or globally aware in a state of deep meditation and healing. Can you ‘read’ the difference in yourself? Social media, for example, takes our attention in a dispersed and distracted way that can drain reserves of attention for important things like in-person relationships.

Are you AWARE that the average person in will spend over 5 years and 4 months of their life on social media** If you’re in that average, what are you getting in return for that time and attention spent? Is it worth it? Would you take back any of those years if you could in the end? Why? What’s MORE important that you’re missing through the disconnected drain of the attention economy’s grip?

Our attention is a finite resource that ebbs and flows based on our energy systems. If you know how to read where your attention is going and how to direct these energy systems you can generate rewarding states of health and sustainable balance despite the noise of modern life. You can reclaim yourself.

Our SH//FT HEALTH program helps you Master Time and Attention: the most valuable currencies in modern life.

 

With Breath,

Emily Hightower


 

Sources:

*https://www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america

**https://www.slicktext.com/blog/2019/10/smartphone-addiction-statistics/

Emily Hightower

Emily Hightower is an explorer of human potential at SH//FT.

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