What you Focus On Matters
Let’s talk about that title
I don’t mean “it matters what you focus on.” I mean “you make things matter by focusing on them.” Why do we keep our “eye on the ball” in sports like baseball? Because the rest of our body follows our eyes. So too does our life follow our attention.
An excellent quote from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990
The shape and content of life depends on how attention has been used. The terms extrovert, high achiever, paranoid refer to how people structure their attention. Attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.
Why not to hate-watch
If the things we pay attention to are naturally going to shape our life, there’s a powerful conclusion: try not to focus your attention on things that you don’t like or value. Not only will it be ego depleting to focus on things you don’t like; it will slowly cause them to take up more and more of your life.
Anybody who’s been in a lousy job, apartment, or relationship can resonate with this: it feels like the more you think about how much that thing annoys you, the greater space it takes up in your life overall.
This post was inspired in large part by a tweet from deepfates:
cognitive security 101:— invisible college dropout (@deepfates) January 8, 2021
you have to find something to obsess over.
do not let this choice be made for you
There’s also a good one from James Clear:
When you choose who to follow on Twitter, you are choosing your future thoughts.— James Clear (@JamesClear) October 3, 2020
This is one out of many reasons that people seek to unplug. Social media is built with the objective of taking as much of your attention from you as possible, whether or not it’s spent in ways that align with your goals and values.
A quick note on “ignore it, it’ll go away”
I don’t mean with this note to side with people that argue the only ‘right’ way to defeat bullies or trolls is to “not give them the attention they want” because it’s often not that simple. The paradox of intolerance would suggest that certain behaviors do need to be repudiated, not just ignored, and lots of examples throughout the past few years indicate that deplatforming works. People’s workplaces and communities should take an active role in protecting them from harassment, not put the burden of ‘ignoring’ the transgressor on the victim.
Sources, resources, links
The other part of inspiration for this came from Chase McCoy’s notes about paying attention to where your attention lives
This blog post is pretty remarkable: examines the intentionality of place and how Amish culture is just a more intentional boundary-setting
This post on mentalnodes
substack post from Kenta Nagamine on this topic
Big surprise, this is yet another form of your relationships to the different elements of your life