Attention! Where Have You Been? Stop Hopping Different Mental Trains

Attention! Where Have You Been? Stop Hopping Different Mental Trains

If you frequently find yourself coming to, after hours of randomly hopping different mental trains, I’m speaking to you. We live in a world that is increasingly trading in attention and everyone is vying for a piece of our minds.

People are absorbing ever more content each day but in smaller and smaller bytes. In an article for the American Journal of Public Health, Brad Millington, Ph.D., describes how the attention economy works, “The simple act of turning our attention in one particular direction creates a product that is ripe for commercial exchange.”1

So, your attention has market value, but more importantly, it has immeasurable value to your life. What you focus upon is the blueprint for your days. The satisfaction you feel when you climb into bed at night will be directly commensurate with how much control you exert over your mind.

Make no mistake, this is a full-time effort because we are drowning in an onslaught of information. The more “connected” you are via devices, the more powerful the need for deliberate action to remain the master of your attention. The following tips will support you in this noble effort.

You First

We’ve all heard the analogy before, but it works, so it bears repeating. If the cabin loses pressure on an airplane, you put on your mask before affixing one to your child’s face. If you don’t, it could spell demise for you and your dear one. This idea also pertains to the quality of your life.

If you don’t first see to your needs, you’ll be less capable of showing up for the ones you love. To this end, don’t allow the first thing you do in the morning to be a reaction. Choose how you want to ease into the wonderful possibility that a day represents, and start with that, deliberately.

For me, this means breathwork, gentle postures, and meditation. For you, it could be something very different. The point is, make it your own, and let it set a tone for your day that you like the sound of.

Tune In

People miss a great deal of life because they are so deep in their psychological process that they don’t see what’s in front of them. The more attentively you look at what surrounds you, the richer your experience becomes.

In a PubMed study on interest and education, researchers Harackiewicz et al, demonstrated that engaging a student’s situational interest via novelty, ambiguity or surprise can create the segue into a longer, lasting personal interest, whereby they return to the subject on their own with eagerness and enjoyment.2

This is the very attitude we want to cultivate for ourselves, across our lifetimes. A simple way to do this is to realize that in all things there is more than meets the eye. The closer you look, the more you’ll see, and if you bring your curiosity online, you’ll soon find it hard to tear yourself away. In her best-selling book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy Jenny Odell describes how she became a “bird noticer.”

At first, armed with a field guide, she was ready to dutifully name and identify. However, with time the realization of the remarkable individual lives that surrounded her gave way to a wonder that now adds tremendous richness to her days. This resonates with me because I have undergone a similar experience in my own relationship with birds.

I have always been charmed by them, but in the past five years, it has become a passion. Each season brings new rewards, revelations to inspire and delight. This possibility exists wherever we choose to let our eyes rest. So, what are you waiting for? Follow your gaze to your next gateway to be amazed, all it takes is a little attention.


1. Millington B. Health: An Optimal Commodity for the Attention Economy. Am J Public Health. 2017;107(11):1696-1697. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.304081

2. Harackiewicz JM, Smith JL, Priniski SJ. Interest Matters: The Importance of Promoting Interest in Education. Policy Insights Behav Brain Sci. 2016;3(2):220-227. doi:10.1177/2372732216655542

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