Ah, the attention economy! I’m lucky to have your eyes right now and we’ll see if I can keep them through the 500ish words below and approximate 3 minutes it’s going to take you to read it. You (we all) are trained toward intangible rewards (feeling loved, success, fame!) and the engineering world has figured out how to tie those natural instincts to “gold stars” such as clicks, hearts, and likes. There’s a science to rewarding you so you stay entrained in the web of social media. (If you don’t believe me, or if I’ve lost you already, click here to learn more about the “race to the bottom of the brain stem.”).
It benefits websites and businesses to keep your attention. Does it benefit you and to what extent? While social media are useful tools they don’t have to be addictive or run your life. The hormonal responses to nearly getting hit by a car and no one liking your Facebook post are real. Your nervous system will do amazing thing to keep you alive. And you can train it to do what really serves you. You can be your own advocate by training your attention toward what feeds you - all of you. It’s within your power to be a full person rather than a commodity. (Something has likely already dinged or flashed to catch your attention, excited you’re still reading!)
If you’d like to work on training your attention, here’s an experiment -
Look around the room. What surrounds you? People, books, music, kitchen? Also note, are you safe?
Next, take note of yourself - just facts.
What is your age? What are you wearing? Where were you born? What color is your hair?
Next, note what you need to do next.
There are probably many things and competing commitments. No need to judge - just pick something you believe to be the next most important thing. You might be wrong and can change your mind. Make it something measurable and that you can start now.
Next, acknowledge why that is important.
Whatever you need to do next might not seem life changing. But complete this sentence: I’m going to do [xx] so that I can (what)?... So that I can lead by example, so that I can meet the deadline I promised, so that I can get off early and meet a friend? So that you can what?
Next, note where your attention goes.
You built a measurable goal and noted why it has value. Now bring your intention to your attention and begin. When you begin you might note that there is something else more important - and you can shift to that - with a more relevant “so that you can (what)”. While a meditation or mindfulness practice might seem daunting, it can be repeatedly bringing your intention to your attention. When you wander, swing back to the top and note your surrounding, note yourself, determine what you need to do next so that you can (what) and take action.
You can do this.