Have you ever thought about having a super power??
I’m sure you have (mine would be the invisibility one).
But what if I told you that you could actually have a superpower?! What I’m getting at is in today’s world, sustained attention may be a superpower!
We are pulled in all directions, half-attending to everything that’s going on, and don’t know what is important or valuable.
Perhaps you’ve been in that situation: What to do first? Let me Google it! What about this blog / article / social media drama? Oh hey, look over here!
Or, you find yourself saying to someone; How about this plan? What about that plan? I did Plan A for 2 days while reading about Plan B then I jumped to Plan C and oh by the way, did you hear about Plan D?
The problem isn’t ‘not enough information’. We have more information than we know what to do with! But rarely are you going to change based on information alone.
People still smoke knowing full well it’s not a good idea!
It’s not information overload; it’s filter failure. Without a strong ‘focus filter’ (i.e., I am choosing to pay attention to THIS now), we experience the mental/cognitive stress of:
- too much information; and
- the effort required to pull our attention away from “shiny things” (i.e., irrelevant distractions) and keep it honed in on what matters.
Problems focusing and paying attention tend to come with other problems too.
For instance, struggles with attention may have you wondering why you procrastinate. Or why you’re so disorganized, impulsive, or sensitive.
You may have a pattern of launching into “life transformation” projects with great enthusiasm, but soon run out of steam. Making you feel quite discouraged.
Now, our information-rich, device-driven society isn’t to blame. We didn’t overnight become zombies because we got smartphones.
It’s because as human beings we want to escape undesirable states, like being bored or irritable. And now, we have infinitely more ways to do that. Plus nobody’s teaching you the skills to do otherwise.
Unfortunately, distraction is not actually replenishing. It doesn’t actually decrease our cognitive stress.
For goals we want to accomplish, what we need is traction — choosing an activity, and then staying on track.
Mental and cognitive recovery thus involves building the skills of:
- filtering and prioritizing; and
- focused, deliberate attention.
A state of mind called ‘soft fascination’ may help restore our attention.
‘Soft fascination’ is when our attention is held by a less active or stimulating activity. Like reflection or introspection. It’s particularly powerful in natural environments. Such as when we’re gazing at a beautiful mountain vista, or watching a river run past.
This might not be at all surprising to you. People have always documented that time in nature seems almost magically replenishing.
Think about it, it’s how we all lived for millennia before the invention of agriculture. And well into the 20th century, when most people in the world lived in rural areas.
So I’d like you to consider exploring doing something in a natural environment. A local park or garden maybe?!