Archive for the ‘Attention’ Category

Attention Economy

March 16, 2022

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Herbert Simon

I’m sure it was more than 15 years ago when I first heard technology pundit Steve Gillmor talk about the attention economy. He was prescient. Everyone scrambles to grab some of your attention. Including me.

But worse are the platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like who hire hundreds of engineers to design algorithms and graphics designed to keep your attention on their sites.

Me, I wish to provoke a little thinking and then let you go in order to have a life.

Herbert Simon nailed it in more ways than probably even he imagined. He wrote pre-Internet. We have so much information presented on apps and web sites and newsletters and, yes, even books. We can even bury ourselves with information trying to comprehend the entire Bible.

And where does our attention stray?

We must be aware of where we’ve invested our attention. If the entire Bible as given to many of us as youth is too large for our attention, perhaps the Christian part (New Testament). Or perhaps just the words of Jesus. Maybe even that is too much information.

If we focus our attention just on the Sermon on the Mount, we shall be richer for it. We can perhaps come to comprehend enough to live it.

Being Present

January 13, 2022

A comment appeared on yesterday’s post about slowing down, where the writer talked about being present. I love that concept.

There is a phrase I was taught many years ago, “Wherever I go, there I am.”

How many times is our body someplace, but our attention and awareness are a million miles distant?

What about when we are with someone? Are we present with that person? Or is our body there, but we are not? Do you think they can tell? Can you tell when that story is reversed?

I’ve seen people who have paid an amount of money to attend a class, clinic, or conference. They show up, but they left their mind at home. Or somewhere.

I think about that when I am walking around the ponds where I live. Being present with the wildlife and flowers and plants. Even the occasional human.

Yes, I think being present is a gift we can give ourselves and also give to those around us.

The Discipline of Focus

August 25, 2021

“Keep your eye on the ball,” yells the baseball coach to his player.

You cannot hit the ball if you are not focused on it.

Same with golf. Practice the swing enough such that you can just swing naturally. Then put all focus on the ball.

A race car driver once told me that you always focus on the cars in front. Never look at the wall, he said, because you’ll steer right at it.

Take the Hebrew story of Joseph. Yes, the guy with the “multi-colored dream coat”. He landed in Egypt. The king put him in charge of a most important project. Joseph had interpreted a dream that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph’s job was to focus in the good years on storing lots of grain. I’m sure that given many pressures keeping his eye on the ball was difficult. Then during the seven years of famine, he reaped the benefits of the seven years of discipline.

Pay attention to the words of Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, John and the rest. Stated sometimes and always understood beneath the story lies the foundational teaching of keeping your eye (focus) on God.

I Choose Where My Thoughts Dwell

March 19, 2021

Many people are reflecting upon a year ago. Of course, I am one.

A year ago, we signed the papers and I transferred a bunch of money and we became property owners in a different state. While in Illinois signing papers, my hair stylist called from Ohio. The governor was shutting down businesses like hers and she had a spot open. My usual appointment was three days after the shutdown. I told her I was a six-hour drive away and couldn’t make it. I didn’t get a hair cut for fourteen more weeks. Even a former hippie needed a trim by that time.

We had two major changes–facing life in the pandemic and adjusting to the new reality of living in a community where we knew no one with only a superficial knowledge of the area.

I made it a priority to establish a daily discipline much like I had the past 20 years. Just a few adjustments. No gym. No Yoga classes. No soccer. The only thing that slipped for a while was strength training. Eventually I took care of that and the body is getting back into shape.

Had we not moved, two things are likely. We would have caught the virus (I estimate that 90% of the people we knew from where we’re from have had Covid), and we would not have seen our family.

When other thoughts pop into my head–nostalgia, missing something, adjusting to new surroundings, what if this or that–I choose to focus on what matters. I choose not to dwell on any “what might have been” random thoughts.

This advice from the Apostle Paul to the gathering called Philippians applies, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

When You Work, Work

March 16, 2021

I recently read that phrase in a book meant to help us along the way. What a wonderful concept that we so often miss.

When we work, work.

When we study, study.

When we pray, pray.

When Luke Skywalker said he’d try to do something, Yoda replied, “Do or do not; there is no try.”

How often I go to my desk to study something or write something and I “wake up” to discover my mind is far afield!

How often do we go to work and spend our time talking with (or complaining about) people? If we settled upon a task and actually did it, how successful could we be?

How often do we sit in meditation or prayer and after a period of time awaken to discover we’ve been thinking about dinner?

We are not going to be perfect at this. But we could try a bit of magic called focus. Paying attention to what we are about. What a revolutionary idea.

What We Think About Determines Our Future

October 30, 2018

We listen to politicians who reach deep into our emotions. We dwell on those thoughts. We become cynical and negative. Someone asks, “What is she like?” Oh, she’s a negative and cynical person filled with anger.

We think that we are weak and powerless. We become within ourselves a weak and powerless person.

We let our ego and pride determine our thoughts. Not a good outcome in sight for that person.

We intentionally focus our thoughts on positive images, noticing the beauty around us, dwelling on our possibilities.

We become positive influencers. We become a person of strength and worth.

And we are now prepared in our hearts to tackle problems we see becoming change agents for a better world.

It begins in our thoughts.What we think about determines what we become.

[for reference, try Proverbs 23:7]

Aware of Ourselves

May 4, 2018

The most common angelic greeting in the Bible? When a human meets the divine, what does the divine say?

“Don’t be afraid.”

Fear sometimes is right there with us. The first emotion upon meeting a stranger in the night in an unfamiliar place. We face an imminent weather event–tornado or hurricane, for example.

Sometimes fear is insidious. It enters quietly, like a thief in the night. We don’t know it’s there.

But fear influences our thoughts. We fear change. We fear the unknown. Worse, we project our fears on other humans who become the personification of those fears.

Fear breeds hate. We grow to hate those other humans–those other children of God.

We don’t even realize it. These evil emotions don’t just greet us like the angels in the Bible do. “Don’t be afraid.” They sneak in and capture the heart and mind.

Awareness brings things to light. So much of the theme of the Apostle John’s writing concerned bringing light into the darkness.

Sometimes in meditation and prayer, we must listen to God expose these thieves who have crept into our life and captured it.

Fear and pride–two things that will corrupt your life. Bring the light of the world to shine in those dark and web-infested corners, expose them, and expel them.

The light is called awareness. Pray often that God will expand awareness within us.

From Whom Can We Learn

December 8, 2017

“Have you read that essay that went viral on the Internet about how women can’t be engineers?” someone asked a radio interviewer, who happens to be a woman who earned a Ph.D. in engineering.

“No,” she replied. “I am careful what I fill my mind with. Thoughts can determine attitudes.”

The other day, before I was distracted, I wrote about keeping our eyes wide open this Advent. That’s called awareness.

Do we go through life unaware of the things around us–the good works of some, the grief and misery of others?

The next step is attention. To what or to whom do we pay attention?

Better, from whom can we learn if we but pay attention?

From a professor? Maybe.

From a child? Probably. Consider that a child with few preconceived ideas, observes things from an entirely new perspective. They are curious. Listen. Pay attention. She may rock your world.

From a person with little education? Often, if we pay attention. It’s still a different perspective.

If you are a specialist in one area, listen to those in another area.

We can be intentionally aware of all the Christmas preparations, but we need to watch what we pay attention to. It determines our attitude.

Good Leaders Have Great Observation Skills

August 17, 2017

Leaders are observers.

I was a new college graduate. I thought it would be smart to take a year off before graduate school and make some money since I was paying my own way.

A teaching position opened. I had zero training for the position. But in those days, there was an acute shortage of teachers. All I had was a degree. No training. Protestant religion applying for a position in a Catholic school. No knowledge of the developmental psychology of 13-year-olds. Pure geek. And I became the new 7th grade social studies and writing teacher at a Catholic school.

So I went in to check out my room and met Mr. Carder, one of the other 7th grade teachers (the other two were nuns). We were each to have 40 students in our classes. Mr. Carder began talking about his previous class. It dawned on me that he knew the names and mannerisms of each of his previous 40 students.

Wow, I thought. That’ll be a challenge. And it was.

Somewhere in the Bible is the phrase “Looking but not seeing”. 

Aren’t we often afflicted with that disease.

We think we are watching the road as we drive, but then we can’t remember a thing about the route.

We thought we were awake while walking along the street, but we didn’t see the homeless person or the mother struggling with kids and packages.

We see the people on our committee or organization, but we really have no clue about where they are in life. Are they connected and committed? Is there an agenda? Or a problem?

Let that phrase not apply to us.

Breaking Their Attention To Focus On Something Else

August 10, 2017

We were hiking along a path in the woods and hills.

Family with 2-year-old coming toward us. Kid is cranky and letting everyone know.

We meet on the path. Kid looks at me, still trying to cry and scream. I say something to him. He looks. Breaks his attention. He stops crying. 

But, we pass and he remembers he was trying to get something out of dad–probably a ride. Back to crying.

Reminded me of the one time that one of my kids threw a tantrum at the check out lane of a grocery. She’s laying there screaming. I call out, “Whose kid is that?” Broke her attention and focus. 

I like breaking people’s focus trying to get them to focus on something else–preferably something better.

I think Jesus was a master of that. He’d say something that was on a different plane than the one his companion was on. They’d have to stop and refocus. Some were good at that, many were not.

When you study Jesus’ words, you need to keep that in mind.

Also a life tip. When you find yourself focusing on something depressing or fearful or agitating, purposely choose to think about something else. (Probably not a therapy for clinical problems, but it works for me.) Break your own focus and attention.