On Monday I wrote a little bit about focus. That afternoon I went to the library to pick up some books my son and I had reserved online. One that awaited me was Rapt; Attention and the Focused Life, by Winifred Gallagher. I was struck by the lovely coincidence that the book showed up just when I was so absorbed in thinking about focus in my life. I was excited to dig into the book (despite my nine-year-old’s disdainful remark, “You’re reading non-fiction? Why?!”).
I’ve only gotten to the first couple chapters of the book, but so far it is fascinating. Gallagher looks at some evolutionary reasons why negative things capture our attention more readily than positive ones. She talks about how we’re wired to pay attention to things that bring up fear or anger in us because these “life or death” situations signal survival tactics. Gallagher also takes a peek at how lots of us in our culture put the blame on distractions like television, cell phones, and computers — when really we may be using these devices as the lazy way out — to avoid making conscious choices about where to focus our attention.
It’s all thought-provoking grist for ye old mill, helping me see what we humans are up against when trying to make a change in our lives or keep some promise to ourselves. There’s a lot happening to pull our attention away from what is truly important to us. Makes me think about the myriad of ways I try to train myself to stay focused on what is important to me, not what is buzzing in front of me to try to pull me away.
I’ll keep you posted on other interesting ideas that come up around focus. And, as always, if you have a thought or two, I’d love to hear ‘em. Your comments always help me see other facets f the conversation.
I’ll leave you today with this quote from Gallagher:
“… as you go about the day, bear in mind that by taking charge of your attention, you improve your experience, increase your concentration, and lift your spirits. Best of all, enjoying the rapt state of being completely absorbed, whether by a website or a sunset, a project or a person, simply makes life worth living. We cannot always be happy, but we can almost always be focused, which is as close as we can get.”
Speaking of our intentions, attention, and focus … our February Lively Conversation is going to take a look at intentions (New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?) and how we keep them — or not. Our guest is bestselling author M.J. Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude, Trusting Yourself, AdaptAbility, and many other titles. Sign up to join the call on Feb. 22 at 6pm. We’d love to have you there!