Where we focus our attention determines what we accomplish, and ultimately, who we become.
Attention directs our intent and concentrates our efforts. It sets our course, and therefore, determines our destination. Stated another way, where our attention goes our energy flows. It is no surprise then, that where we focus our attention is the best indicator of our short-term results and subsequent long-term accomplishments.
Attention’s nemesis is, of course, distraction. Whether self-inflicted, or imposed by our environment, distractions keep us from achieving the day’s intended mission, and over time, our life’s vision. If attention sets the course, distraction is the pothole, the flashing road sign and the storm that obstructs our view. It is the disruption that causes the detour, delays our arrival and directs us to unintended destinations.
Attention and distraction have been competing forces since humankind developed the ability to think beyond the moment. But in recent times, distraction has taken on the presence of a marauding hoard. The volume of material, information and alerts calling for our attention daily seem infinite. Of course, they are not. But they do far exceed our ability to thoroughly comprehend, receive and react.
The escalation in distractions has its roots in the tools we use to be more efficient. At the beginning of the technical revolution, we were told that technology would make life easier and open the door to more accomplishments. We were told that one person would be able to accomplish what once took a team, and much of this turned out to be true. What is also true, is that one person now has the responsibilities and distractions of the entire team.
In many ways technology requires more from us, not less. Yes, Google Maps® makes getting to our destination easier, but texting while driving may keep us from getting there at all. Social media keeps us connected, but often distracts our attention from connecting with people face-to-face. Our news feed gives us the world, and with it the weight of its challenges.
Newton’s third law states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Technical innovation does not escape this truth. The possibilities that lay before us are immense. A little curiosity, when combined with attention and the click of a mouse is a powerful thing. The world and all its opportunities are now at our finger tips – and correspondingly, so are a world of distractions.
It has been said that with great power comes great responsibility. This statement is often interpreted to be a great responsibility to others, but in this context, the responsibility is to ourselves. Given all our technical advancements, it is still our ability to direct our attention with purpose of intent that matters most. It is the paradox of our day that in this time of unparalleled advancement, the very human characteristic of self-discipline remains the key to our success. We may be living in the technical age, but we are still having a very human experience.