Attention: notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important. The action of dealing with or taking special care of someone or something.
Intention: an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result. The end or object intended; purpose.
What do I give my attention to? What is deserving of my attention and my intention? Have I decided to focus on these things or has someone decided for me? Does culture and society direct my attention or do I? Am I intentional in my way of living or am I floating along, easily re-directed by a slight shift in the breeze?
I’m asking myself these questions more and more every day and while they seem at the surface overly philosophical or deep, they needn’t be. For me, it’s a matter of being more intentional about what I give my attention to. My interest, what I find important, my special care taken for someone or something, what I spend my time and energy on – that’s really all I have and the most important thing I can give. Shouldn’t I take the most extreme care in making sure I’m using that resource wisely? Shouldn’t we all? So these are some of the questions that I’m asking myself recently as I move through my day and some of the observations that I’m making:
Why is my first instinct when I wake up to turn on the TV? Is the morning news that crucial to my life? After a few minutes I usually turn it to something else for background noise anyway, something mindless like HGTV or the Kardashians. But is it really mindless or am I filling my eyes and ears with nonsense instead of something actually meaningful? I’ve been listening to podcasts, beautiful music and watching interesting documentaries lately instead and I love it. Now, is there anything wrong with the occasional fluff? No, not at all. But it’s the splurge, not what nurtures our minds, bodies and spirits. If anything, I feel like too much input from TV can deaden my creativity and exacerbate my sometimes sharp and critical attitudes. The more I stay away from it, the more I feel it’s effects on me when I do partake. I’d rather pick up a book or go outside for a walk than stare at the tv screen!
Why am I so attached to my cell phone, this stupid little box? Why do I feel the need to check it all the time, what am I looking for? I’m reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport right now (another recommendation from the Minimalists) and it’s so enlightening, especially the history of the way the devices and apps that we spend so much of our time and attention on were designed to have the same psychological appeal as slot machines in casinos. We really are such simple creatures. The funniest part to me is that the first iphone was invented to listen to music and make phone calls, yet most people I know rarely use their smart phone to do either very often. I’m making a deliberate effort to curb my addiction to my phone and particularly social media. I downloaded an app that tracks how much time I spend on these apps and how many times I unlock my phone every day and WOW is it eye-opening. It’s so alarming and sad to me seeing families out to eat with kids and the kids are literally BEGGING for their parents’ attention while both stare mindlessly at their phones. Poor kids, desperate for their parents’ attention. Poor parents, missing out on their kids.
I could go on and on but the bottom line is that if you take the time to ask these questions and examine your life you’ll often find that your attention is focused in the wrong direction and you’re not being intentional about the way you spend the minutes of your day. While it may seem harmless to watch that vapid reality show or biased political news show, harmless to scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed while you wait/cook dinner/bathe your kids, it’s not. What you give your attention to shapes your world and instead of swallowing what’s being force fed to you, make the conscious choice to be intentional about what you want your life to be and focus your attention on what will bring you closer to the life you want. The life YOU WANT, not the one that you think you should have so that your friends are jealous and your feed looks amazing and your followers increase. Not the life that makes your parents happy or friends happy but the life that makes YOU happy. Gives you true joy and fulfillment, gives you purpose so that you jump out of bed every day and can’t wait to get going, puts a smile on your face so big and bright that no one can dim it. And no matter what that looks like for you, whether it’s something that I find weird or crazy or something the world around you doesn’t understand, go for it with all your heart.
I’m taking my own advice here, too. It’s a slow process but I’m working on it every day. I got out of the corporate game, I read and write more than I have in years, I’m exposing myself to new ideas and music and art and ways of life all the time. I love to be challenged with a new way of seeing things, of viewing the world around me. It isn’t something that happens overnight, that’s a given. But if we never even ask ourselves these questions, how will we ever know whether we’re living intentionally or not and whether our attention is where we want it to be? If we don’t ask and examine, we won’t know. And if we don’t know, we’re stuck in the fog and our lives can’t reach their full potential. My life is too short to waste another minute not pursuing what’s important to me. Isn’t yours?
Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. All images taken by me unless otherwise stated.