Where Attention Goes

When our attention is compromised, so too are our decisions.

You may have heard the phrase “thoughts are things.” This is a very real truth that many of us take for granted. Of course, thoughts aren’t made of a tangible substance like some other “things,” like a cup of water or an apple, but they are no less real. 

We know this because we encounter very real thoughts on a regular basis. Even now, these words are forming thoughts in your head as you read. So if thoughts are real things, what purpose do they serve? They certainly don’t move around and bump into things, nor do they exert any other type of physical force on the world. Their purpose is an internal one, limited in scope to the boundaries of our minds. 

Within those boundaries, however, thoughts can be more real (and more important) than the cup or the apple or anything else in the physical realm. This is because our lives, in their entirety, are composed of the actions we take. And our actions are all preceded by decisions we make (with the exception of instinctual reactions and reflexes).

Cornell University reported that we make over 200 decisions every day around food alone. In total, the average adult makes about 35,000 “remotely conscious” decisions over the course of a full day. These are decisions that our mind makes by drawing from our current beliefs and memories, both of which are determined by where we place our attention in any given moment. 

Attention is our way of describing where we focus our mental energy. When our attention is focused closely on one thing, we remember that thing better than if our attention was divided between that thing and one or more other things. This is why we are so bad at multitasking; when our attention is compromised, so too are our decisions. 

In which areas of your life could you be compromising your decisions? Where are you spread too thin? Where is your attention more or less focused? Are you equally present and focused at home as you are at work? 

These are all questions that can shine a light on realms in which you may be making compromised decisions, and thus compromising your own happiness. When you are focused and present, you’re in flow. Events unfold in a seamless manner, like water flowing around a rock, not seeing obstacles or challenges but instead simply flowing by them as it would a fish or a branch. It’s from this place of flow that you can make no “wrong” decisions. Obstacles disappear and you’re able to make decisions from a place of abundance. 

Today, slow down a bit and notice where your attention is focused. Try to stay present in every moment. Protect your attention. And begin to notice how much calmer and more clear you feel after finishing a project, a phone call, or even just your drive to town. As you practice this, notice how you feel—begin to step into flow one small step at a time. This new way of being will seep into every area of your life and will show you the beauty and peace afforded to those who choose centeredness over chaos, of focus over chaos, and of surrender over force.

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