Imagine that every human has a valuable commodity – and has been given an equal amount of it. They can spend it as they will. Some will squeeze as much value out of it as they can. Others will fritter it away on triviality, or worse, let it slip through their fingers, oblivious to its use.
“Yeah, I know this analogy – Time, right?”
Time does fit the description – and we have often been challenged to use our time wisely through this analogy. But no. I’m talking about something more powerful than time. Something that multiplies the value of time. Something that milks more quality out of each moment. What is this precious commodity?
We live in a world that is clamoring for our attention. We’re exposed to thousands of messages every day – via television, radio, email, social media, print media, installed advertisements (billboards, signs, etc). On any given day we may have dozens or hundreds of people wanting to talk with us or have a few minutes of our attention.
The temptation is to finely divide our attention – to multi-task, to handle as many things as possible in a span of time.
Multi-tasking is a myth – no matter what you say, your brain really doesn’t work that way.
Multi-tasking actually diminishes the value of our time.
When we cultivate within ourselves the ability to fully attend to the moment with all our mind, we enrich our experience. We also communicate to the people that we’re with that they are valuable to us.
In an increasingly distracted world, attention will be the most valuable coin we have to offer.
But our ability to attend must be cultivated. I know this because I am prone to distraction – I have found over the years that I’m capable of deep sustained attention – but the conditions had to be just right.
Unfortunately for me, I can’t always count on conditions being right. I’m just a student trying to learn.
I’ve learned that we must exercise our attention, just like a muscle. The mind jumps like a wild animal from one subject, anxiety, worry, plan, hope, dream, aspiration, diversion, fantasy, question, puzzle, memory to the next. It takes effort to bring our attention in line.
Peter writes “Therefore prepare your minds for action, discipline yourselves…” (I Peter 1:13a). He writes this in the context of living the Christian life wisely and well. Elsewhere, Paul tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). Again, this challenge is laid out in the context of Christian living.
This means that the discipline of our minds affects our lives in very practical ways.
Let me reframe that truth:
We become what we fix our attention upon.
This may be blindingly obvious; but I’ve found I need to be reminded of the obvious from time to time.
So the question is: how do you keep track of what your mind is paying attention to?
Soli Deo Gloria