Once upon a time there was the stone age, then the bronze age, then the industrial age (yes, I’m skipping a few but you get the point), then the information age. All of which refer to what drove human development, civilizations, economies, and “quality” of life. Today, I would say, we are living in the Attention Age which has created an attention based economy. Marketeers now have access to the data being discovered by neuroscientists and they have successfully used it against us. All day long there is something fighting for our attention. A constant stream of texts, e-mail, instant messages, scrolling Instagram images and flashing commercials battle for any nanosecond of your attention they can grab. And grab they do. Just look at how we have changed. We have gone from hand written (long hand) letters to text messages where we cant even find the time to type out a word - LOL. We’ve cut out commercials and you can watch and entire season of your favorite show in one evening. Binge watch has been a thing for your years. You can have your order from Amazon faster than you can get an over-priced coffee at Starbucks. And conversations…. Well back in the old days when people had home phones you would actually sit down to talk to some one. Now a phone call is an excuse to fool yourself into think you’re multi-tasking. Does anyone feel that the quality of their life has improved as a result our of our measurably shorter attention spans? And young kids with I-Pads and phones??!!
For thousands and thousands of years humans have known and practiced the discipline of mindfulness. Now it’s fad, I blame yoga (that’s a joke). The truth is, when every single moment of every single day can be full of attention seeking stimulus, no one is paying attention. Not to what matters anyway. Most people are totally unaware that how we experience each moment of our lives is what determines our sense of fulfillment and happiness. Not your next coffee, like on facebook, follower on Instagram, glass of wine or vacation. Sure they are short term “fixes” that provide the brain what its craving – dopamine. If shots of dopamine were the answer then the entire country would be living in a state of constant bliss. (If you are wondering why I referenced dopamine, it’s the chemical in your brain that influences your mood). Yet the exact opposite is true. Half the country’s population is taking some form of “emotional medication” in an effort to reduce anxiety, relax, address depression or more. We have an ever increasing number of kids with attention issues but nearly everyone has an I-Pad and or an I-phone. Honestly, how many people aren’t even out of bed before they look at their phone? What about the last hour of the day,……how much of it is spent in front of some kind of screen?
How about a pause.
Stop for just a moment between tasks, take a deep breath, then intentionally turn your attention to the next person or task. Neuroscience has proven that multi-tasking is a myth. It simply gives you the “feeling” you are being more productive (that damn dopamine again). When you give someone or something your truly undivided attention they know it, even if they don’t consciously recognize what’s happening. You deepen your own personal experience by remaining in the moment. It’s not easy. It takes practice and effort. But how you direct and hold your attention has significant implications on how you experience (the value you derive) your most precious asset – your time.