Our lives and lifestyles have changed over the past 100 years or so – dramatically. And this change has accelerated over the past 20 years. Change is not necessarily a bad thing – on the contrary – a lot of the changes to our lives have been remarkably empowering. A century ago, it was not even remotely possible to hop on a flight from London to New York for a business meeting (and get there within a few hours) or for the average Joe or Jane to instantaneously speak to thousands of people within their target market. So yes, change it good – great, in fact!
The downside of these changes though, is that we seem to have lost the ability to live a life of choice.
To explain what I mean by this statement, we need to go back to 1890, when William James wrote and published his book “The Principles of Psychology, Vol 1”. A very interesting book indeed, but one specific quote stands out for me. James said:
“My experience is what I agree to attend to.”
Impactful statement, isn’t it? In essence this means that your attention determines the experiences your have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. And even more importantly, your experiences (and thus life) depend on what you agree to pay attentionto. You have a choice. You can choose what you pay attention to.
And this is exactly where we struggle in the 21stcentury. With emails, marketing messages, notifications, calls and more engulfing us every second of our waking hours, our attention is scattered. We don’t really pay real attention to any one thing at any one time any more. We can’t. We are in total information and distraction overload.
Our inability to focus our attention on any one thing has brought us to a point where we no longer live a life of choice. We have abandoned our right to choose where we focus our attention, and thus our life and experiences have become out of our control.
But of course, everything can change (we live in a world of change, right?). The thing is though, in order to create the change we want, we need to take real action. We have to take control.
If we want to live a life of choice, we need to take control of where we focus our attention. We need to roll back the power distractions have over us. We need to rebuild and redevelop our attention management skills.