Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Control of Attention is the Ultimate Individual Power"

These are the words of David Brooks, of the New York Times, and when I read them, I was blown away.

They are the missing piece in my puzzle. I have been sketching out some ideas about enlightenment, which will be posted soon, and it centers on the idea of the moment, and how you have to be able to do the right, most sustainable thing in the moment, and then let the past and future live in your mind. I believe that if you do the right thing in the moment, you create better options in the future--and therefore a greater sense of well-being and fewer feelings of threat. And better decisions in future moments. As opposed to a cycle of avoidance and life-patching that ultimately consumes itself.

Well, the missing key is that you have do to what you need in the moment. And, that's something I have really been struggling with. Here's what Brooks says:

Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. They can choose from the patterns in the world and lengthen their time horizons. This individual power leads to others. It leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies in order to resist leads to resilience, the ability to persevere with an idea even when all the influences in the world say it can’t be done...It leads to creativity. Individuals who can focus attention have the ability to hold a subject or problem in their mind long enough to see it anew.

Wow. And is there a better creed than that for the post-industrial age? This is especially true in knowledge and creative work, where the widgets we have to move are more conceptual than real. The very flexibility our works demands becomes the rope we dangle from.

Control my attention. Focus on the things needed to be made and done during the year. This is the missing piece of my year. Brooks is right...much like the strategies I listed above, it creates a life spiral, one that nurtures itself, not one that consumes itself.

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