“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.” — Marcus Aurelius
Attention, that’s it. The ability to focus on something for an extended period of time.
Honestly, I didn’t believe I lacked a lot of attention, or at least not in a way that would damage any area of my life. But I was wrong. By the end of my workday, I felt drained and moody. But with just a few tweaks, I feel like I’m living normally again. Energized and enjoying, as should be, cheerful.
The modern oil
Oil, the black gold, is not as valuable these days. I couldn’t believe that the price of it fell below $0. As I’m writing this, it is back up at $13.45, how the hell can a commodity be below $0? Crazy. In comparison, there is a new commodity in the market that is being bought by the millions, and that is data. Specifically, data that tells the companies where are you putting your attention online.
Right before writing, I went to google analytics and Facebook Ads to take a peek on who might read my article so I could understand who was I writing for. Apparently, it is likely that you are a male reader with an interest in philosophy or “self-improvement” and your age ranges from 25 to 45 years old.
Useful information isn’t it? But… how deep does the rabbit hole go? My friend, it goes very, very deep.
The example I just gave you about myself searching for a bit of info about the demographics of my audience is just child play. Social media company’s product is your attention. And it is being sold to influence your behavior towards doing something. Most likely, buying something or voting for this or that candidate.
The apps are not just addictive, but seductive as well. They will lure you into doing stuff without you even noticing it, and just like with good seduction, you just fall for it without even being aware of it.
But that’s not me! You might say. I know what I’m doing with this thing, I control it, it does not control me. If this is the truth for you, then congrats, you are above it and there’s where you need be. But honestly, I highly doubt it. I thought the same about myself and I dead wrong.
So, what is attention, and why is it so valuable?
The act or state of applying the mind to something.
This “act” is the beginning of freedom and life as you choose to live it.
No one can force you to put your attention anywhere. You decide where you want to put it. Neither are you exempt from this power, you are born with it and you cannot give it away. This is of great importance, because anything that you will ever experience in your life, will be whatever you put your attention in.
From attention, action follows, whatever you put your attention in, you empower and expand.
People are afraid of learning something new, thinking that it will be too hard. But in reality, the only thing that’s truly required from you is to be able to place and then to hold your attention for enough time until you master it, nothing more. Chips will fall into place once this is done.
Focus enough time on philosophy, and your outlook on life will change, for the better. But at the same time, focus enough time on your Facebook feed, and your outlook on life will change to suit the reality you’re putting your attention into.
Junk Info, Valuable Info
Mostly everyone likes to have a hamburger, or chips, or ice cream. It’s delicious. But, what happens after you’re done eating it? You don’t feel great, most likely, you’re left feeling lazy and hazy.
Nevertheless, we do it again, and again, and again.
Doing exercise and eating healthy, on the contrary, feels freaking amazing once you’re done, don’t they? Getting up and putting your running shoes or hitting up the gym is not lovely, at first. But once you begin, BANG, no one can stop you. I wouldn’t change how I feel when I’m done running 20 miles for anything in the world, not every hamburger in the universe.
The mind works in the same way. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube (mindless YouTube, not for education) is the junk food of the internet.
Once you’re done scrolling for an hour (if you’re ever done), it becomes hard to concentrate on anything for more than 1 minute. Nothing is as alluring as the instant, small, and constant rewards that the internet gives you.
On the other edge, you have all this amazing content, for free. Content that could not only enrich your life and make it more amazing than you could ever imagine but that could potentially change it, and transform it for the better. But the cycle needs to be broken, no more instant gratification, more long term gratification.
Intelligent or just busy?
Reading a quote on Instagram does not compare in absolutely any way to reading the book that threw out that quote in the first place. You will forget the quote in about 5 minutes. But reading the book? Doing so could potentially change your life.
I like to hear podcasts. Joe Rogan is pretty good and it’s super funny. Some parts of my job, sometimes, are boring and because of that, I began to listen to Joe while I worked, thinking that I was learning new stuff at the same time. But then it became a habit and subtly, my productivity started to go down. I wasn’t really concentrating neither on Joe nor on my work. My attention was all over the place.
Imagine attention as a light. It can act as a spotlight and light up a whole stadium (but you cannot see anything clearly, just the whole picture), or it can act like a laser beam and literally burn what you place it in.
Take off the chains now
“Freedom is the only worthy goal” — Epictetus.
I imagine that you want your life full and complex. You also want it to be yours, as in painting it yourself instead of buying a portrait from Walmart. Well, the only way you can do this is if by assuming responsibility for your agency, that is, for your capacity to decide where you put your attention in.
The only way available for you to live life on your own means is by exercising your freedom. Freedom is exercised by consciously directing your attention. Where you focus your attention will determine if you live the life you want or you live the life other people want you to live.
Honestly, claiming your freedom will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It will be hard because the majority of people aren’t free, they’re too busy checking what they need to look like on Facebook or Instagram, they are too busy checking how they need to think on Twitter. You need to go on your own on this one.
Take off the chains, and if you don’t, well…
Don’t be mad cause I’m doing me better than you doing you — Childish Gambino
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