Attention! Attention!

by vernsanders on October 26, 2009

In an interview with one of my favorite bloggers, Gretchen Rubin, Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age says this:

“Being able to focus is something that most people value instinctively. I can’t recall a great thinker or creator or leader – from Marie Curie to Picasso to Barack Obama – who doesn’t have enormous powers of concentration. As a young adult, I understood unthinkingly that attention is the key to getting things done. But until I began researching the fate of attention in our distracted society, I didn’t really realize the complexity or importance of this human faculty. Attention is a key to learning, memory, problem-solving, engagement, intimacy and creativity – all that we strive for today. Attention is now considered a tripartite capacity made up of focus, or the spotlight of the mind; alerting or wakefulness; and executive attention, or the ability to plan, envision, judge. Without attention – which derives from the Latin for ‘stretch toward’ – we cannot go deeply in thought and relations. As a result, attention is our most essential stepping stone to happiness. And controlling our powers of attention is crucial to steering our fate.”

I couldn’t agree more. But wait…there is more:

“Throughout history, humans have been programmed to take the easy way out, as a means of conserving energy and lowering risks. Take the short-cut to the fishing hole. Sow the plants that need less care. Set a trap rather than track an animal. Our ability to plan ahead and use technology allows us to survive, with less physical effort. But this instinct does us a disservice in a digital, cognitive age. Television, fast food, quick transport and even instant social connectivity give us a world built on the quick and the instant. The pendulum begins to swing too far in the direction of ease and passivity. The result is all too often anxiety, depression, poor health. The trick is not to forget our physicality, our limitations and the beauty of effort, both in the biological and cognitive realms. A life too easy or escapable quickly becomes meaningless.”

Makes me want to get up and do some sit ups…but I’ve got too much work at the computer to do…

Seriously…I am becoming more and more frustrated with people who are clearly multi-tasking when they interact with me…and the worst is during phone calls. I can hear/feel when someone is too distracted to track with my conversation because they are busy checking their email, or texting, or whatever…

I plead guilty to being a short-cut person more often than I’d like, but I’m resolved to stop with the multi-tasking when it comes to human interaction…and if I sense that you are when you talk to me, I’m going to hang up the phone…

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