Spreading too thin: Defend your attention, defend your energy

Clearly a big part of simplifying and of bringing things down to basics, and in making our lives about something that is meaningful, is this idea of focus.
What does it mean to be focused? To remove things from our attention, so that we only have a very select selection of things that are on our mind, that receive our attention, receive our energy.
Being focused with a very small number of carefully chosen targets of our energy and attention, we can put all of that energy and attention into those things, and really pour it in to very specific things.
And of course, the opposite of that being we spread our energy thin around a very large number of things, so that we cannot put enough into each thing, and we end up with poor results, because there’s not enough being given to any one thing in particular.
So it’s pretty straightforward to decide that, of course, focus is good.
But what does it mean to be focused? Well, I came to another one of those obvious points that seems very simple and obvious but just occurred to me for the first time, and it’s the idea that being focused on something is connected to the act of decision.
To have focus, we have to be decisive.
To be focused on something, we have to be choosing to be focused on it, and choosing, especially, to NOT be paying attention to other things.
And that decision- every decision has a cost.
There is an energy that goes into every decision.
And we can easily feel that.
You can feel decision fatigue.
Making many, many small decisions can lead to decision fatigue, because every little one, every little time we have to make a choice, it calls on our faculties.
We look at the situation, we evaluate the things that we consider are important, and then we make a decision based on that.
All of that takes energy.
So the focus itself- to maintain focus, we have to first decide that this thing is worth focusing on.
So choosing the thing to focus on, choosing that it should be a focus, and not just something we happen to be working on right now until something better comes along, not something that’s just filling in the time, of course, but something that we have to choose is valuable enough to focus and dedicate our time to.
And especially on the defensive fight.
to defend what we focus, because the distractions just keep coming up, and we have to defend against those distractions, to continually renew the decision to focus, and say, no, I’m thinking about that.
No, I’m thinking about this.
No, I’m thinking about this.
No, this.
No, this.
Continually renewing the focus.
And that is an act of will, of decision.
It is the opposite of the going-with-the-flow feeling, or the going-with-the-flow approach.
And both of these approaches, I believe, are a necessary part of life.
We cannot live endlessly in the focus mode, because then we just miss life passing us by.
We stay, you know, stay in a hole, head down, until you die.
But, of course, living too much in the go-with-the-flow approach leads to very little getting done, because we’re simply responding to our momentary feelings.
It also leads to a shallowness.
Because there’s a lack of focus, we are unable to put energy deeply into any one thing, and we instead just sort of lightly surface skimming through all our time.
So both of these sides, both of these approaches, have their time and place.
But when it comes to focus, we need to decide, and apply that energy to say, no, this is what I’m gonna think of.
And then you just watch those distractions come up.
Every possible stimulation from outside, people wanting our attention, advertising wanting our attention, all sorts of automatic electronic signals are vying for our attention.
And then inside us, all the different feelings coming up, different hunger, thoughts that are interfering, those are all constantly arising and constantly calling for our attention.
I mean, it seems like our whole lives, we are being attacked for our attention.
There’s just so many demands on our attention surrounding us endlessly.
So the focus, to make that tower of focus, to make that centre, that calm centre, the quiet centre of focus from which we can do good work, we need to defend that perimeter, the perimeter of our attention, against anything that comes up, and decide, no, not now, because right now, I am choosing to think about THIS thought and work on THIS task right now.

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