What holds attention determines distraction

Even checked distractions will lead you to distraction. What holds attention determines distraction

This very day I have been repeating over and over to myself a verbal jingle whose mawkish silliness was the secret of its haunting power. I loathed yet could not banish it. 

What holds attention determines action.

William James, The Principles of Psychology

Was it a rhyme or a sick joke that got in the thinker’s way? What do you think James was referring to?

Fast forward to modern day distraction

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A mind virus

People like to gravitate toward solutions. They’d rather think they know something than cope with all the anxiety surrounding the mysterious present.

Truth is a mental implantation. In reality, we just believe the story we tell ourselves. Conversely, thinking is a ‘dialogue between the two me’s.’

The curious mind acts like inserting graphite into a pencil through two layers of wood. As they say, genius is one brain with two schools of thought.

Paradoxes are the upshot of freedom. We should feel free to contradict ourselves on a regular basis if it means the latest solution is indeed superior.

In search of the latest best, we triumph over the matter of what’s trending while clinging to what works.

Popular thought can be deceiving. A constant repetition of simple ideas warps new perspectives and new tools. While the mainstream excels in dulling cognition, it is the wise that need no further telescope.

The courage to believe

If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

Faith drives action. Faith drives results. Without faith, nothing works.

Indifference and pessimism are attractive because they’re the easiest to obtain, the most accessible to deploy and practice.

“Ask yourself this: would your childhood self be proud of you, or embarrassed?” — Julien Smith, The Flinch

Pursuing the good stuff requires work that’s never easy. The game of goal-setting aks for obstacles. But that’s where excitement and expectation push you forward.

Beliefs are mere guesses

Wouldn’t you prefer to cultivate courage and confidence rather than cowardice and negativity? Never blind to outcome, but never sold on the end-game of hurdles either.

Always remember that where your attention goes, your energy flows. — Kevin Horsley, Unlimited Memory

Appreciate the grind. Remaining perpetually interested should become part of your mind.

Until belief exists, action has not really begun.

Making better decisions / Better decision making

Indecision is still a decision.

Illustration by Tom Gauld

The script, the story

How many of us are just acting our way through life, adapting to different settings like chameleons?

Situational elasticity lends its hand to the collaborative truth, that people inject each other with signaling serum. We try to demonstrate to others ‘this is who I am and this what I do.’

All life is a stage, not just the internet, with many reaping the psychological benefits of expectation, even children. Studies show that pretending to be Batman helps kids persevere.

We should follow the route that builds up the most confidence. We just can’t expect a return on a relationship should we switch off and reside to impulsiveness.

The edited self is known to slip.

Hooked on artifice and spin

Twitter’s removal of millions of fake accounts reminds us that not everything is what it seems. The internet is full of bots, replicating humans, even programmed to act more human than the humans themselves.

We too are conscious automata, no more authentic than the droids themselves. People are just savvy editors. We present our best selves online to increase our self-worth make other people envious.

Artifice defeats authenticity in all chess matches of the irreality we crave.

Yet, the push to be at our best could be the resolution to our proposed mediocrity. Why shoot ourselves down when a quasi-celebrity lifestyle sits at our fingertips.

Fame happens to the mobile holder. Stuck in a ludic loop, we are the host of our own Truman Show. Attention captured, republished, and released. We’re neither superior to bots nor are we consciously behind.

The happiness curve

Behavioral economists explain why the mid-life crisis is only temporary. Happiness increases with old age.

“Life satisfaction tends to decline gradually after early adulthood, bottom out in middle age [or 40s], then gradually rebound after.”

Study: Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?

In short, life gets better after 50.

Thinking aloud in chemical synchronicity

When you can think aloud your own thoughts, you will strip the mind of its own disfluency.

The brain’s pen will be mighter than the sword.

“Protect yourself from your own thoughts.” — Rumi

At which point it’s too late.

Identifying what matters

The brain is an empty void. It waits to remember until we give things meaning. Otherwise, it clings to the instincts of the amagdyla for its main sensory perception.

Thankfully, our brains are large processors. It knows that survival depends on exchanging information with others. Information is quid pro quo.

But the problem with oral communication is all the selling. Through rhetoric and persuasion, one can rise to have incredible influence. This is, unfortunately, how we got the Kardashians. We make stupid people famous.

Modern life narrows down our perceptions. Praising others, let alone mimicking them, makes us blind to our own self-worth.

The thrill of knowing is internal. It reminds us that we are more interesting than the role society gives us. Nothing means anything if we can’t float with nature and find the question.

Managing the amygdala, the fear center of the brain


If humans didn’t have an amygdala — the two tiny almond-shaped nuclei in the temporal lobes of the brain — we wouldn’t have any fear. We wouldn’t know how to process risk, thereby letting us go hug a bear or climb the highest cliff.

But we do feel fear and in most cases, we’re smart enough to run away or not do anything as a survival tactic. The problem becomes though when fear has us running away from the very things we wish to accomplish.

As they say, do something enough and the fear dissipates. The habit of practicing public speaking reduces presentation anxiety. Shooting hoops every day will make you more confident at the free throw line come game time.

The obstacle is the way

Risk-taking helps develop courage which helps engender competence. We shouldn’t ever feel fear, but we should be able to manage its impact.

In doing anything more and more, whether it’s through risk-taking, practice, or visualization, we can dull the senses. We can take things on without thinking about them or second-guessing ourselves.

Crossing to safety

gif by Wells Baum

Home is where the heart is, but it is not where we discover what the world is about.

All reality exists in the streets, behind the shadows of a passerby.

What is artificial is the parochial nature of home.

We are blind to what we can’t see, organizing our periphery to notice and absorb what is under our control.

What remains ensconced remains enclosed, behind a wall of shallowness. People often make the mistake of accepting the reality of the world presented.

We flinch at what we don’t know. Little do we know, that discomfort leads us to the other side.

When we strive to get outside the bubble, we may come out changed.

The 2-minute exercise that could make you more successful

According to Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, it is happiness that begets success and not the other way around.

And one of the quickest ways to boost your mood is to start by sending someone a quick email every morning.

The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations. It also improves teamwork. We’ve measured the collective IQ of teams and the collective years of experience of teams but both of those metrics are trumped by social cohesion.

For a longer-term impact on happiness, Achor advises checking your attitude, sociability, and how you choose to view challenges.

Read New Harvard Research Reveals How to Be More Successful and watch Shawn’s TED Talk below

The worst kind of regret is not living up to your ‘ideal self’

Lifehacker published an interesting piece on How to avoid a life of regret:

According to psychologist Tom Gilovich, lead author on “The Ideal Road Not Taken,” published in the journal Emotion, our regrets that bother us the most involve failing to live up to our “ideal selves.” Basically, we’re not as bothered by the mistakes we’ve made or the things we ought to have done as we are bothered by never becoming the person we truly wanted to be. Gilovich explains:

“When we evaluate our lives, we think about whether we’re heading toward our ideal selves, becoming the person we’d like to be. Those are the regrets that are going to stick with you, because they are what you look at through the windshield of life. The ‘ought’ regrets are potholes on the road. Those were problems, but now they’re behind you.

The author delineates the actual self, ideal self, and the ought self in what’s called the self-discrepancy theory:

The actual self is what a person believes themselves to be now, based on current attributes and abilities. The ideal self is comprised of the attributes and abilities they’d like to possess one day—in essence, their goals, hopes, and aspirations. The ought self is who someone believes they should have been according to their obligations and responsibilities. In terms of regrets, the failure of the ought self is more “I could have done that better,” and the failure of the ideal self is more “I never became that person I wanted to become.”

So, chase your ideal self – not what you think you are, not what your peers want you to be, but what you aspire to be. You’re going to have to make the leap if you want to avoid the worst kind of regret: not trying at all.

We are a plastic society

We have become a plastic society, with celebrities (not leaders) running the world stage and ‘geniuses‘ creating culture.

While social media gives everyone a microphone, it also permits mediocrity to rise up to the professional level. When these influencers take public responsibility, they can further colonize large parts of our mind. To echo Hannah Arendt on the rise of totalitarianism, evil spreads like a fungus.

But we have a choice: we can stem the tide or turn a blind eye and do nothing.

The history books always prompt its students to ask why no one ever did anything to stop such cruelty.

And now we know why.