Guard Your Attention: We're Not Hunter-Gatherers Anymore

My grandmother had piles and piles of magazines around her house she planned to read one day. Knee high sky scrapers representing an ambitious plan to digest all the things one might need to understand.

Almost everyone I know has at least 10 tabs open in their internet browser at all times. Mostly articles and posts about time management or personal development they intend to peruse...if only they could learn how to mange their time.

There's a lot coming at us. If we're not careful we begin to believe it's our responsibility to catch all the content coming our way. There is so much to read and absorb and implement that one could make a full time job out of simply paying attention.

This borderline obsession with gathering resources is often rooted in a desire to grow and learn - which is a good thing - but if we're not mindful, we soon find ourselves up to our necks in seemingly innocent blog posts and master classes and before we know it we’re:

  • Confusing activity with forward progress

  • Mistaking being occupied with developing oneself

  • Speeding past seeing what we need to see on to taking more than we need to take

  • Thinking busyness and productivity are the same things

  • Not minding the fine line between being observant and being obsessive

  • Believing the next article will finally give us the clarity we need to be fulfilled

  • Failing to recognize that information in does not magically allow us to make quality contributions

  • Waiting to act because we haven’t gathered the right facts or encountered the right wisdom just yet

Many of us say we merely skim the content that interests us and hardly read a fraction of the emails and notifications we receive. But all this content is more insidious than we want to believe. It stays with us, lodged in our subconscious like ticks on a hound dog. As we navigate our days the more we ingest, the fuzzier our priorities become. All this information is zapping our energy to focus on what matters and costing our brains valuable decision making steam.

We are not hunter-gatherers anymore. Our survival is not dependent upon our ability to discover the next great deal or stay up to date on people's lives. For us to flourish and thrive we must gain clarity on what is most important to us, protect our attention for those things and people that matter most, and be vigilant about the finite resource of focus.

We're not adding value when we pay attention, we're adding value when we guard it. The measure of one's day is no longer how much they can discover and accumulate, but how much they can recover and invest.

Reading, learning, and digesting new information is great for growth. But real growth and transformation - the things we all really want - come when when we're quiet, when we let those seeds we've planted germinate, and when we trust ourselves to take what we've learned and make it the rest of the way on our own.