“By focusing your energy to make as many of your decisions as consciously as possible, you will maximize your ability to pursue your passions and purpose and create positive change.”
~ JV Crum III
Humans have a special superpower that often remains unclaimed — where our attention goes, energy follows. Another way of saying it is “Where attention goes, energy flows.”
Consciously choosing where attention goes is a profound accomplishment, because where we place our attention is where we invest energy — and it is our directed energy that has the capacity to manifest our experience of life, for better or worse. Our attention and energy are the lifeblood of media, technology, material consumption, and social institutions. When you think of money as an energetic resource, external demands for attention suddenly have a material motive. Some even say that we live in an “attention-based economy.”
Is it any wonder that almost everything in reality fiercely competes for our attention, thus our energy? Make no mistake — our attention and awareness are every bit as precious as our financial resources.
What if creating the experiences we prefer was as simple as deliberately choosing where to place our attention? The question to ask ourselves is, “Am I investing my precious attention and energy into that which nurtures and supports me? That which causes me to thrive?”
Technology: The Great Eater of Attention
In Indo-Buddhist mythology, there is a magical sea creature, the makara, part alligator, part dragon, that consumes everything in its path. Tech makaras (think cell phones, devices and computers) will happily consume our full awareness, conditioning us to sacrifice our precious superpower to our technology fascination, forfeiting conscious choice.
But it’s a paradox — beyond dualistic right and wrong, technology is a required tool for livelihood and communication — many would be professionally handicapped by being “offline.” We want to be in touch with our families and friends; we want navigation and GPS — we want the useful tools tech offers.
So in our time and culture, technology is a given — but rather than fight with ourselves and our devices, we can make the choice to regain sovereignty over technology and ownership of our attention superpower.
Begin by considering this: If you invested 20 percent less disposable energy and attention in technology, where might you redirect your awareness? What would it look like if you increased self-care, meditation, or activities that bring joy and delight, by 20 percent? If you had a 20 percent increase of conscious awareness, would you better be able to listen to the intuitive voice within? Allow yourself to ponder the possibilities…how would your life change?
If this inspires you, begin by noticing when you unconsciously reach for a device. Sometimes we use tech to avoid uncomfortable feelings or concerns. You may look at email or surf rather than deal with a nagging concern, but what’s significant is that your action is a conscious choice rather than an unconscious reaction. Can you begin to build the habit of waking to choice every time you check for texts or emails?
Build a “triage” habit with messages or texts. This means evaluating the urgency of the message — is an immediate response absolutely necessary, or is the message just social chatter? Indeed, there are urgent messages requiring immediate action, but train yourself to mentally sort communications into “now,” “soon,” and “later” categories.
Texting and instant messaging have their own assumed etiquette — if you’re concerned about appearing “rude” by not instantly responding to bids for your attention, give your circle a ‘heads up’ that you’re experimenting with some tech management techniques, and you’ll be taking occasional short breaks from your devices. Reassure them that you have no intention of ignoring them; you just might not respond immediately.
Overcoming Tech Conditioning
A 19th century Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, trained dogs to salivate when he rang a bell. This phenomenon became known as “Pavlovian Conditioning” — when specific stimulus entrained behavioral or physical responses.
Technology and UX (user experience) designers are aware of the fact that tech users can be entrained to automatically respond to specific cues such as sounds and vibrations. But rather than being Pavlov’s tech dogs, we can manage the stimulus we receive from our devices and allow ourselves to choose how we respond.
Technology and UX (user experience) designers are aware of the fact that tech users can be entrained to automatically respond to specific cues such as sounds and vibrations.
Changing notification tones is the way to step out of Pavlovian conditioning — when the same tone is set for long periods of time, we become neurologically entrained, like Pavlov’s dogs, to respond before we can “triage” the message. To override this conditioning, try assigning different tones for different functions — work tones, friend tones, and tones for messages not in your contact list if possible. This tactic pulls us out of our entrained responses and allows us to make conscious choices on the spot.
If you apply these simple tactics you’ll begin psychological, emotional and neurological untethering to your devices, and make a giant step toward recovering attention and energy, your most precious super powers. See what happens when you do.