Monday, January 11, 2016

Directing your attention in a more conscious manner

I refuse to read a book without a pen in my hand. 

For several reasons. 

First, because that’s the way my brain works. Reading and writing are one in the same. I don’t differentiate between the two. Each are crucial activities on the same spectrum of creative thinking. You inhale, you exhale. You consume, you create. 

Secondly, because if you don’t write it down, it never happened. Innovation is a function of documentation. And since my livelihood is determined by the quantity and quality of my thoughts, I can’t afford to let any ideas, good or bad, to escape my grasp. 

Finally, I read with a pen because reading is a daily practice of directing attention in a conscious manner. It’s a meditation. A frame for thinking about information. Without the pen, I’m just daydreaming. 

Debono’s book on framing attention makes a fascinating point about this very issue. He suggests that instead of waiting for attention to be pulled towards something unusual, we can set out frameworks for directing it. Like reading with a pen, for example. It’s not so much that the note taking that is valuable, he says, but knowing that you will have to note something makes you read the book much more carefully and with greater attention to what might be of interest. 

That’s how human perception works. It’s basic cognitive bias. Expectation determines outcome. We see what we are prepared to see. The question is, where else in your life are you reading without a pen? Which other activities might benefit from directing your attention in a more conscious manner? 

I recently sustained a minor groin strain. Nothing that required official medical attention, just my own personal attention during physical activities. It’s uncomfortable at times, but the advantage is, having an injury forces me to practice yoga and perform music and walk through the world with more focused attention on that particular part of my body. 

And that keeps me present, makes me feel alive and challenges me to engage other muscles I might otherwise ignore. 


Where are you still reading without a pen?

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Scott Ginsberg
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