How To Change Our Environment and Stop Giving Our Attention AwayAug 16, 2022
Being constantly interrupted while trying to do something is perhaps one of the most irritating things, yet, we do that to ourselves almost all the time. Every time we escape from what we are supposed to do and jump right into mindless scrolling, doomscrolling, or binging videos, we are interrupting ourselves. We are stealing our own attention.
This week, we look closely at the consequences of having our attention stolen, whether by ourselves or by out-of-our-control things. We learn why having our attention split is irritating and can leave us feeling off for an entire day.
In addition, we learn to cherish and protect our attention, a massive component of being present and our most valuable asset. We also explore why we get addicted to giving our attention away and much more.
In This Episode, You Will Learn:
- About the moment of clarity, I had while I was doing the dishes (2:13)
- Why having our attention split is so irritating (5:14)
- Being in a half-focus state is comparable to post-COVID brain fog (9:08)
- We have the power to choose what to focus on, and we must reclaim it (11:22)
- How changing our environment and our expectations can help us regain control of our attention (14:44)
- Quote: Gary Vaynerchuk - "Attention is the most valuable asset."
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Clint Hoopes: So many of us — myself included — ride that fine line of giving our attention away to things that we would rather not give our attention to at the time, meaning we're sitting at work trying to focus on something that we have deemed as our top priority at that moment; we're focused. But yet, we don't do the little things to control our environment to ensure that our attention stays in the right place.
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This last week, I have been thinking a lot about where I give my attention. Really, during my waking hours, what am I thinking about? And this isn't a new thing, we've talked about on the podcast, I've thought about this throughout my life. But something just clicked for me this last week and I want to share it with you. You know how things just hit you a different way depending on where you are in life, or different circumstances just hit you a different way — that happened with me this week, and something just sort of clicked. I was doing the dishes, actually, and none of the kids were in the room and none of the family. I was just there putting the dishes in the dishwasher. And because no one else was there, I went ahead and put my earbuds in my ear and I was starting to listen to a book. Sometimes I’ll listen to a book or podcast. I try not to put an earbud in my hair when the kids are around — something I've been trying to work on but I'm not perfect at it — so I can stay focused with the kids. But when I'm doing the dishes or mowing the lawn or doing something like that, I'll go ahead and and put it in, once again, listen to a book or a podcast. This time I was listening to a book. And I was very interested in it. It was a great book. And as I was just doing the dishes, listening, just totally content and happy; a couple of my kids came into the room, and they asked me a little question and I answered it without even turn off the book because my hands are wet so I can't really turn off the book. And I'm still listening, and then the kids walk away and play for a second. And then they come back and ask me another question; I get a little more irritated, I’m like, “Okay, yeah.” My book is still kind of going, and they walk away. And then they come back again, and by this point, I'm like, “Okay, come on. I'm getting very frustrated, very irritated.” And they're looking at me-- I don’t think they can see the earbuds in my ear or even realise that I'm listening to something; they're just trying to talk to their dad. And it was really funny, at that point, something just clicked for me, I realized, “What am I doing? I'm listening to this book. But really, my kids are right here. And I'm getting irritated and frustrated with them when they just asked me a little question? What am I doing? How did I go that quickly from going from just being nice content and happy to irritated and frustrated?” And something I realized was that it's because my attention was split and I wasn't really focused on either thing; I was split between listening to the book and listening to my kids, and it caused almost instant irritation and frustration. It just made me start thinking about other parts of my life and my work when I experienced frustration or irritation. And it made me start thinking, “Okay, how is this related with my attention being split or not truly being present in the moment? How is it making me more irritated, more frustrated in whatever I'm doing?”
So, I've been trying to pay attention for the last week. And I'm still discovering the things that cause me this irritation, frustration, or really just give me plain resistance in whatever I'm doing. It's got me thinking, Gary Vaynerchuk — super famous marketer, businessman, speaker, podcaster, all of those things. He says, “Attention is the most valuable asset.” Now, that is something that these days isn't surprising to all of us. You've probably heard some variation of that, over the last few years, a dozen times. But several years ago, that was a newer thought because we've been giving away our attention so much more. We talk about attention as the most valuable asset. And really, that is why I believe, often we talk about paying attention, taking attention as if it's an actual thing, an actual asset that can be given or taken or paid for — we do that. Many companies — most companies, in fact — do marketing of some sort, and it is nothing more than seeking others attention, buyers attention, specifically. And we often pay for that, in terms of commercials, marketing, social media ads, or whatever it might be; we're paying for attention, while all of us in our normal lives are trying to figure out how to keep our attention on the things that are most important, most impactful in our lives.
So, just a few days after my experience with the earbuds, I was talking to my wife a little bit more about it because I've been reading some books and listening to podcasts and things that talk a little bit about attention lately because it's been on my mind, of how I can improve my attention in order to be more present in my life. And my wife — it's funny — she had said something about this; she made the connection. She was trying to research something, and she just made a decision on it. So, research, make a decision. We do a lot of those things in our lives; things we need to research, figure it out, and then make t a decision. And it's funny because she said that during a day last week, she had the same experience as me but it was spread out throughout the day. Her mind was passively thinking about this decision she needed to make, this research need to do and this decision she needed to make, and she was thinking about it all day. It kind of took over her mind. It was on her mind — literally, on her mind — all day long. She said that she felt irritated during the day. She was just feeling kind of off; “I just feel off a little bit.” As she was taking care of everything else in life, she just fell off and she didn't quite know why. And she realized as we were talking that in fact because her attention was split. She was thinking about this other thing that she wanted to do or need to research. And it occupied enough of her attention that she wasn't able to get it done, but she also wasn't able to focus on the other things in life. Until she was able to sit down, do the research, make the decision, and be done, that she felt normal again — less irritated, more patient.
So, as we kept going a little deeper, we've been talking about this and trying to figure out what do we do, because in the end, I don't want to live in this half-focus state in my life. I want to be fully present, engaged. I want to have my attention, be in the right place at the right time. And I don't want to be irritated all the time. I want to be all in and whatever I'm doing, not living in this half-focus state. Honestly, this half-focus state, I'm sure you've experienced this, but the thing I can compare it to, and this is a little more extreme of a feeling. But it made me think back to 2020, I had COVID in 2020, as many of you did, and if not 2020, other times since. And did any of you have that COVID-brain-fog effect, and I know most people that had it and fell sick had that brain fog that came. So, if you had it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. And you just fell off for several days. And that's how I was; I felt I couldn't focus clearly on anything. And I couldn't really accomplish much of anything either. Even though I felt pretty good otherwise, I just couldn't really focus on things. I was trying to work from home and, goodness gracious, it was crazy how little I could actually focus my attention. A little side note, I even said some pretty stupid things through emails that I sent to my team during that week or so. Oh, my goodness, it's actually of embarrassing to look back. I actually went back and looked through them later when my mind had cleared, I'm like, “What was I thinking?” And luckily, my team realized I was a little out of it, so they did put much talk into it.
But how would it be to live your life this way? To live your life with your attention split constantly without true focus on whatever that is, focus on your work, whatever you're working on at the time. Are you constantly distracted by other things going on? And so you have this irritation or this unease happening? Ssame at home. Do you have things that are on your mind from work still, but you're at home? You're actually there physically at home, but you're not there mentally present. We talk about being present is one thing, but a big part of being present is where your attention is. That's the big one. So, when your attention is split, it's almost like we're accepting to operate that partial brain function. It's almost like we're asking for that COVID brain fog again, where we're not operating at full capacity. And not just operating at full capacity, but operating at full capacity and then living in irritation when we have an option to change it. There's something we can do. It's within our power to make the change, just like everything we do. It's within our power to make the change. But yet, often we just sit there, we sit there in this little element of frustration and irritation when we can make the change.
So, how do you make the change? This is very specific to you in your life. We each have control over our environment; we have control over relationships in our lives; we have control over the media that we consume. And often, we find that we actually begin to get addicted to giving our attention away. We've all felt this — everything from binge watching TV to social media — it's everywhere, we know that, and we're all too aware of it these days. But yet, we still don't take the chance; even when we're aware of it, we still don't make that conscious decision to be focused where we're at.
Now, I started this whole thing off by giving an example of me listening to my earbud, reading a book via the earbud. And I'm telling you, there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong, in my opinion, of listening to a book, or listening to a great podcast, whatever it might be. But when it takes us away from what we actually want to accomplish, that's the problem. So many of us, myself included, we ride that fine line of giving our attention away to things that we would rather not give our attention to at the time, meaning we're sitting at work trying to focus on something that we deemed as our top priority at that moment — we're focused or we'd like to be focused. But yet, we don't do the little things to control our environment, to ensure that our attention stays in the right place. We let these fleeting thoughts come into our mind. And instead of just writing down the idea or whatever it is, something we look up online, something we're interested in, whatever it might be; instead of just writing it down, we instantly pull out our phone and we will will look it up or we'll scroll looking at something else, when really, we would rather do this high impact thing. But yet our actions don't match. When our attention is split, we don't think as clearly. We go for that short-term dopamine hit. We talk about that, where all too often these days, we've actually been seeking these little dopamine hits, these little times where we're getting short-term pleasure from doing these things on a phone, these little distractions. So, it allows us to wander to those other things instead of what's most impactful.
Now, I believe this is something most all of us struggle with. And the only way that I have found to improve on these things is to change my environment. Like we said, change my environment and change the expectation I have for my self. Now, there are so many fun little things we can do. I mean, even within this wonderful technology, there's all kinds of focus modes on iPhone now — heck, the ultimate focus mode is turning the phone off, which many of us can't do during the day because we do have people that are calling us for work. But if you have the ability to do that on occasion or in little spurts where you can have hyper focus, it's amazing what you can accomplish when you're all in. And not just accomplish, but what you can accomplish without the irritation. When we're focused all in, we can remove some of that frustration that comes along with our focus being split.
So, what are you going to do as you start paying attention in your life right now to whatever is at hand, pay attention to what you're doing right now and then see how you feel, see if you’re littlest irritated when you come home and you decide to put your focus completely where you're at: with your children, with your spouse. Whatever you're doing, be all-in and give your full attention, and see if you're not just a little more patient, a little less irritated. I know that sometimes when I'm putting the kids to bed, I get so frustrated sometimes with “Oh, man! We gotta do a little faster, little faster.” I have in my mind, I'm already focused on this thing I'm going to do after I get them to bed, whatever it might be, whether that's reading a book, watching a show; I just want to get done and move on. When, really, if I was just present, it won't take any more time to just be present and give my full attention to the children. The other stuff will be there when I'm done. I have found that — wow — the irritation begins to drip away and melt away. Now, is that perfect every time? No. Kids get crazy; they cause chaos; they fight with each other; they can make things frustrated — that happens, but man, I find when I give my attention fully, I'm just a little more patient, I see them just a little more clearly. I see my place and my purpose, what I want to accomplish, the father I want to be, all of those things — I see it just a little more clearly when my attention is fully in the place where I am on what I'm doing at the time.
So, what are you going to do? Where are you going to pay a little more attention at work and at home? Consider and let me know. I would love to know where you improve your attention in your life. You got this. Now, you can go be the Unrivaled Man in your life.