Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Balance your attention span

With the advent of websites such as Twitter that allow us to quickly move from one thought to the next, we lose something vital. Yes its true that in today's fast paces world we have to be able to multitask and be quick to be competitive but there is a trade off for this fast paced craziness; our attention spans are decreasing at a rapid rate.

Humans are hardwired for instant results. We want it now and this is why products geared toward fast results are in great demand. We want it all and we want it now. This is no accident either. This is an evolutionary concept that has lead to the survival of our race. In the days of the caveman, if you didn't value instant results, you died.

In today's world however, we don't have the same issues we did then. You don't have to be on your game 24/7 in order to survive. You don't have to constantly be at work in order to put food on the table. So you have a couple of choices with what to do with this excess time; you can flounder around accomplishing nothing great with your life, or you can devote yourself to being great and increasing the quality of your life. I would like to submit the idea that chasing instant results is another way of floundering around.

Almost any truly great accomplishment comes with years of planing, preparation, and hard work. If you decide to bypass this by instead chasing instant results you won't ever accomplish anything great. Even if you do get some results, they will never be as good as what you could have had. Another way of looking at this is to say that if every week you have an extra $100 after you pay for your bills and expenses, you could go right out and spend that money on something that for the moment would increase the value of your life. Something like a video game or some new clothes. However, if every time you have that money you go spend it, you will never have enough built up to do something really great and rewarding with it.

Its the paradigm of spending vs investing. Spend and get low grade immediate satisfaction, or invest it, grow it, and down the road you will be able to use what you have for something incredibly rewarding that could change the absolute true quality of your life.

So what do attention spans have to do with this? Simply put, if you train your brain to always be jumping from one thing to the next, your training it for the quick fix and therefore lowering your attention span. Great things take a lot of time and attention and if you get jittery at the idea of spending even two hours sitting down working on something, how will you ever be able to spend 5 to 10 years doing something great?

This is why I say balance your attention span. Do things that require you to be deeply involved. Read novels, take up chess, take up distance running, get a hobby, learn to draw or paint, restore a classic car, learn to program software. Just find something that you enjoy that requires deep involvement and time, and do it. Not only will it help your attention span, it will improve the quality of your life.

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