The Whole Point…:Part 4

The Carrot over the Stick

I can't stop paying attention to this man's ears. Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

So, after not paying any attention to my blog for the last few weeks, I’m back to post about something very important.  Attention.

Attend your ideal.

We’ve already covered the personalization of goals and how you need to have in your mind the picture of your best self that you want to actualize.  If you haven’t read the first three parts, you may want to start with Part 1.

But now we need to get to the gas that’s going to drive that car down the road.  Of course if you haven’t gotten the right direction or the right driver, you might just take it right off a cliff, so that your ideal part is pretty important to start with.

Everybody knows what attention is, but nobody pays attention to it.  The main reason for that is that people assume that they are really good at paying attention.  We assume we will remember everything we will need to pay attention to at just the right time, but that really just isn’t the case. In fact, our attention is dangerously weak in certain cases, as is evidenced by the need for cell phone use while driving laws. You may disagree with the need for these laws, but the research indubitably shows that the effects of talking on the phone while driving are nearly as bad as driving drunk. On the other hand.

A sign along Bellaire Boulevard in Southside P...

Get distracted trying to read this sign, not by talking on the phone.

But I don’t really want to talk about how bad our attention is, rather I want to talk about how good we are at paying attention to certain things. For example, you would find it very easy to pay attention to me if I stood in front of you and yelled in your face to pay attention to me. You would also find it very easy to pay attention to your feelings of hunger if you hadn’t eaten in two days. These two are examples of external and internal triggers for attention. (I’m simplifying quite a bit here, as people who have taken at least an introductory Sensation and Perception class would know.)

External triggers include things like shiny, moving, distinctive, or loud objects like…Snooki. Internal triggers involve need states such as hunger, uncomfortable temperatures, lust, or poopy in the pants like…no, I won’t go there. Internal triggers can also include cognitions or thoughts. If I’m thinking about cars, that may trigger me to remember that I need to get my oil changed.

So we have our personalized ideal state, as we talked about in the first part of this particular series. How do we focus our attention on that? We do that by using internal and external triggers to constantly bring us back to that ideal through planning and execution.

Planning makes use of internal triggers. When we plan, we focus on the ideal, what it means, looks like, feels like, and is. When we plan, we are making decisions for the future, so when we are in that future, we have an easier time choosing the productive, valued option.

Execution is the external realization and implementation of the plan. Execution is calendars and to-do lists, which are directly controlled external triggers. “Do this now, do this later, do this when near a phone, and do this the next time you are at a computer.”

The point of this series has been to say that success is actually quite simple. One hard part is avoiding what Drew Rozell calls “The Big Lie,” (yes, he even capitalizes it), which is the idea that you should be what everyone else should be to be happy. Another hard part is moving in that direction once you know what that direction is. More on that later.

While you’re moving, feel free to comment on this post or any others here or on my new blog with Neuropsychologist Ed Schicatano, TwoPsychologistsWalkIntoABlog.com.

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