What do the following situations have in common? Losing one’s reading glasses a few times a day? Or obsessing over a past disappointment. They both involve attention: either not paying enough attention or paying too much.
Not paying attention is a more serious problem than we might realize. According to a 2015 Microsoft study, our “digital lifestyle has made it difficult for us to stay focused, with the human attention span shortening from 12 seconds to eight seconds in more than a decade.” Worse, the eight-second span is
The researchers recommended drinking more water and exercising as ways to increase our attention spans. The goldfish has the same recommendations.
The one thing we can be counted on to play close attention to is ourselves. Gregg Krech, co-founder of the ToDo Institute, says we’re very good at attending to “my thoughts, my feelings, my problems, my conduct, my convenience, and my aches and pains.”
Recently, I decided to get out of the house more, experience new things, even if only for an hour, and see friends more often. My motives aren’t pure. I’ve been experiencing shoulder pain for months. The pain wears me down and it’s easy to feel sorry for myself. I haven’t given up on resolving the problem, but meanwhile I also know that when I pay attention to others, take a walk in a new setting, see a new work of art, and hear a speaker on a topic I’m unfamiliar with, I have moments where I forget the pain. And these activities are a good reminder that there is a big world out there beyond me.
As far as remembering where I last set down my glasses, I’m not sure I can do any better than the goldfish.