What Deserves Your Attention?

Photo by Gilles Lambert via Unsplash

Photo by Gilles Lambert via Unsplash

Everything wants your attention, but what deserves your attention?

Everything in today’s world wants our eyeballs.

The news makes us all terrified.
Social media makes us afraid that we’re missing out.
Another inflamed argument on Facebook grabs your attention.

This is a never-ending loop we all fall into: reading things that don’t enhance our lives.

Sure, it’s important to stay informed on the world and what’s happening, but when it is during a time you should be working, it’s only a negative.

Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness made a great post about this topic, and it’s something I haven’t stopped thinking about since reading it.

After working for a few years in marketing, I have intimate knowledge of how companies go the extra mile to get our attention.

It’s debatable how ethical some of the ways are, but the main thing to know is that they’re doing it all the time.

I get it, companies need to make sales.

However, you need to be just as tough with your time as they are with their tactics.

Of course Facebook wants you on their site 24/7.
Of course ads are meant to be ridiculous to get your attention.
Of course Tinder wants you to be on there swiping your thumbs off instead of actually out in the world meeting people face to face.

What deserves your attention?

That’s the big question: Which of these things deserve your attention?

That’s what I’ve asked myself when I find myself deep in something that has my attention.

Will this distraction contribute to your legacy?

Nothing comes before your legacy work

Whatever it is you want to be known for and contribute to society, there is nothing in the world more important than that.

I always remember that humans have survived an incredibly long time before now without the internet and without these distractions. So, no, that article is probably not going to change my life.

(But keep checking in on this blog, please. 🙂 )

Nothing comes before your goals this year

If you’ve planned out your year (I have post on this: here), then you already know what needs to be done.

You know what you need to focus on this month, this week, this day, and this hour.

Keep those goals next to your computer at all times so you stay focused on what matters.

Side note: If you need more tips on staying focused when you’re online, here’s a great post from the Art of Manliness on setting up systems to make it happen.

Does it actually contribute to your life?

There’s an argument to be made for doing activities that make you happy.

Maybe you have a favorite YouTuber, TV show, book, or group of friends you love to hang out with.

You should absolutely include those things in your life (only after you finish your work).

However, we all also make too much time for the things that don’t make us happy.

  • Checking in on people on social media that we don’t care about.
  • Reading news articles that have a clear bias and are out to make you intentionally angry (aka every single political article in America this year).
  • Seeing what your ex is up to on Instagram.
  • Feeding the rage machine online.
  • Consuming useless content that provides no actual value.
  • Hanging out with people you can’t stand.

All of those things need to be deleted from your life as often as possible

None of those deserve your attention, not now and not ever.

Every time you find yourself distracted, pull yourself back to what matters and remind yourself WHY you want the goals you want.

Stay focused.

Advertisements

Live A Life Defined By Your Own Values

While stress is rampant among today’s society, particularly among today’s youth, everyone wants to point at technology.

It’s understandable, since my phone and e-mail seem to always be buzzing, but there’s another theory I’ve been thinking about that causes so much stress:

Living life outside of our values.

It’s not a flashy idea, but everyone has internal values they live by, whether they have taken the time to reflect on them or not.

Some examples:

  • Maybe you truly value a life of minimalism, but you can’t stop buying things. The stress then builds on your life because your heart wants less clutter but your home doesn’t give you that peace.
  • Maybe you value adventure, but your daily grind without a single break to get outside is wearing you down.
  • Maybe you value being self-reliant, and having to borrow from your parents is eating away at your self-worth.
  • Maybe you value your health, but you can’t stop drinking soda when you’re at work.
  • Maybe you value the strenuous life, and your comfortable living is clashing with your internal feelings.

While the modern living is stressful with all the new demands we never had in the past, the real stress comes from not harnessing this new technology to get us closer to what we value.

Instead, we constantly distract ourselves from what we care about and convince ourselves that it is everything we need.

We all value different things, that’s why there is no one lifestyle that is perfect for everyone, even though every “guru” out there tries to sell you something otherwise.

Yes, stress is a good thing every now and then. Stress of exercising your body, striving for your goals, asking someone on a date, but that’s a much different kind of stress than living a life outside of what we value.

A life outside of what we value is one that wears away at the soul. It’s a stress that will kill your spirit and make you feel empty inside.

Actually, science has determined a name for the different kinds of stress: eustress and distress. One is good, and one is bad.

We want more of the good stress and less of the bad stress.

Here’s how to get your life back on track:

1. Take the time to determine your values.

The Art of Manliness has an incredible post on how to take the time to find your values.

What I did was find a notebook and write down every time something made me feel irritated. I found a few common themes: eating food I knew was bad for my system, skipping a workout, buying cheap goods made in China, having too much clutter, not making any progress on my main goals… All of those made me feel irritated.

Yes, it will feel weird to have a notebook of complaints for a month, but this is valuable in order to determine what you actually care about. You’ll be able to tally up certain things to find the real underlying values that guide your life and why you feel so stressed.

2. Calculate how you’re going to live your values.

This is the hard step. You’re going to have to change parts of your life that might feel hard to change.

A relationship might have to go, you might have to cancel that online gaming account, you might have to start changing your career. Just make sure to start with one value at a time. Start with the easiest one first if it’s a huge change.

You might have years, or even decades, of living a life outside of what you truly value so give yourself the time to make slow steps toward what matters.

3. List your basic rules.

There will be a set of minimum rules you will not break at any cost.

Some examples include:

  • No phone at bed time.
  • No video games until all your work is done.
  • You will not sleep until you have done 100 squats.
  • You will not cheat on your spouse.
  • You will do something adventurous every month.
  • You will donate one box a week.
  • You will play outside with your kids 3x/week.

Understand some weeks will be better than others, but if you have a simple list of rules you follow, it will make life so much easier. It will also make your weekly planning much easier (A series on weekly planning is coming!).

4. Stay focused on what matters.

Don’t fall back into the trap of superficial distractions.

Sometimes we feel unnecessarily irritated and it’s important to let that feeling sink in until you find the root cause of the feeling.

Modern life makes it all too easy to distract ourselves when we’re feeling bad. There’s all kinds of stimulation to keep us busy and away from what we’re really feeling.

Benjamin Franklin is known for tracking his virtues in a chart:

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.46.12 AM

(Virtues and values aren’t exactly the same thing, but hopefully you get my point.)

This might be something worth doing yourself as well. Tracking each day whether you were closer to a life you value or when you made choices that didn’t help.

Welcome Your Struggles

Most of us are taught that life is better when we have less struggles, but I’ve learned over the past few years that embracing our struggles is important to living a fulfilling life.

I have found that the more we avoid our problems, the more we struggle when we encounter them.

There is a mental difference between:
“Oh no, not another problem.”
and
“Ah! A problem! Yes! Come here so I can solve you.”

It is within challenges where we meet our own weaknesses.

When I am meeting the weaker parts of myself I feel the tension between who I am and who I want to be.

When I feel myself wanting to quit, to throw in the towel, to abandon a project simply because it is getting harder, that is where I get to see my own faults.

The past few years have been testing me.

There always seems to be roadblocks and hurdles to what I’m trying to accomplish, and I know many people feel the same way about their lives, too. It feels like running uphill without ever hitting at least a plateau.

I thought at a certain point, life would get easier.

“When I moved here…”
“When I get this job…”
“When I graduated college…”
“When I started my own business…”

With each new venture, there always seems to be more hurdles, but with each hurdle I get to see where I have a chance to strengthen. I have another chance to prove to myself that I can do something I never thought possible.

I know who I want to be. I know what I want. If I quit, I won’t ever get to where I want to be. I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering “What if?”.

(In case you didn’t know, the “What if?” question is one of the mental layers of hell, so keep yourself as far away from that as possible.)

When you find yourself stuck, ask yourself if beating this hurdle will get you closer to where you want to be.

If the answer is no, then that’s up to you to keep going or not.

If the answer is yes, then prepare for war and go win.

Don’t Be Defined By What You OWN, Be Defined By What You DO

Far too many people define themselves by the things they own instead of by the things they do.

They have an iPad, but they can’t tell you their most recent career accomplishment.
They flash their new Nike’s all over the place, but they never even use them to run.
They walk around with the newest Android but never use it for anything except Instagram and texting.

I know I am guilty of these things too, we all are, but we must demand better from ourselves.

Most people have been conditioned to believe that if you buy nice things you are a person of value. Obviously, we are learning as time goes on that this is simply no longer true.

What we now see are these hollow human beings walking around trying to impress each other with the newest and latest gadget to come out on the market all while feeling empty and hollow on the inside.

They feel some temporary rush of excitement and then realize that none of these items will ever bring true fulfillment… and to top it off, most people charge their important things to their credit cards so not only do they feel worse about themselves, but now they have to pay more for the item than it was originally worth. Credit card debt doesn’t make anyone feel better about themselves, especially when it is used for things that don’t even make us fulfilled.

When I reflect on the most impressive people in my life, it sure isn’t the one with the nicest things. It is the people who are always there for me when I need them. The ones who go the extra mile in every avenue of their lives. The ones who have impeccable integrity. The ones who seem genuinely happy.

You don’t have to go and throw away everything you own, although minimalism has its benefits, but be a person so full of character and integrity that no one around you even notices the things you do or don’t have.

Be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t brag about them, let your work speak for itself instead.