Paying for Attention

Who do some of the people who are interested in personal development often set ambitious goals for and then become internally driven to achieve them? I reckon it’s because they’re believers in the ‘SMART’ paradigm of specifying what you want and then systematically taking action towards it. A very useful trait in the “game of life”.


Of course, achieving major, life-changing goals usually requires a sustained focus on both the vision and on attending to all those little tasks and issues that come with the territory.

“Aint no traffic jam on that extra mile.”




These are some of the signposts to success… or at least, for what we know as goal-oriented success.

And while this approach has been proven to work, it also comes with an implicit cost:

A payment for attention.

The payment of attention currency can be ongoing and relentless, especially when there is a compulsive need to succeed and not to be seen to fail. For many people it means deciding to apply a focussed and narrowed attention to deal with an almost endless series of tasks, dependencies and unanticipated crises.

However, this can be exhausting. Most people, perhaps all of us, have only a limited amount of time, energy and resources to spend before something has to give.

No doubt that’s why people seek to balance high intensity goal-driven activities with a combination of relaxation time, absorbing hobbies, good friends and pleasant experiences. (I’m leaving out self-destructive escapism such as alcohol or drug abuse etc…)

In the ‘just five rules’ self-coaching model, three of the rules are oriented to an attention focused approach:

  • Rule 1: Take Action
  • Rule 2: Follow a proven plan
  • Rule 3: Focus on one thing at a time

However, rules 4 and 5 leave open the door to a wider perspective – “let time go lightly” and “find games worth playing” , respectively.

One interesting approach to handling this attention cost is that of Dr. Les Fehmi, with his ‘Open Focus / Brain Synchrony‘ research, and its application in a clinical setting.

Taking multiple modes of attention and becoming more competent in observing while they ‘fire’ in tandem is something worth checking out. For self-coachers I think that this is akin to finding the holy grail of relaxed and focused awareness.

Check out this introduction to the Open Focus Approach (OFA) training exercises.

There are also a number of YouTube videos that explain OFA and the principles behind it.

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