Choose What You Pay Attention To

I’ve got one of those big, round-numbered, birthdays coming up in a little under a month.

There’s been a lot of reflection leading up to it about not just what I think I think, but what I want to think about (and do!) next. There ain’t an infinite amount of time left, you know?

David Foster Wallace in his famous “This is Water” speech said the following (and nails how I’m feeling, emphasis added):

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about “teaching you how to think” is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

I’m not saying it’s the secret to a happy life, but it certainly would help avoid an unhappy one.

Pick what you do and do not pay attention to. Choose how you construct meaning from each worthy experience. And recognize if you don’t learn to control these things, they’re going to control you.

Focus. Relax a bit more too. But, focus. That’s what I’m running with.

h/t James Clear

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