Your Life Follows Your Attention
In the 1970’s, I grew up in central Florida in a west coast county. It was Americana: lower to middle-class families, hardworking, God fearing, and generally conservative. However, it also was a corridor for drug smuggling. Mostly marijuana, but cocaine and other drugs passed through the area too.
In many ways, everyone living there became part of the drug culture whether we wanted to be or not. Much of the legitimate businesses were supported by the influx of cash from the sale of drugs. Others were outright money-laundering schemes. It was no big secret who some of the major players in the drug biz were…many were my neighbors.
As a matter of fact, I was related to one of them. His lifestyle seemed cool and free. And, he didn’t struggle with money, unlike the money tensions in my house. I wouldn’t say I idolized him, but I definitely admired him.
Following The Path
After high school, I was adrift with no direction. I gave junior college a go, but my 1.6 GPA got me put on academic probation and eventually suspended. Who flunks out of community college? Well, I flunked out of three of them. I could not focus long enough to study. Eventually, I flat wouldn’t go to class. Other things were much more interesting, like making money and chasing a cooler lifestyle.
So after a half dozen minimum-wage, ass-breaking jobs, I began to dabble in the biz. At first, I grew marijuana. That led to dealing a few pounds here and there, which led to trunk loads. Then, I graduated to kilos of cocaine. Five years of that…and then federal prison. Yep, I landed a stint in Club Fed!
Bottom line is our lives are the way they are because we are the way we are. We end up the way we are because we place and hold our attention on the things that make us that way. Just as I put my attention on people who were living a lifestyle I wanted to live, or at least thought so at the time, so my life followed. The direction of my attention led to my success…in the wrong business.
Simple yet profound
A change in attention is a change in life. That sounds simple but its profound in impact. Had my attention been more attracted to let’s say learning, then it’s possible that my life would have unfolded much differently. Our attention is the captain of our ship. Whatever we place it on consistently, in due time, will be become our life.
Ironically while in prison, my attention shifted. I became an avid reader. In fact, I began a bachelor’s program in the joint. When released, I entered another bachelor’s/master’s program in Traditional Chinese Medicine and graduated with a 3.39 GPA while running a full-time business. Currently, I’m enrolled in a Ph.D. program.
Now, I love to read and learn. During high school, I don’t recall reading one book from front to back. Today, I can read a book a day for some stretches. All of this from a guy who flunked out of three community colleges. What a difference the direction of attention can make.
It sounds simple, but I admit it’s not easy. Nor did my change happen all at once. Every day I put my attention on more ideal things. Some days feel like a struggle, others not so much. You can do it too.
A key to maintaining a fixed attention is to find something you are passionate about. When we are passionate about something, we develop a type of obsession with it. A passionate obsession makes it easier to stay on point. Just make sure that your passionate obsession is healthy and ideal.
Here is one of my tried and true methods for change based on asking tough questions. Try this process:
1. Start paying attention to your inner thoughts and feeling states.
2. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m paying attention to ideal for my life?”
3. If so, give it more attention. If not, create something more ideal and give that your attention.
4. Keep putting your attention on the ideal thing.
Remember, your life follows your attention. It’s natural. So place your attention on the best!