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Why Attention Is The Only Skill You Really Need

We tend to think of time as something that is free. The question “could I have a minute” is often answered without thinking. “Sure, have 10”! However, all of us only possess a very limited amount of time. “Lost time is never found again”, as Benjamin Franklin once said. Time is a very limited asset, and none of us know just how much of it we will have.

Time by itself does not carry any value either! All of us have known moments where we didn’t know what to do with the damned stuff. Did you ever say: “I wish this day were over”?

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Shadow of time by Aarrti Zaveri

Modern man thinks he loses something – time – when he does not do things quickly. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains, except kill it.

Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving

There is only one thing that makes even time worthwhile. And that one thing is attention. It doesn’t matter if you were feeling ecstatic, crying on the floor or screaming your guts out. Paying attention is what makes life worth living.

This led me to formulate my golden rule: whatever you give attention, grows. 

Do I give attention to one of my friends? Our friendship deepens. Do I give attention to my partner? Our love spreads. Do I give attention to self-pity? My sense that I’m a sorry sack of shit gets bigger. Whatever I give attention, grows… Good and bad, regardless.

Growth by Emily Bleske

The direction that our life takes, depends on what we pay attention to. And our ability to direct your attention depends fully on the extent to which we can manage to cultivate focus and concentration. Without being able to direct our attention, without being able to steer our focus and stay concentrated on whatever we are focusing on, we are not in control of the direction that our lives take.

Nevertheless, we lose attention constantly. We distract ourselves because becoming aware, cultivating focus and concentration, is not a comfortable process. It requires strength. It requires us to slow down and look into ourselves. The only way to cultivate focus and concentration is to spend time submerged in focus and concentration.

Street sign art by April Soetarman

To cultivate focus and concentration is to practice acceptance. To realize just how vulnerable the tiny bit of sacred attention is that we can bring into our day to day life. It is to realize that we have to treat ourselves like the gentle little flower that we are and to not accept anything less from the people that are close to us. Your attention is sacred. You need and deserve these quiet, undistracted moments where it’s just me, myself and I. And you are the only one who can give this to yourself.

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