Are you paying attention to what you’re paying attention to?

Are you really going where you want?

Imagine downloading a new GPS app. The first time you use it, it works as expected. Great! However, on the second journey, it takes you to an address a few blocks away from where you wanted to go. On your third trip, you find yourself miles from your intended destination.

Like any reasonable person, you’d consider this app is worthless. You’d delete it and even want to write a review on the app that warns others. After all, who would continue using the app if, on every trip, it guided you somewhere other than where you wanted to go? How could anybody possibly tolerate such a thing?

Unfortunately, the fact is, we tolerate this all the time when it comes to technologies that direct us through our informational space. We have a high tolerance for poor navigability when it comes to our attentional GPSs—those technologies that direct our thoughts, our actions, even our lives.

Think for a moment about your goals. If you’re like most people, you’re working on turning dreams and desires into actions and outcomes. You set goals for things you’ll, someday on your deathbed, regret not having accomplished.

If technology is for anything, it’s for helping us achieve our goals.

Yet technology, for all its potential, isn’t usually on our side. Our goals are not technology’s goals. Rather than supporting our deepest desires, most technology wants to grab and keep our attention—and take us where we never intended to go. It forces the urgent upon us at the neglect and sacrifice of what’s really important.

What do you pay when you pay attention?

You pay with all the things you could have attended to—but didn’t. All the goals you didn’t pursue, all the actions you didn’t take, all the possible yous you could have been.  You pay with the lives you might have lived.

Which is why knowing what’s most important to you, and paying attention to what’s most important is, well… important. In the end, you become what you pay the most attention to. So, in this sense, judgement between what is important and what is urgent is critical. The simple act of paying attention to what you’re paying attention to can take you a long way to accomplishing your goals.

Thanks to how we allow technology to use us, the distracting urgent finds you. You have to find the important. When we permit the urgent distractions to crowd out the important goals we’ll find ourselves far from where we wanted to go.