Attention Priority: your brain is like a lava lamp

Given the limits to our attention and the high competition for that attention by many things in our day to day life, the brain has a process whereby it cycles through high demand priorities. We call this attention priority, a mind process where the most pressing attentional needs rise to the top, much like the way blobs of lava rise and fall in a lava lamp. Once the demand decreases, that issue ‘cools’ and falls out of our attention awareness. If left to its own device, the mind will be cycling through a range of attention priorities depending on you habits, needs and desires.

There is a high energy cost to holding things out of this natural cycle – like paying attention to a speaker for more than thirty minutes – and the attention priority cycle will sneak back in whenever it can. We notice, in presenting workshops for instance, that if the temperature of the room becomes uncomfortably cool, the need of being comfortable rises above attending to us in terms of attention.

The thing is, while you remain unaware of this, you are largely unable to harness the incredible power of this process. You are slave to your habits, needs and desires. We even have our rational brain keep this state in play for us with justifying statements like “I don’t have the time to do this right now”. In fact, if you have ever stopped to think about this statement, a common one when we are faced with things we’d rather not do, why is it that some people find the time to do the tough things, and others do not? We all have the same amount of time – it is just that some of us do not prioritise in the same way.

There are a number of deliberate and intentional ‘tricks’ that are used to construct a different attention priority than our habits, needs and wants would have. Tricks such as affirmations and goals, for instance, allow us to hold at the top, in spite of the habituated priorities, new priorities that without effort would fall back to the bottom of the pile. Do this once – say by writing down your goals for the year – and for a while your brain can hold this as an attention priority. Soon, however, the energy cost of holding these goals at the ‘top of mind’ allows other needs, wants and habits to resume the cycle.

The best way that you can harness attention priority is to wire your preferred future into desires, needs and habits. Do this with intention by:

  • Speaking to as many people as you can around your passion, goals and future
  • Writing and reading your goals on a daily basis
  • Affirming daily the future you wish to create
  • Reading as much as you can in your niche or field …
  • … then writing and speaking from your learning and perspective
  • Increase your scope of absorption by being in the best mind state – the Blue Zone.

Next time you catch yourself saying “I don’t have the time to do that” reframe it into “it is not a priority for me right now” (because, simply, it is not). Check on your emotional energy when you reframe – things that should be a higher priority will let you know!

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