You’re worth a fortune

The most valuable commodity in the world today is not what you think it is.

It’s not bitcoin, gold, oil or even wind. Believe it or not, it’s your attention.

The attention economy is the subject of volumes of research as everybody tries to battle for yours. Take the world of retail for example, your attention is big business. Over the years how companies try to capture attention has changed, because where we steer our eyes has shifted.

Instead of blasting ads on TV hoping the right person will see it, today marketers are much more nuanced, preferring to capture the attention of their audience by spending on media they know their target audience is using. Social media has been the obvious catalyst here.

But while our viewing habits may have evolved, the capacity for expanding the amount of stuff our brain can absorb has not.

So let me go all basic economics on you for a minute – if companies know we can’t absorb more, but they also know there’s more and more products out there competing for our attention, then in terms of supply and demand –  they understand there’s a huge demand for our attention but a limited supply of it. And when there’s huge demand for anything of which there is limited supply, the value of the commodity surges upwards.

Are you getting it yet? Your attention is worth a fortune! So this begs the question – are you getting a decent return on where you’re investing your attention? My hunch, because this is my experience, is that some places and people offer a far better rate of return than others.

The direction of your attention is important and deeply so. Your attention directs your focus towards one thing and away from another thing at the same time. This means you only get one chance, in any given moment, to fix your attention, so you’d better make it worth your while. Here’s why:

Kare Anderson, writing about this stated, “whatever you pay attention to – or not – has a huge effect on how you see the world and feel about it.” (Harvard Business Review, ‘What Captures your attention controls your life’ 2012).

Let me put it another way – ‘whatever, or whoever, has your attention in any given moment, has your heart.’ Are we really willing to give away the deepest part of who we are unless we know what’s coming back will add value to our life and the lives of those dearest to us?

Companies want you to see their stuff, feel bonded to it and be compelled to spend your hard earned on what they’re selling. Or take your social media faves, waist deep in complex algorithms that predict your online patterns with alarming accuracy. They find ever more ways to release a dopamine flood every time you reach for your phone. More negatively, psychologists the world over, spend time with legions of broken hearts beating within grown up chests who’re trying to live normally with the scars of infant neglect.

There’s a war on for your attention: ‘who demands it v who gets it’ describes it pretty fairly. Not everyone who demands it gets it, while some who get our attention have no right to have it.

For example, a recent study by executives in Disney wanted to understand what exactly captured the attention of young children as they enjoyed their time in Disney resorts. The result of the study surprised them as it will you. It turns out the thing that captured the attention of most young children in Disney Resorts wasn’t Mickey or Minnie, rather it was Mummy and Daddy, especially when mummy and daddy were giving their attention to their phones and not their kids. Clearly, those who were demanding it (the kids) weren’t getting it and those who were getting the attention of mummy and daddy (the phones), had no right to have it.

Perhaps however,  there’s another way to frame the war that might help you make better attention ‘investment’ choices that will build and bless your whole world. It’s a simple shift but one that could make all the difference.

What if we described the war this way – ‘who should demand our attention v who should get our attention.’ By asking these questions we are encouraged to pause, think and reflect: will where/what/who I’m giving my most valuable resource to add value to my life and those nearest to me?

There are people and places who have your attention but have no right to it and there are people and places who should have your attention but they don’t. Yet if you consistently ask these questions you’ll soon be on the road to a very different life.

Old mistakes and failures have no right to your attention, your future does.

Your family deserves your undivided attention but regular seventy two hour working weeks do not.

Romance and intimacy with your significant other requires your attention however, scrolling in the dark does not.

Fear has no right to your prolonged focus, but faith does. And I think giving your attention to faith fuels every other good thing you should give your attention to.

There’s a verse in the New Testament that’s set in a context of distraction. The writer encourages the reader to shoot their focus away from lesser things onto the greatest thing of all. Here’s what he recommends:

Let us fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…,’ Hebrews 12 v 2. The word ‘fix’ in the original verbiage means to ‘fasten’ or ‘glue.’ I think it’s fair enough to guess where the author wants you to have your attention.

But why on Jesus? Why not give your attention to his words and sayings? After all the world still recites some of his best stuff, ’do onto others,’ for example. Or what if you gave your attention to the way he lived his life. Jesus was kind and compassionate to everybody, so surely it’s enough for you to be a bit more loving? But why does the writer insist the object of your attention to be ON Jesus?

Have you enough attention for another verse? Here it is:

I am the way, the truth and the life,’ John 14 v 6.

This verse may already be familiar to you, but it’s possible to miss the force of what Jesus is saying.

No doubt confirming his credentials for obtaining access to God, Jesus is going further and shores up the reasons why we should give him our attention.

Calling himself the way, Jesus not only gives you advice and direction, he takes you by the hand and leads you every step of the way. Jesus doesn’t so much invite you to follow his teaching, as he invites you to follow him. Giving your attention to Jesus means you’re finally going somewhere.

Theologian William Barclay says, “No teacher has ever embodied the truth he taught,” (Barclay, W, The Daily Bible Study, The St Andrews Press, 1985, pg 158). You can teach what is true about something, yet still fail to live up to the fullest standards of your teaching in your daily life. But not Jesus. Jesus completely personified the truth he taught. So when you give your attention to Jesus – and remember ‘that whatever you pay attention to – or not – has a huge effect on how you see the world and feel about it,’ – you are effected by truth. Truth without agenda, angle or bias. Imagine seeing clearly and feeling fully? Imagine it!

And what about Jesus being ‘the life’? Well, you’ve said it and I’ve said it, “This is the life!” Usually the travelling is over, the luggage is unpacked and we’re lying flat out, eyes closed, our skin enveloped with summer heat and our minds emptying to the rhythm of gentle, silky waves not too far away. And in those moments, it really feels like ‘the life.’ You should have more of them. But within a fortnight, you’re home and it’s back to normal and your quest continues for a cure to placate the inner gnaw for contentment.

Jesus is different though.

Your post vacation calm, the rush of endorphins after an hour at the gym, an afternoon walking in the hills, an evening of banter with your mates, your reputation or your pay packet are all really important. But as important as these are, they offer poor rates of return for an investment of your attention. Jesus offers a far greater return than the short term things you hope will bring long term meaning to your life. 

Jesus says he is Life. Jesus accepts you as you are and loves you unconditionally. He uncouples you from the ‘melting pot of me’ while regret and guilt dissolve in the same way the early spring sun melts winter snow. His peace shoo’s striving and comparing away like a shepherd chases wolves. He reconnects you to an ‘it was always meant to be this way’ experience as echoes of Eden ring in your ears like a melody you’ve somehow always known. Giving your attention to Jesus is giving away the deepest, most valuable part of who you are to life itself.

When light passes through a prism it bends. The different colours that make up a single beam separate to reveal all the colours that make up light – the reds, yellows, greens and so on. I think when you give your attention to Jesus, somehow he separates it, spreading it onto the places and people that matter the most, ensuring a great and even eternal, return on your attention ‘investment.’

The truth is we all have A D D but it’s not Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s Attention Direction Disorder. And Jesus is the cure.