Control Your Attention, Control Your Happiness

The object of your attention creates personal experiences, which in turn determine your life. 

by Maura Thomas • Member { View Profile }
Maura Thomas, chief trainer of Regain Your and author of "Personal Productivity Secrets" (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).

Daily experiences are the building blocks of life. The secret to leading a happier life is learning how to control your attention and what it produces each day.

Control makes you happy. Studies show that people who perceive themselves to be in control of their lives are more likely to report that they are happy than those who don’t. The additional benefit of this is that being happy increases the odds of success. According to Shawn Achor, Harvard-trained researcher and expert in happiness and human potential: “People who cultivate a positive mindset perform better in the face of challenge.” The ability to control your attention means that you can direct your productivity toward the larger, more rewarding goals of your life and achieve happiness.

If you feel like your life is not proceeding according to plan, or if you haven’t done some of the things you set out to do, examine the following:

1. Control Your Attention: In today’s world, we are constantly distracted by our smartphones, computers and social media accounts. Failing to manage your attention means that you are sabotaging, rather than supporting, your daily productivity and this can ultimately derail your life’s goals. Without even realizing it, you might subconsciously give in to the external noise and find yourself years later on a path that you did not intend to take. Make the effort to manage all of the constant and increasing demands on your attention, because it can influence your happiness.

2. Be Proactive, Not Reactive: Control can be defined as “command or mastery.” The opposite of that is helplessness and powerlessness. When you are reacting, you are relinquishing control. For instance, being immersed in email usually means spending more time working on other people’s goals rather than your own. Your main objective should be to achieve results that have significance to you. To do that, you need to spend more time being proactive, and less time being reactive.

3. Create Positive Habits: Some habits in your life are positive, but it is important to identify those that sabotage your personal productivity and change them. The key point is that you cannot change a habit until you have a substitute behavior. To create more positive habits, engage in activities that cause you to reflect on your existing habits, like tracking all of your time for a few days or a week. Then see if the way you actually operate is likely to help you achieve your goals, or hinder your progress toward those goals. For example, you may be surprised at how often you switch tasks or how much time you really spend in email or social media.

The object of your attention every hour, every minute, and every second creates personal experiences, which in turn determine your life. Controlling your attention means more often choosing what to attend to. There are many things in this world that you cannot control, but your own attention should not be one of them. The bottom line: If you don’t control your attention, you don’t control your life.

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