In the book Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy Wilson writes that while our brains can take in eleven million pieces of information at any given moment, we’re only consciously aware of forty. Only forty!
That one statistic captures why change is so hard. Acquiring a new skill or behavior requires that we focus our precious attention over a period of time. Since attention is scarce, we have a natural aversion to expending it. As the neurologist Daniel Kahneman writes, “Laziness is built deep into our nature.”
One way I help myself to pay attention, to be more mindful and aware of something, is to write about it. A few hours of writing and the feedback over time helps make the ideas stick.
Here, in order, are the ten posts I’ve written that have helped me pay more attention to things that matter, things that make for a better life. Each heading is a link. I hope that some of them might help you too.
The one video I link to in the post has help me reframe each day and increase my chances of appreciating it.
I taped the three quotes in this post to a cabinet in my office. They remind me to control my reactions and help me maintain a more balanced perspective.
This was one of my favorite posts to write, particularly citing the story of M. Deschamps and connecting it to quantum physics and social networks. It made me more mindful of the often unwitting, unintended influence I have on others and that they have on me.
Writing this helped me tune into my inner critic and learn how to cut him off before he does too much damage.
Learning to be present is by far the most difficult thing I’m trying to do. This post reminded me of how everyday moments can be opportunities to practice.
“Don’t worry about paying the bills. Pay the bills.” It seemed ludicrous at first and yet now I often repeat it to myself as a way to channel the energy of worrying into action.
This post helped me be aware that once-in-a-lifetime, wondrous moments can be experienced on any given day.
I was uncomfortable writing this. It made me starkly aware of the limitations I place on myself and how that affects others too.
It's taken me a long time to understand that happiness isn’t something that happens to you but something you must actively cultivate.
I think of this post often. As a result of writing it, I know the answer is hidden in all of the other posts I’ve listed above. The best years won’t be when I make the most money or have the best vacation or reach a big milestone. The best years will be when I’m more mindful, more generous, and more connected. This post helped me know that the it's up to me. The best years of my life could start right now.