I had never really paid much attention to the word “attention” until yesterday. The Lumosity website listed attention as my strongest brain area. (Lumosity is a website for brainy games; the other categories include: memory, speed, problem solving, and flexibility.) When I read this, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

My first source was the dictionary, which lists the Latin root of the word,  attentionem, “to apply the mind”. We use a wide variety of verbs to describe the transactions that take place with attention: pay, give, gather, attract, draw, call, etc.. I also remembered that attention was an important concept in the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszeentmihalyi.

¨Each person allocates his or her limited attention either by focusing it intentionally like a beam of energy … or by diffusing it in desultory, random movements. … Attention can be invested in innumerable ways, ways that can make life either rich or miserable.¨ (p. 33)

I like to think of attention as the gatekeeper to the mind. Strength in this domain has two benefits: it prevents unwarranted distractions and it allows the mind to act in an intentional manner.

However, there is a catch, if attention is spent on the wrong observations, it can turn into paranoia. The paranoid person lets useless and potentially harmful information influence how he thinks and reacts.

So if I am going to benefit from my strong attention, I will need to learn what sorts of observations are most important to influence my daily life and my long term goals.