Attention and Values

One of the core premises of “The Sniper Mind” is that once the brain has been trained to direct its attention, the very act of being capable of directing attention becomes the key to unlocking the brain and body’s full potential and the book explores techniques through which this can happen.

Directing attention allows the brain to divert resources to specific tasks and achieve positive results in situations where this may not have normally been possible.

What becomes apparent from the studies is that multi-tasking is not something we can do well (or easily) and that what we pay attention to begins to guide our perception which then shapes our reality.

When something becomes ‘real’ for us it figures large in our mental and emotional calculations which means that it acquires value. Things that acquire value are important to us and, in a sense, reflect and maybe even define our values. Values of course are necessary. They help define not just what we find important but also who we are and holding them, developing them and refining them is part of the process through which we curate our identity.

The subtext hiding behind all this is our ever-evolving struggle to understand who we are so we can better grasp what it is we have to do. The idea that we may not always know how to behave in a given situation appears an oddity to contemplate in the lives of adults who, on the surface at least, hold down responsible jobs and make important decisions. Far from it, our decision-making skills are under question, most of the time.

Our ability to adequately meet what’s required of us in complicated situations is far from sufficient even when we undertake specific training for it. Even more interestingly as we acquire new skills (and unlock new powers) we also are required to take on more responsibility. The Spiderman Syndrome is an inescapable reality of the link that exists between function and form.

Even aspects of morality cannot exist independently of our brain which is responsible for everything we feel which then guides what we do.

So, we’ve come full circle. What are we? The chicken or the egg? Are we responsible for giving figurative birth to our selves or are we at the mercy of impulsive actions and environmental stimuli that shape who we become? Are we ‘smart’ because we can become capable of directing our attention, defining our values, understanding who we are and doing what we have to do or do we first have to become ‘smart’ in order to be able to do all this? Any of this.

Neuroscience suggests that time and place play as much of a role in attentional direction as a sense of self. But neuroscience also reveals that attentional control is a skillset that is learned through practice and application. We need to choose to become this more energy-intensive, more highly structured version of ourselves and the moment we do, we become capable of better focus and motivation. We also become more responsible.

Those who see more have a duty to act according to what they see. We cannot say we value anything if we are not prepared to put in time, energy and effort in supporting it. Our attention and our values can no longer be separated.

I know you have the coffee ready and have planned ahead and now also have, within easy reach, donuts and cookies, croissants and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

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