View profile

Weekly 3: Manage your attention & mood


Idea Journal Weekly 3

March 17 · Issue #78 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: View happiness as a by-product. Find what’s fun for you. Listen to your gut. (~5 min read)
Note: Idea #2 is taken from a previous issue and we’ve included it here because it fits well with the core theme: managing your attention and mood.

#1. Navigating the happiness paradox
In an interview on The Knowledge Project podcast, chess master and investor Adam Robinson says one of the key life lessons he’s learned is that the secret to happiness is to be fully engaged in your life.
He points out that if someone were to ask him during the interview if he was happy, he wouldn’t know. His attention is focused on the conversation itself, and not his feelings about how the conversation is going.
For Robinson, the paradox of the most important things in life – happiness, love, success – is that you can’t actively look for them.
“If you’re looking for happiness, you’re not doing what you need to do to be happy. If you’re looking for love, you’re not being lovable. If you’re looking for success, you’re not doing whatever it is you need to do to be successful.”
Happiness, like other desirable states, is a by-product – something that catches us by surprise.
In Robinson’s view, if you’re feeling a negative emotion like doubt, fear, frustration, or loneliness, it’s a sign that you need to redirect your attention.
Whenever Robinson is feeling such negative emotions, he asks himself: Where should my attention be right now?
The answer to that question, and his “great revelation of 2016,” is that there are only two places his attention should be: either on the task at hand, or on others.
#2. What's easy for you but hard for others?
Entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham writes in his essay What Doesn’t Seem Like Work that when you’re deciding on a career, you should pay attention to those things that seem like work to other people but are enjoyable to you.
And the stranger your tastes seem to others, “the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do.“
Figuring out which career is best for you can be a long and difficult process. To make it easier, Graham recommends asking yourself: What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?
Graham tells the story of his father, who was interested in math from a young age and eventually pursued a career modeling nuclear reactors.
For many people going through school, the problems at the end of the chapter of a math textbook represent work. But for Graham’s father they were the reward, and the text of the chapter “was just some advice about solving them.”
#3. Let your enthusiasm guide you
Entrepreneur and musician Derek Sivers writes on his blog that each of us has a compass in our gut, and it points in 2 directions:
  1. What excites you
  2. What drains you
Sivers uses the following rule when gauging the value of advice, deciding whether to pursue an opportunity, and even when navigating little, everyday decisions: whatever excites you, go do it; whatever drains you, stop doing it.
For example, say you’re being offered a job and the people making the offer are on the phone waiting for an answer. Does it excite you or drain you?
Or, you hear about some new technology, and people are saying you need to check it out. Does it excite you or drain you?
Beyond the necessities, there are very few things you must do, so it’s important to choose wisely.
In fact, whatever you hate doing, someone out there probably loves doing it. If it’s necessary, find them and let them do it.
Sivers acknowledges that this rule of following the compass in your gut isn’t perfect, and it probably can’t be applied to every situation.
But if you work towards this ideal, “soon you’ll be doing what excites you the most,” and you’ll be on the path of doing what you’re meant to do.
Quote of the Week
“One way we can think about attention, I see it as sort of like a flashlight. So just like a flashlight, you know, wherever we direct it in a darkened room, that part of our visual scene will be processed better. It allows us to willfully direct our brains’ resources to particular things, whether it’s the external environment, or we can even direct that flashlight internally to memories or emotions, if we’d like.”
- Neuroscientist Amishi Jha in an interview on the TED Radio Hour podcast
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue
New York, NY