Continuous Partial Attention


Photo by Rachel (aka mia3mom)

Photo by Rachel (aka mia3mom)

I have a war on my hands. It’s been somewhat drawn out and rather bloody. Well, how bloody can a fight be when you are punching your fists in the air at an invisible enemy.

Hey you… yeah you… get back here. Right here. Look at me!


So, who is this unknown foe?  This bandit who has more energy than this fairy child.  Who demands your attention, but then, when you reach for it, it escapes as fast as a Rob Ford apology.


It’s a simple thing really.  Except when needed.



You know what I’m talking about.  I see you suffering in this war of selective attention.  You are working on something, then you remember that fight with a friend you had yesterday… She was not being kind.  BEEP… oh, I have that conference call in 5 minutes.  God, I need a coffee.  I mean… she should not have said those things.  Oh.. thats a cute cat on facebook.  Awwwww.

That is why I was drawn to this book, simply called Focus by Daniel Goleman.  I saw the author on The Colbert Report, then in my facebook feed… and while browsing in Chapters…  while I was looking for a book on cute cats.  Anyway…  I NEED to focus better.  I mean, how many cat books does one need?

Focus involves “a narrow, fixed pipeline…  Instead of splitting it, we actually switch rapidly.”  Makes sense.  We can’t multi-task.  We switch-task.

Daniel also talks about a top brain and bottom brain.


You reflect.  You think about it.  You ponder. “…taking things one at a time and playing more thoughtful analysis”


Where, pretty much, everything happens.  Its the auto system.  Where habits live and things are done with little effort.

What does this mean?  If the top is busying pondering, the bottom kicks in.

Flubs, Wegner found, escalate to the degree we are distracted, stressed or otherwise mentally burdened.  In those circumstances a cognitive control system that ordinarily monitors errors we might make (like don’t mention that topic) can inadvertently act as a mental prime, increasing the likelihood of that very mistake (like mentioning that topic).

WHY?  Because overloading attention shrinks mental control.

Now, this may be obvious…  but what really stood out to focused me, is the role that emotions play into this.

If I’m pissed about something, its all I can think about.  I let things role over and over in my head.  It makes my coffee bad, decisions negative and cats not so cute.  Yes, I become emotionally highjacked.

The stronger the emotion, the greater our fixation.  Highjacks are the superglue of attention.

Yes, emotions take our focus away….  but HOW OFTEN DOES IT?  AND FOR HOW LONG?

If you are running on emotional focus for most of your day, where is your focus?  Is it on your work, or the turmoil in your head?  How many days have you (and certainly I) have lost due to misplaced emotional focus.  Imagine how much more can be done, accomplished even, with focus.

So just calm my emotions… its that easy?  Before you call BS.  Think of this.

Emotional resilience come down to how quickly we recover from upsets.

Feelings, emotions are normal.  Feel them.  Acknowledge them.  Then BOUNCE BACK.  How?  Um…. read Daniel’s book.  I recommend it.


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