Your attention is your real currency

The simple act of refocussing your attention releases enormous energy that can empower you to bring about great transformation in your life

Man lifting old hourglass | Attention is your real currency

“What you resist, persists,” said Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, psychiatrist and founder of analytic psychology. I’d like to add a corollary to Jung’s observation: what you accept, you deflect. In other words, if I don’t accept my life situation as it is, I cannot transcend it; once I accept it, it stops being a bother and I can now take my attention off it.

But acceptance is often misinterpreted as being synonymous with inaction. Far from it, acceptance really means making peace with my circumstances, instead of using them as an excuse for stagnancy or failure.

Once I make peace, I stop blaming my luck, my parents, the government, the economy, or anything else for my challenges and difficulties. I take my struggles in stride and train my spotlight on what I can do about them now. I become for what I want instead of against what I don’t want.

What’s the difference, you ask.

The difference is that when I’m against something, I try to fight that instead of working towards what I desire. I practise the absence of what I want instead of being present to what I can do about it. The simple act of refocussing my attention releases enormous energy—the energy to drive my emotional engine to change myself and my circumstances. Then any action that emanates from it is positive.

Keep your attention on the present moment

You may think that by refocussing I’m only indulging in some form of mental acrobatics and may doubt the efficacy of this. You may even feel tempted to equate this with mere positive thinking. But ‘being for’ is more than that. It’s a decision to live in the present moment, instead of denying it. Whatever my goal—conquering a self-defeating habit, bringing more happiness into my relationships, or achieving greater professional success—this attitude of acceptance lets me enjoy my Now, which in turn creates a more joyful future, moment to moment.

Ekhart Tolle explains beautifully:

If you set yourself a goal and work towards it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honour and give your fullest attention to the step that you are taking at this moment. If you then become excessively focussed on the goal, perhaps because you are seeking happiness, fulfilment, or a more complete sense of self in it, the Now is no longer honoured. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping-stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life’s journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, to attain, to ‘make it’.

So, my attention is my real currency; when it is in the Now, my life is rich and I live like a king. If I spend it anywhere other than in the present moment, I end up buying suffering. That’s a poor bargain, you will agree.

This was first published in the July 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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