Derek Sivers
Rapt - by Winifred Gallagher

Rapt - by Winifred Gallagher

ISBN: 1594202109
Date read: 2009-07-26
How strongly I recommend it: 1/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Well-intentioned book I couldn't stomach because of her awkwardly flowerly writing style. Also I've read a lot about focus and flow, so this was mostly a repeat covered better in other books.

my notes

The things that you don’t attend to in a sense don’t exist, at least for you.

Beowulf: “Every life has more than enough sadness and more than enough joy.”

Neuroscience’s truly groundbreaking insight into attention is the discovery that its basic mechanism is a process of selection. This two-part neurological sorting operation allows you to focus by enhancing the most compelling, or “salient,” physical object or “high-value” mental subject in your ken and suppressing the rest. Outside an elite scientific circle, however, this finding’s implications for everyday life have been stunningly unremarked.

We must resist the temptation to drift along, reacting to whatever happens to us next, and deliberately select targets, from activities to relationships, that are worthy of our finite supplies of time and attention.

The term distracted once referred not just to a loss or dilution of attention but also to confusion, mental imbalance, and even madness.

Machines are not at fault. The real problem is that we don’t appreciate our own ability to use attention to select and create truly satisfying experience. Instead of exercising this potential, we too often take the lazy way out, settle for less, and squander our mental money and precious time on whatever captures our awareness willy-nilly, no matter how disappointing the consequences.

Once you’re familiar with a situation, your top-down conviction that you know what’s going on can cause you to miss even dramatic alterations to it, such as the substitution of a horse’s head for a human one. It’s hard to overstate the implications for daily life, from finding fresh solutions to problems at work to keeping the zest in marriage.

This neurological “biased competition,” which was discovered by the neuroscientists John Duncan of Cambridge University and Robert Desimone of MIT,

Just thinking about paying attention affects your brain, revving it up for the actual experience.

Depending on how the competition for your attention is biased, whether by you or your neurons, you can have very different experiences of the same scene. All day long, you focus on what seems most important and suppress what doesn’t. If you happen to gaze idly at your backyard, bottom-up attention makes sure you won’t miss that salient blazing red maple tree and leaves the rest in a greenish blur. However, if you peer out with a top-down aim, such as checking on your dog, you’ll see Rex but might not even notice the maple.

If I ask, ‘What does your chair’s pressure feel like on your back?’ you’ll instantly access that information. That tactile input was present all along, but when you turn up its volume, you permit it to come up to the level of your awareness.

Magic is what happens when you’re paying attention to something else.

Hold your eyes still and just move your attention around.

If you want to master and retain certain material, from a bird’s name to your Speak French Like a Native tapes, you’d best really pay attention to it in the first place.

Princeton cognitive psychologist Anne Treisman distinguishes between the slow, “narrow” attention that you paid to the nuthatch and the “broad” sort required when you must rapidly take in a complex new scene.

Just as bad feelings constrict your attention so you can focus on dealing with danger or loss, good feelings widen it, so you can expand into new territory.

Survey of 9,211 employees and managers showed that a worker’s tendency toward perfectionism, manifested by a persistent focus on small, inconsequential details and errors, correlated with an inability to distinguish between what is or isn’t doable.

If your personality is also goal-oriented and controlled, you may be inclined toward the “instrumental,” take-care-of-business way of focusing.

Yeager modestly credits his success more to his careful, pragmatic, instrumental attentional style than to machismo: “It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.”

This tendency to focus on the seemingly minor delights of a good, crisp apple or your favorite song on the radio is an important element in the construction of an optimistic, upbeat personality and corresponds with a greater overall satisfaction with life. Conversely, a chronic inability to focus on small opportunities to cheer up and enjoy yourself correlates with depression and its dour worldview.

A well-developed executive network makes it easier to shift your attention from unproductive thoughts and feelings to the energizing, generative sort, which is a big advantage in the pursuit of the focused life.

The word Attention is from the Latin for “reach toward”.

Research by the Canadian psychologist Joanne Wood shows that if you want to feel better about who you are, you should concentrate on someone of lower status, but if you’re trying to get motivated, you should fix on a person who outranks you.

When employees focus on how their efforts affect other people, rather than just on the details of their tasks, their sense of relationship boosts both their satisfaction and their productivity. Thus, cafeteria line workers who can see their satisfied customers are more contented than employees buried back in the kitchen.

Choose activities that push you so close to the edge of your competence that they demand your absolute focus.

If an activity is too easy, you lose focus and get bored. If it’s too hard, you become anxious, overwhelmed, and unable to concentrate.

You’re in flow if you’re so focused on your work that time flies, your ego drops away, and you act intuitively. You think along the lines of “I was born for this” or “This is what it’s all about.”

Be surprised by something every day.

Happiness is a later reflection of the flow, rather than the result of the experience at the time.

The trick is to turn the work into a kind of game, in which you focus closely on each aspect and try to figure out how to make it better. That way, you turn a rote activity into an engaging one.

Pay as much attention to scheduling a productive evening or weekend as you do to your workday.

The secret of fulfillment is to choose trouble for oneself in the direction of what one would like to become.