Are you paying attention?

According to Carol Stewart, author and podcast host of Quietly Visible, humans now have less of an attention span than goldfish. She reported that in one study they found the human attention span has diminished from 12 seconds in 2000, to 8 seconds in 2018.  I wonder how much further that has changed during two years of lockdowns and reduced opportunities.

Its no wonder then constant distractions that provide instant gratification and dopamine hits is having a negative impact on our ability and motivation towards longer term goals. So, what can we do to delay gratification in order to give ourselves a conducive environment for actively striving for our goals?

We’ve learned before that sustainable change doesn’t happen overnight.  There is a need to undo decades of ingrained thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which seems uncomfortable at best, and nigh on impossible at worst. We often want immediate results and when we don’t see them quickly enough, we give up.

We can be tempted to a quick fix in order to paint over the cracks of whatever problem we have, and whilst we see an immediate difference, it is often only temporary.  With our waning attention span, delaying gratification in pursuit of our longer-term goals, can seem boring; even when we know achieving those goals would have far greater benefit.

On her podcast CS advised that many people have seen their plans fail, especially over the last couple of years, because they can’t see the point in making long term goals.  They may have lost their jobs, or loved ones, circumstances have changed at the drop of the hat, so what’s the point when there’s still so much uncertainty ahead? However, we are goal orientated in nature and there are so many things still within our control, that can give our lives meaning and purpose.

The late psychologist, Dr Shane Lopez said “Hope is the belief that the future will be better than the present, coupled with the belief that you have the power to make it so”.

To be hopeful about the future we need to put effort into making things happen.  Think about setting intrinsically motivating goals, and what is in your control, as these are more likely to be achieved. Make your goals meaning and how they fit with your personal values.

Setting short term goals may give you a better sense of accomplishment but remember even setting long term goals doesn’t mean they are set in stone.  Things change or get in the way.  Having a strategy to support you achieving your goals is useful.  What do you need?  Break down what needs to be done in small steps so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by one big, long goal.  Get accountability from others to keep you on track.

Reward yourself for your efforts along the way, acknowledging the effort you’re putting in and the actions you are taking.  This will be more motivating and encouraging.

Also, think about those things that will drain your energy and distract you from achieving your goals. Keep a check on how you are mentally, physically and emotionally. Look at what you can do to influence change to remove those energy draining influences. If there is something that gets in the way of achieving your goal, make a detour.  Acknowledge that sometimes you might have to abandon your goal.  Its ok to accept if things in the way are totally insurmountable.


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