Have you ever had this experience? A friend mentions their intention to buy a certain type of car and then – suddenly – you see those particular cars everywhere.
This isn’t magic, but a matter of attention, and it’s the easiest part of you for others to hijack and control without you even realizing it.
The mechanisms of human attention are brilliantly demonstrated by Robert Cialdini in his seminal book Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion, one of my all-time most recommended reads for business leaders.
Our biology evolved such that what we pay attention to grows in importance to us. This was critical to survival when, thousands of years ago, a rustle in the bushes nearby often meant something with sharp teeth and claws was eyeing you for lunch. Today, it’s more critical to those seeking your attention via advertising, social media, the daily newscycle, etc.
Although you don’t need to worry about being eaten anymore (most days, at least), you should be hyper aware of how and when your attention is hijacked. Why? It costs you a lot: We chase red-herring issues, we burn precious time on others’ agendas, and we wind up delaying our own achievement.
In my book Activators, I discuss attention at length. We humans are undisciplined and inconstant creatures and we’re absolutely awesome at getting in our own way. Mastering your own attention helps you rise above this and is essential for sustainable achievement, particularly in our era of information bombardment and overload.