Our most important currency.
On paying debts of the past and investments of the future.
Where our attention goes, the most important currency we have flows.
Think about it.
When our attention goes somewhere (and it’s always somewhere), we are literally paying the currency of our time, and the attention nested within it, to something.
But where do we pay it?
Sometimes we use it to pay off old debts.
We spend our time and attention ruminating on things from the past - people, conversations, events. We let them take up space in our heads as debts that we will continue paying off for the rest of our lives if we’re not careful. And the more our attention goes there, the higher the interest rates become.
Logic will tell us that paying off the debts of our past with the attention of today is not the best use of this currency.
But where do we spend it instead?
Investments of course.
We take our attention of today and deposit it into our future selves.
Because our attention is ever-present, we have to direct where we want it to go. If we don’t, it will take a natural drift toward things of the past or irrelevancies of the present.
And therein lies the answer of how to apply our attention.
We direct it.
The only way we can direct it?
By having a vision for where we’re headed - the future self that we’re helping to bring to life.
I was working with a client last week who leads the sales org at a high growth startup. She was struggling with something that most leaders struggle with.
-Her time is pulled in a thousand directions each day.
-There are too many priorities with no actual prioritization.
-The company culture is infected with the hyperactive hive-mind.
We didn’t start by organizing her time better. Or by ranking her priorities.
We started by getting a concrete vision for what type of leader she wanted to be.
-How did she want to show up each day?
-What precedent did she want to set for her team?
-How can she structure her work in a way that reflects that precedent?
I asked her to think back through her career and reflect on leaders that represented and modeled the type of leader she wants to be.
-What made them a great leader?
-Why did they stand out to you?
-What impact did that have on you?
Getting a clear vision of who we’re becoming and where we’re going is the only way I know of to reliably direct our attention in useful ways.
Our words don’t define what’s important to us. Our calendars do.
Debts from the past. Distractions from the present. Anxiety about the future.
These are the things we’re up against.
But our attention will go where we direct it to go. And having a vision for a compelling future is what empowers us to direct it.
Investments, not debts.
Vision, not distraction.
Directed, not wandering.