There's a common grumble, generally directed at the young, that they are constantly distracted by texting, video games, and other ways to stop paying attention. But few of us have truly mastered the skill of paying attention, or even realize that it is a skill. This is because we haven't looked deeply into how awareness works.
Attention, which is another way of describing focused awareness, is important because whatever you pay attention to grows in importance and significance. If you focus on your job, your relationship, or a favorite hobby, your attention nourishes a feedback loop--you become better at what you pay attention to. Your brain strengthens or weakens in specific areas depending on the input it receives, and paying attention provides concentrated input. Attention can’t be faked or forced. When a schoolteacher scolds an unruly class with, “Pay attention, people!” he may get results for a few minutes, but the demand loses its effect very quickly. Asking a restless mind to settle down and pay attention is even more futile. The secret is to know how attention can be mastered.