If someone takes your attention, they can make some dramatic things happen. It’s possible for them to astound you with some magic trick. It’s even possible for them to steal from you.
This is an important lesson because each of us has a limited amount of attention. It’s not possible (as far as I know) to do advanced calculus while babysitting a small child. Even if you had enough time to focus on those tasks one at a time, you would struggle to have enough mental energy.
When something takes your attention, it means you can’t give that attention to anything else. Though many people talk about multitasking, I tend to agree with the artist Propaganda when he said ‘you ain’t doing anything good just everything awful.’
That might be a post for another day though. The important point is we cannot accomplish two worthwhile tasks with excellence at the same time. We need to keep this in mind when it comes to changing the world around us.
We (as in the United States) are in the last days of a presidential election cycle. This means a few candidates have told us quite a bit how they plan on changing (or preserving) the world around us. One of the common talking points during these cycles is whether the candidates are lying or not.
There is one lie which sits above all of those possible deceptions though.
This lie tells us our vote for president is one of the best ways we impact the world around us. It’s a powerful and dangerous lie because of two qualities. First, there is a subtle aspect to the lie because I am pretty sure no one says the words ‘it’s one of the best ways to impact our world’.
The second dangerous quality comes from the foundation of truth on which the lie is built. Voting is a way to impact our world and citizens should vote with great care and thoughtfulness. There is a considerable difference between a way to change our world and the best way to change it.
I invite you to consider this difference.
If you gave everyone you saw a flower, it would change our world. A few things would probably happen. For starters, a few florists would make more money. It’s also safe to say at least a few people would experience a boost in their attitude.
Unless it causes financial problems, it sounds like a worthwhile thing to do. At the same time, I assume you don’t think this is the best way to impact your world. It would even be dangerous to assume this is the best way.
This assumption could lead you to dedicating your limited time, money, and energy to giving people flowers. Important things in your life, like relationships, would suffer. The flower campaign would steal attention which should go to other areas of life.
Presidential elections do the same to us. We read quite a few articles, engage in many conversations, and give it quite a bit of thought when we’re alone. Could you imagine what would happen if something else received the same level of attention?
What if one friendship in your life got the same level of attention? I don’t mean to make you needy or codependent. I intend to point out the impact you could have on the people around you.
Is it possible your opportunities to impact those people are being stolen from you?
Something I said last week was ‘culture is made up of people and you know quite a few of them.’ Your role in their lives holds the key to making a much bigger change than your vote for president. Even if you have zero influence on all of those people, I could help you find plenty of people to influence.
Mentoring programs abound. A couple quick Google searches will find a place to go serve those down on their luck. I’ve talked with multiple people who work for those non-profit foundations and I’ve heard a common message from them.
They say the relationships between volunteers/staff and the people being helped make the real difference. Relationships open doors to sharing values and teaching people the wisdom they don’t have. Those same doors are open to you.
With them, you can impact this world in a way voting never can. Elected officials have a great ability to impact public policy and the laws of the land. Their ability to change hearts and minds is quite small though.
It would even be a tad inappropriate for presidents to express a desire to change people’s values. Even if a president ran on the campaign slogan ‘ending laziness forever’, it would make me uncomfortable. A mentor encouraging and challenging me in my work sounds great though.
It is relationships which create the best changes in our world. Presidential elections are important and yet they can steal too much of our attention. They can also leave us frustrated and discouraged if they don’t go our way.
Worse yet, they can make us feel satisfied if they do go our way. We can assume our country is on the right track because we got the right person in office. This last sentiment is quite dangerous because we can have all of the right laws and live in a terrible place.
I’ve asked a few people a question during this election cycle. The question goes ‘Would you rather live in a political utopia with the worst people ever or a brutal dictatorship with the best people ever?’. It’s something worth asking yourself.
You will have many opportunities to change this world after this election ends. I challenge you to look for those opportunities. I ask you to not let your attention be stolen by things which seem important and yet don’t offer the same power to change.
Image Copyright: ZioDaveby