“We’re all amateur psychologists who run private experiments on how best to live. Some of us specialize in relationships and mostly explore bonding. Others concentrate on work and test ways to be more productive and creative. Still others look to philosophy or religion and investigate the big picture: the ultimate way things are. Five years ago, a common-enough crisis plunged me into a study of the nature of experience. More important, this experience led me to cutting-edge scientific research and a psychological version of what physicists trying to explain the universe call a ‘grand unifying theory’ or ‘theory of everything’: your life—who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on. …
Along with performing the Appolonian task of organizing your world, attention enables you to have the kind of Dionysian experience beautifully described by the old-fashioned term ‘rapt’—completely absorbed, engrossed, fascinated, perhaps even ‘carried away’—that underlies life’s deepest pleasures, from the scholar’s study to the carpenter’s craft to the lover’s obsession. Some individuals slip into it more readily, but research increasingly shows that with some reflection, experimentation, and practice, all of us can cultivate this profoundly attentive state and experience it more often. Paying rapt attention, whether to a trout stream or a novel, a do-it-yourself project or a prayer, increases your capacity for concentration, expands your inner boundaries, and lifts your spirits, but more important, it simply makes you feel that life is worth living.”
~ Winifred Gallagher from Rapt
If you want to optimize your life, this is the place to start.
Basically E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. you want in your life comes down to being able to master it.
Winifred Gallagher gives us a beautiful target: rapt attention that leads us to live the focused life.
Gallagher is a behavioral science writer who, five years before writing this book, received a cancer diagnosis that dramatically shifted the way she saw the world. That experience inspired her to understand the neuroscientific underpinnings of how attention works—which led to this book.
It’s a fascinating look at a ton of research. The book walks us through how our focus (or lack thereof) affects everything from our relationships and productivity to our creativity and sense of meaning and happiness. (Get the book here.)
It’s packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share a few of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!
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