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Awakened Attention and Achievement Attention

It’s getting harder for me to set goals. 

I used to look ahead and plot out the course for how to achieve the next big thing, whether that was running a half marathon or increasing the number of social media followers or writing a book. Many of my goals went unmet, especially when it came to metrics. So maybe I’ve stopped setting BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) because I am afraid of failure or unwilling to put in the effort. 

But I don’t think that’s it.

When I read Dr. Lisa Miller’s book, The Awakened Brain, I was struck by the distinction she makes between “achievement attention” and “awakened attention.” Achievement attention is the type of attention that sets goals: I see what I want and I structure my time towards that end. Awakened attention is the type of attention that arises from attending to people, to nature, and to the life of the spirit. Achievement attention leads to spreadsheets and to-do lists and plans. Awakened attention leads to stillness and silence and solitude. 

Dr. Miller writes about the necessity of both types of attention. And she writes about how we have lost the capacity for awakened attention in our modern era. 

She made me wonder whether the reason I am setting fewer “SMART” goals (specific, measurable, achievable, and some other acronym-worthy things) is that I’m paying fuller attention to the work of the Spirit. 

I’m honestly more interested these days in walking the uncertain path of beauty and wonder and connection than I am in speeding down the highway of getting things done. 

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