All men contain several men inside them, and most of us bounce from one self to another without ever knowing who we are. - Paul Auster


Whoever controls your attention has more influence over your thoughts and behaviors than you might realize. Most people have an intuitive sense (it's really more like an unexamined assumption) that their thoughts are under their willful control (but this is mostly an inflated and flattering illusion about the extent of our mental faculties and capabilities). It is only when we choose to focus on something concrete that we are truly exercising willful control over our thoughts. So be careful how your attention is directed because the less practice you get at willfully focusing and channeling your thoughts the more opportunities there are for external forces to control you by directing your focus and attention.

Brains evolved to scan the environment for risks and opportunities. So the natural state of minds is to be directed by external stimuli. In an environment where danger and opportunity might be around every corner letting our thoughts be guided and focused by external sources and events is a sensible way to navigate the world. But in the contemporary world of artificial stimuli letting our thoughts be controlled by external sources turns out to be extremely counterproductive and detrimental to our own well being. It is one of the main reasons so many people are constantly anxious and confused. Most artificial stimuli are designed to elicit a stress response in order to distract and confuse us so that we will be more willing to buy products we don't want or need. In other words, much of our collective over-consumption and destructive behaviors can be traced back to our inability to truly focus on what matters because we are letting commercial/artificial entities guide our attention and control our thoughts to our own detriment.

Consider the above next time you are stressed out and try to trace the causal factors that are contributing to your mental state. What did you watch recently? What did you eat? What did you listen to? What/who was controlling and guiding your attention and to what ends? Were your thoughts focused on what mattered to you or were you distracted by some stressful and artificial external stimulus? Ponder these questions next time you have a moment to yourself.

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. - Lao Tzu