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The Power of Paying Attention to What You Regularly Pay Attention To

Author Sue Monk Kidd once said, “We truly become what we pay attention to.” Similarly, in his inspiring book, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, author Austin Kleon writes, “What you choose to pay attention to is the stuff your life and work will be made of.”

That is, if you focus on the negative, on everything that frustrates and bothers you, you’ll think that your life is largely made up of these negative, frustrating, bothersome things. You’ll forget about the beauty. You’ll gloss over solutions and strategies. And you’ll likely be spinning your wheels.

That is, if you focus on your fears, you likely won’t pursue your dreams, and might starting narrowing your life, declining opportunities and not connecting with others.

If you focus on Pinterest-perfect spaces, you might feel awful about your own home (and yourself).

If you focus on scrolling your Instagram feed—which is filled with fitness “influencers”—you’ll likely feel like you need to diet, too—and your body doesn’t measure up. And maybe you purchase a scale, try out a variety of diets (and dislike every one of them), and maybe you start working out in ways that you actually don’t even like. And you forget the pleasure, joy, and play inherent in moving your body on your own terms.

That is, if you focus on thoughts like “I can’t do it,” “I’m such a failure,” “I can’t do anything right!” “I can’t trust anyone” “I don’t deserve kindness,” and “I don’t have time to do anything I really want to do!” then your life will look very different than if your mind zeroed in on thoughts like “Yes, I can absolutely try this,” “This is a good learning experience, whether I succeed or ‘fail'” “I do have time, but I need to be more intentional about it” “I need to prioritize what’s important to me, and get more comfortable with delegating” “I’m a human being. Of course, I’ll make mistakes, and that’s OK” “Some of my relationships were with untrustworthy people, but not everyone is this way, and I can learn to seek out people who truly care about me” and “Self-compassion might not come naturally to me, but I can still practice it.”

So pay attention to what you pay attention to—the images, thoughts, feelings, fears, beliefs, stories that you tell yourself (or stories you believe that others have told you)—and consider if those things are serving and supporting you. Consider if paying attention to those things is actually contributing positively to your life, or doing the opposite.

As Kleon writes in Keep Going, “If you want to change your life, change what you pay attention to. ‘We give things meaning by paying attention to them,’ Jessa Crispin writes, ‘and so moving your attention from one thing to another can absolutely change your future.'”

It’s as simple and difficult as that.

What we pay attention to shapes our minds, our souls, and our hearts. What we pay attention to shapes our decisions and our actions. What we pay attention to shapes essentially everything.

Doesn’t it?

What we pay attention to can determine the trajectory of our lives. Are you paying attention to the things that are moving you forward or to the things that are keeping you stuck? How can you shift your attention? Where can you direct your attention so that it helps you flourish, so that it nourishes you, and helps you thrive? Where can you direct your attention so that it’s respectful of who you are, what you need, and what you want in this life?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Power of Paying Attention to What You Regularly Pay Attention To

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2019). The Power of Paying Attention to What You Regularly Pay Attention To. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 May 2019
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