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  • If you've ever watched a great play, you know the feeling of being totally immersed in an experience.

  • The lights, costumes, music, and set are all designed to capture and hold your attention.

  • Every actor knows their role inside-out and is appropriately familiar with the roles of everyone else in the cast.

  • A cast is a collection of individual actors and the stage is the physical medium that unites them.

  • This makes a show the emergent result of combining actors with a stage.

  • In a well-executed play, there is a beautiful harmony within the actors, between the actors, and between the actors and the stage.

  • This harmonious set of interactions is what captures our attention.

  • William Shakespeare wrote these famous words in his play "As You Like It",

  • "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players;

  • They have their exits and their entrances;

  • And one man in his time plays many parts."

  • I hope to show that this metaphor is not only powerful but, perhaps, even true

  • by using it as a framework to understand our capacity to focus.

  • You are an actor, the world is a stage, and a perfect show is the result of highly focused attention.

  • Therefore, we should not strive to be attentive but, rather, we should strive to put on a perfect show.

  • It is paramount, then, that we know our roles, seek the right show, and set the stage appropriately.

  • An actor without a role will not star in a show

  • an actor who doesn't know their role well is doomed to put on a terrible show.

  • Therefore, it's important that actors know their roles.

  • Before an actor can find the right show to be a part of, they need to understand themselves.

  • Everyone is born with a set of intrinsic desires and talents which are unique to them.

  • When they act on these desires, they build up a fountain of knowledge which helps them obtain what's pleasurable and avoid what causes suffering.

  • As a result, everything in the world becomes imbued with meaning.

  • This meaning need not have a cosmic significance.

  • When you look at a cup, you don't see it in terms of its material structure.

  • In other words, you don't say that it's a cylindrical glass object.

  • Rather, you see it in terms of its function: a carrier of liquid pleasure.

  • But, if you're enjoying a cocktail in a bar and someone threatens to fight you, your

  • role changes from that of a customer to that of a fighter.

  • As your role changes, the meaning you assign to the world changes, and the glass goes from

  • a carrier of liquid pleasure to a weapon to avoid suffering.

  • In a very real sense, the roles we select structure how we perceive the world.

  • Imagine that I put a box of pencil crayons in front of you and told you to find the one

  • that is red.

  • If you choose to accept this task, the way you perceive your environment literally changes.

  • You start to ignore most sensory data and selectively discard information that does

  • not align with your goal: finding the red pencil crayon.

  • I asked you to take part in the show of finding the color red, and for you to play the protagonist

  • who takes on this action.

  • This newfound role imbued your world with instantaneous meaning which helped you mentally

  • structure your environment, so you knew what could be ignored and what could not.

  • Having a purpose, or knowing your role as an actor, helps you mentally structure your

  • environment.

  • This purpose-driven focus is referred to as a top-down function.

  • Top-down attention is knowledge-driven [1].

  • When you use your mind to find something in the environment, you're using top-down attention

  • [1].

  • This self-constructed role I am telling you about is an existentialist idea [3].

  • The Existentialists believed in the idea that our existence preceded our essence.

  • In other words, we aren't born with any meaning but, rather, we construct it.

  • Your purpose is constructed based on the relationship between your natural desires and the environment

  • around you.

  • But, if you don't want to create your own role as an actor, the world is happy to assign

  • you one.

  • We live in a world that is constantly asking you to take part in their own shows and setting

  • the stage for you.

  • While driving, you'll notice billboards lined along the road.

  • Every business owner wants you to take on the role of their customer.

  • When you go to YouTube, every YouTube channel wants you to take on the role of their viewer.

  • The billboard owner sets the stage by making the billboard as attractive as possiblejust

  • as the YouTuber does for the thumbnail.

  • Everyone is giving you a possible meaning to try out and it's up to you to decide

  • if it's correct.

  • Facebook and Instagram scream that meaning is found in the pleasure you get from interacting

  • with others.

  • YouTube screams that meaning is found in education, inspiration, or entertainment.

  • The car dealership screams that meaning is found in status or material goods.

  • Whether it's video games, social media, or an interesting conversation, good distractions

  • create structure.

  • They easily offer you a role that imbues your world with meaning and lets you feel a sense

  • of accomplishment within that role.

  • An actor who knows their role may see these activities as simple distractions.

  • They'll discard pieces of information if it doesn't align with the show they are

  • looking to be a part of.

  • An actor who does not know their role, and play it well, will always be stuck playing

  • the roles that others assign to them.

  • Facebook is designed to be distracting and it is, but only insofar as you lack a greater

  • purpose for avoiding it.

  • Once you know your role as an actor, it's easier to choose which shows you want to play

  • a role in.

  • If it's a one-man show, such as studying by yourself for a test, things are really

  • easy: just set the stage and get going.

  • But if the show requires multiple people, it's important to choose a cast that you

  • harmonize well with.

  • For example, if you're an engineer who wants to positively impact the world, you may join

  • a start-up of other engineers who are all working together to build environmentally-friendly

  • cars.

  • Each individual engineer may have joined the company for slightly different reasons, but

  • their reasons harmonize well with each other and with the grand reason of producing environmentally-friendly

  • cars.

  • Once you know your role and choose a show, it's time to set the stage.

  • When a stage is being designed, every detail must be thought of and revised to ensure that

  • it captures the attention of all audience members.

  • When actors are performing live, they want to make sure that the entire audience forgets

  • about whatever is going on in their lives and just enjoying the moment.

  • They want to make it hard for you to think about anything other than the show.

  • The lights, the music, the choreography, and the outfits are all designed in support of

  • this goal.

  • In other words, the actors want to drive attention from the bottom-up.

  • Bottom-up attention is stimulus-driven [1].

  • Imagine an ambulance speeding past you with its sirens blaring: the loud noise and the

  • bright lights would immediately catch your attention.

  • Bottom-up systems are largely unconscious, involuntary, and more powerful than top-down

  • systems [1].

  • All performances try to capture attention from the bottom-up, even lecture halls.

  • Lecture halls are set up with all the seats facing one directiontowards the professor.

  • The professor often has visuals that he wants to show you, so a giant screen is placed behind

  • him on the wall.

  • The screen is behind him so that everyone can see it, but also because he is the intermediary

  • between you and that knowledge.

  • The lecture hall is a stage and it's set up in such a way so that every actor can easily

  • and correctly assume their role.

  • You probably have a room in your house with a TV in it and all of the couches pointed

  • towards it.

  • The room is a stage that screams its purpose: I exist to comfort and entertain.

  • YouTubers also try to drive bottom-up attention.

  • We design our thumbnails and titles to capture your attention unexpectedly and get you to

  • click.

  • Without the proper stage, it's hard to capture focus.

  • Imagine going to a concert where all the seats were facing each other and not the stage,

  • the music was too quiet, and all the lights were on: it would be a difficult show to enjoy.

  • Setting the stage means that everything in the environment contributes to the show's

  • purpose.

  • For example, you can set up a computer desk in your room or a small office in your home.

  • You can limit the apps on that computer, and the room may only have the necessities you

  • require for working.

  • You want to remove as many bottom-up distractions as possible.

  • The best way to do this is by removing as many external cues and triggers as you can.

  • Triggers may include your cell phone, the internet, an app, or even people.

  • Your role might be that of a good student or an accountant.

  • The show is that of studying for a test or completing a client's taxes.

  • As a result, the stage has been properly designed to facilitate the best possible performance

  • by the actor.

  • The best performance requires intense focus or being in a state of flow.

  • Flow occurs when an individual is playing the right role, in the right show, and on

  • the right stage.

  • Their actions are aligned with their beliefs in an environment that supports them [1].

  • Being in a state of flow is often described as beingin the zone”, and it's a very

  • pleasurable state for most people to be in [1, 2].

  • Sadly, most people rarely have long stretches of flow in their lives because life is complex.

  • In order to keep this essay simple and digestible, I talked about everything in singular and

  • sequential terms.

  • In real life, you don't transition from an actor to selecting a show to setting the

  • stage.

  • In fact, you do all three simultaneously and iteratively.

  • Your identity as an actor affects the show you pick, but the show you pick also affects

  • your identity as an actor.

  • You're evolving, and as you evolve so should the show and the stage.

  • Furthermore, you don't play just one role in life but multiple roles, in multiple shows,

  • and on multiple stages.

  • It's okay to not be focused.

  • Focusing is hard because it requires a delicate and beautiful harmony between all of these

  • parts.

  • A lack of focus may be a sign that you haven't found the right role, the right cast, the

  • right stage, or the right show.

  • It may be time for a change in your life in one of these areas.

  • Perhaps, it's an opportunity to boldly engage with the world, and discover yourself through

  • interacting with it.

  • Focus is an invitation from the world to stay put for a while and perform; a lack of focus

  • is an invitation to seek a new show, a new stage, or

  • a new role.

If you've ever watched a great play, you know the feeling of being totally immersed in an experience.

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為什麼很難集中精力? (Why it's so Hard to Focus)

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    Summer 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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