The Focusing Illusion

One of the leading brain researchers of our day, Daniel Kahneman, describes the focusing illusion:

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.”

Haven’t we all experienced that? I have ruminated endlessly and pointlessly on stuff, that in the moment, seemed SUPREMELY important. Later, I realized – nah, not so important after all. But in that moment of ruminating – wow! Talk about turning molehills into mountains!

Almost every argument I’ve been a part of, especially the ones I’ve started, in retrospect have been pretty dumb! I wish I could have a Mulligan on that one.

Now, what makes this more important is our inability to easily or naturally do long-range planning and wide-lens thinking. Stephen Covey talks about this in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He talks about the urgent vs. the important. The urgent almost always triumphs over the important. We respond to urgencies and emergencies and neglect the long-term, slow, steady, important things of life.

What we need to do is spend more time in Quadrant 2 activities. Read, study, learn. Spend lingering time in conversations with people who matter. Rest, exercise, eat well. Get training, learn new skills, practice and improve. These are the things that are necessary and worthwhile.

But in the moment, that urgency seems crazy important. Only later do we discover – nope, it wasn’t that important.

I think this is included in the words of Jesus to “don’t worry, don’t be anxious,” don’t fret, don’t ruminate, don’t obsess. Not only does it not do you much good, it actually does you much emotional harm. It certainly hinders you from paying attention to what matters most.

Focusing along with you on what matters most, which is always the will and the way of Jesus.

Pastor Brian

P.S. Remember, what you focus on expands. Whether what you have focused on is good or bad, it will expand for you.

Brian Rice