If you want to be successful, pay attention

Focus on your goalsIf you want to be successful, you need to pay attention. You need to focus on your goals if you want to achieve them. Focus, however, is something that’s in steady decline. In fact, our attention spans are getting so bad, that only 1 in 5 people will finish reading this brief article.

Just 15 years ago, Myspace, Friendster, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. According to one study, today’s average user reads 54, 000 words on social media and watches 443 minutes of video. That’s the equivalent of 12 hours per day. We’re reading the equivalent of a novel but we’re not focused enough to master anything. We’re not focused enough to really appreciate what we are reading.  In one day, we partly consume 285 separate pieces of content.

What’s remarkable is that we have changed the way we search. A 2012 study showed 21% of our time online is on search engines. 22% of our time is on social media. Information is presented to us on social media, which is based on our likes, shares, friends and browsing history. The problem is we’re not using our brains for original, creative thinking. Social media is showing us what should be important. They’re getting really good at it too. That’s why so may of us spend our days in a click frenzy, following one distraction after another, never really seeing much through to the end.

In 2007, The New York Times Reported, market research firm Yankelovich estimated that just 30 years ago the average city dweller was exposed to 2,000 advertising messages per day. At the time the article was written, the average person living in the city was exposed to 5,000 messages per day. Facebook and Twitter advertising hadn’t even begun then.

This morning I logged on to Facebook. 4 of the top 8 posts on my news feed were ads. Add to that constant notifications that someone’s messaged me, tagged me, mentioned me, shared my photo, someone is live, I have saved links etc. Sometimes I feel like a trained monkey, with a banana dangling in front of me. “Maybe I should just check it,” I tell myself.

So now, instead of being distracted only when I log on to social media, my phone reminds me there is a distraction waiting for me. If I don’t check the screen, my phone makes a noise to alert me about something on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I don’t use Snapchat but I know a few people that could add that to the list of constant, pointless distractions.

Steve Jobs once said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done, as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Oprah said, “You can do it all, just not all at once.”

If you want to be successful you need to set your own goals and then focus intensely on reaching those goals. You need to work out how to focus on your goals, instead of being slave to a world where you are constantly distracted from what you really want. If you want to be successful, start paying attention to your own dreams and goals.