Rapt: Attention and the Focussed Life

I had to return Rapt: Attention and the Focussed Life

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 to the library recently, and I finished it just under the (pay no fine) wire.  It’s an excellent read, and I’m considering buying a copy to keep and mark up.  A few excerpts:

According to the under-appreciated mid-twentieth-century psychologist Nicholas Hobbs, the way to ensure this calm but heightened attention to the matter at hand is to choose activities that push you so close to the edge of your competence that they demand your absolute focus.

This would explain my gifted son’s distractibility with his school work.  Most of it doesn’t push him anywhere near the edge of his abilities.

Further on, Gallagher talks about leisure time, reminding us that “evolution has primed us to focus on the thrills of the savannah”.  She explains our tendency to waste time thus:

If left to their own devices and genetic programming, and without a salient external stimulus to attract them, most people go into a mode of low-level information processing in which they worry about things or watch television.

And a final shout out to those of us who revel in our work lives:

If most of the time you’re not particularly concerned about whether what you are doing is work or play, or even whether you’re happy or not, you know you’re living the focussed life. 

I’m putting this one on my Christmas list.

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