What you pay attention to can make a huge difference in your life. It can affect how you feel, what you think, and what you can accomplish. In a very real sense, you are what you pay attention to.

A colleague shared with me a great story about the value of controlling attention.

An old Cherokee Indian is teaching his grandson about life. "A battle is going on inside each of us," he tells his grandson. "It is a terrible fight between two strong wolves. One wolf is evil. The other is good.”

The grandson thinks about this for a minute. Then he asks his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The wise old Cherokee answers, "The one you feed."

The problem is, if you're like most people, you probably have far less control than you'd like over which wolves you feed and which you don't.

The truth is, you don't have to be diagnosed with an attention disorder to have an attention deficit!

To some degree, we are all suffering from an attention deficit. And although you may beat yourself up for failing to stay focused, it's not really your fault. You see, unfortunately, the normal human mind is stuck with some leftover primitive wiring that makes us far too distractible. And to make matters worse, our lives are increasingly filled with distractions.

Of course, experts urge us to "just stay focused," and they tantalize us with the delicious benefits of doing so. But in light of the way the human mind is wired, staying focused is a whole lot easier said than done.

Staying focused is not simply a matter of will. Sure, you can deliberately focus your attention on any goal you choose. But actually staying focused on a goal is a different story altogether - one that all-too-often ends badly.

We lose so much as a result of our inability to stay focused. Because our attention so easily goes to the squeakiest wheel rather than the smartest wheel, we often forget what matters most. (Just ask Tiger Woods!) And because we so easily take our sights off goals that we would otherwise have the ability to achieve, we routinely deprive ourselves of much success and personal satisfaction.

So what can we do to improve the amount of control we have over our attention? A clinical psychologist, I've been searching for answers to this question for over twenty years.

The most promising approach to staying focused is what could best be described as the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach. This is an approach that makes lemonade out of lemons. Instead of regarding the mind's excessive distractibility as a liability worth fighting, the approach regards the mind's excessive distractibility as an asset worth tapping.

My colleague Pete Greider and I coined the term "spotlighting" to describe how this approach works. Spotlighting is about making sure that you'll be repeatedly exposed to the right distractions - "friendly interruptions," if you will, that actually serve to direct your attention to any chosen goal and keep your attention focused on that goal.

I developed a simple electronic device called a MotivAider that makes it extremely easy for users to enjoy the benefits of spotlighting. The MotivAider is a pager-like device that sends its user a silent private signal - a pulsing vibration - that's automatically repeated as often as the user selects. All the user has to do is mentally connect a chosen personal goal to the MotivAider's signal. The MotivAider does the rest. It sends the user a steady stream of private prompts - again, friendly interruptions - to keep the user's attention riveted on the chosen goal.

Here's an example of the MotivAider in action: Suppose you've decided to improve your posture. If you're like most people, deciding alone won't get the job done. Thanks to the combination of a distractible mind and a life filled with distractions, the chances are sky high that, despite your good intentions, you'll quickly lose your focus and forget all about your goal.

With the MotivAider onboard, things are different. Way different. With the MotivAider programmed to automatically send you private "I'm no slouch" reminders, say, every ten minutes all day long, your attention stays focused on your goal. And that means you'll have an excellent shot at achieving it.

The MotivAider lets you keep virtually any goal in the spotlight. It can be used, for example, to keep your attention focused on thinking more positively; on using your time more effectively; on being a better partner, parent or boss.

Hopefully, others will be inspired to use technology to improve attention. There's good reason to be optimistic about what we could accomplish if we try. Just look at our success in using technology to improve vision. We did a lot more than just develop corrective appliances like eyeglasses and contact lenses to enable people with below average visual acuity to see better. We also developed telescopes and microscopes to enable people to see in ways that wildly exceed the limits of normal vision.

Perhaps someday we'll develop solutions that truly make us the masters of our own attention and that allow us to enjoy all the success and satisfaction that our distractible minds now deprive us of. Until then, if you'd like to have greater control over your attention, try spotlightling.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Levinson is a clinical psychologist, inventor, author, speaker and consultant who has spent most of his career helping people follow through on their good intentions.

In the early 1980's, he discovered a design flaw in the human mind that's largely responsible for poor follow through. Levinson used his discovery to create the MotivAider - a remarkably simple tool that dramatically improves follow through by automatically keeping its user's mind focused on making virtually any desired change in behavior. Levinson co-founded Behavioral Dynamics, Inc. in 1987 to develop, perfect, manufacture and market the MotivAider. In 2008, he left the healthcare industry to devote his fulltime attention to supporting MotivAider users worldwide.

Levinson teamed up with peak performance consultant, Peter Greider, to write Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model For Finishing Whatever You Start. This critically-acclaimed book is based on Levinson's groundbreaking discovery about the paradoxical way the mind treats good intentions.