If you lack the ability to focus, you will still think plenty of thoughts, but not many of them will really be your own, or at least they won’t be the ones you choose.

Marketing and propaganda work mostly by directing your focus at specific things to the exclusion of others. There are several ways to accomplish this.

One is by evoking strong emotions – making something look better, or worse, or more outrageous than the evidence really merits.

Another is repetition. If you hear about something often enough, you’re much more likely to assign outsized importance to it, and to continue thinking about it even when it isn’t being presented to you.

Also, while I don’t know how often this is a deliberate tactic, it seems to me like you’re more easily convinced when you’re distracted, when your mental resources are spread so thin that you have very little left over to critically analyze what you’re told.

Another consequence of fragmented attention is weakened emotional control, which means that you’re more susceptible to whatever emotional manipulation a marketer or propagandist throws your way.

There are two ways to address these effects and reclaim your autonomy.

The most obvious is to cut out the distracting and propagandizing influences. Don’t endless less surf the web, or listen to the news, or get caught up in the social media hype cycle. You may think you can stay objective in the middle of such things, but most of us really can’t.

In addition to distorting your view of the world, these activities drain mental and emotional energy that you need for your own purposes.

The second is to cultivate focus as an independent skill – as I say often, focus is more, much more, than just the absence of distraction.

When your focus is strong, and you understand the attention-directing mechanics of persuasion, you’ll be much more able to make up your own mind about things, rather than having someone else dictate your thoughts.

You’ll also be happier, and have much more power over your own circumstances.

As I argued a few weeks ago, focus is freedom, and it is specifically freedom inside your own mind from external influences.

Learn to focus, and reclaim your autonomy.


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