To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention—CONTINUOUSLY. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always in high alert when we pay continuous partial attention.
There's a lot going on in that quote. What stands out to you? I've noticed a lot of this recently in my personal life and my work with students. Turns out FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out, has truly enslaved us. It has caused us to waste the precious, yet oft neglected resources of attention, time, and brain waves. We find ourselves asking, "What if? What if I'm not 100% in the know about March Madness, the 2013 roster of the Chicago Cubs, and the progress of spring football in Nebraska?" Maybe those are the things that drive me to Facebook, ESPN.com, and Twitter. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the only one willing to admit I suffer from "continuous partial attention disorder."
I'm currently coaching high school baseball, and our team is struggling. We are competing; the games are close, but we're just not quite winning. Winning the game sort of matters in sports. Now you know. Sports are supposed to be fun, and winning, let me tell you, is really fun. Winning beats losing every time. All that was for free, back to the good stuff. Our team is struggling. We've noticed that in the midst of these struggles there aren't a lot of guys eager to put in extra work to improve. I know some of them could read this, so they need to know that I know that some of them are working hard and putting in extra effort. However, some of them have other things on their minds. Some can't seem to escape the lure of March Madness. Some are thinking about the video game they'll rush home to play, or the homework they've put off for literally a year. Those are the "finally getting around to my Junior goals essay because now I'm a Senior and I need it to graduate" guys.
The question is, What really matters? You see, the athletes I coach are prone to say that sports really matter to them; they hope to make all conference, earn all-state recognition, a college scholarship, or to play professionally. Yet, they rarely count the cost and put in the work necessary to achieve these goals. Their sports careers are an exercise in "continual partial attention." Sports are important, yes, but there are a lot of other things competing for their attention. I mean, what if I don't know who Taylor Swift is currently dating? That could mean the end of all things for a high schooler, right?
I wonder, how many of us could say the same about our faith? We really want to want to love and follow Jesus, but there are so many other things competing for our attention. So, we give Jesus our continuous partial attention. We give Jesus a little slice of our attention, and we have good intentions to give him more. Yet, when it really comes down to it, there are other "opportunities, activities, and contacts" that we also need to keep an eye on. This continuous partial attention impacts our discipleship, our relationships, and our ability to focus on what really matters.
Examine your life. Think about your day. How often are you 100% present to the person or task at hand? How often are you able to give your full attention to Christ? As I type this, I have an episode of the Office playing on the Wii and my iPhone is blowing up with texts. This blog post has been an example to me of my participation in a lifestyle of continuous partial attention. What about you?!