Spending Your Attention Allowance

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on May 19, 2022 # Lifestyle

Kristin BealeThere are a lot of things I wish I could give more of my attention to (the news, what people are doing, what they’re thinking), but I can’t. I just can’t. There aren’t enough minutes in the day, and not enough care in the world to pay attention to those things, especially when I’m giving my attention to bigger things like my goals, my health, and my loved ones.

I think about my attention the same way as I do an allowance: I get a certain amount of it every day, I spend it how I want then, when I’m out, I don’t have more to give. In the case of that daily allowance, it’s important that I use it wisely.

Our attention is valuable, and what we pay it to can greatly impact who and how we are. Between the political atmosphere of our world and the lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic, I was very much forced to rethink how I spend that allowance, i.e., what I choose to pay attention to. I can’t give myself to everything, so I’ve started being pickier about my consumption.

  1. The news. I stopped watching the news midway through 2020 because that’s when things started hitting the fan. Inundation in the play-by-play of my lifestyle (seemingly) falling apart was taking its toll on my mental health. It’s important to know what’s going on, of course, so I listen to the news via a podcast on my smart home speaker three to four times per day. That method only exposes me to the highlights, so I’m able to dip in and back out instead of hearing the gory details on repeat. My emotional well-being thanks me, and I can give my full attention to other things that [also] matter.
  2. What other's think. To stop worrying about what other people think wasn’t easy, and it took time, but let me tell you: worth it. I’m free. That’s not saying I’m an interpersonal wrecking ball that acts with disregard, but more that I live my life in a way that doesn’t account so much for how I’m perceived. I can’t control what other people will do or how they think, so I stopped trying to. As long as you stay considerate of people around you and you’re not mashing on people’s toes to get to your happy, do your thing. They’ll find something to pick at no matter what you do, so you might as well be happy within yourself.

The news and other people are only two of the things I dropped out of, but please believe there are smaller but no-less-consuming attention-stealers. I shifted my attention from the mundane to the meaningful:

  1. My goals. I have some big ones that were waiting for me to give my attention. So, in June 2021, I made that shift and set some goals for myself: exercise more and write more. In the time since, I’ve run those goals through the finish line: I completed my 14th marathon last year, and I’m weeks away from turning in the manuscript for my 4th book. Shifting my attention to the things that matter gave me the space to arrive where I wanted to be.
  2. And my body. I’ve been paralyzed for 16 years, and I’m only partly learning on this one: paying attention to my body. I’ve loved ignoring its messages by not resting and pushing through all my pain, even though that has seldom served me. For evidence, see 16 years of lower body wounds, torn muscles, and pressure sores. Part of my 2021 goal setting was to start listening to what my body tells me, and so far, it’s doing me right: I’m down to only one wound, I eat enough grams of protein every day, and bladder infections are a problem in the past. Your body – your temple – is the best thing to spend your Attention Allowance on. I have the scars to prove it.

Becoming the master of your attention will make you more productive, sure, but it’ll also help you manage your stress. Think about it: if you set your sights on what’s important and fruitful, the distractions and unnecessary pressures will fall away. Use your Attention Allowance on things that’ll build you up and set you toward your goals, instead of standing in the way. Since I started thinking about my attention as my allowance, I’ll ask myself, “Is this worth spending my Allowance on?” If no, I set it [figuratively] down, and walk away. If so, I can give it my full attention.

Your attention is valuable, it’s limited, and it’s sacred. Take back some power and let your free time reflect your values. Only you can decide what to spend your allowance on.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.