What is more precious than time

What is more precious than time

Time is the only resource we can’t buy more of. It is, we are told, the most precious thing we have. I disagree. Let me tell you why.

First, do you have time?

Wiki says that time is:

“the indefinite continued progress of existence and events…”

No one can have the indefinite progress of existence. The only way of owning time is having memories of past events, and visions of future. But then, if we don’t have time, what do we have?

We each have a scarce resource that can bend time to its will — attention.

When we fully focus on something and enter a flow state, time disappears. Watching an action-packed thriller, you don’t notice minutes whizzing past. On the other hand, a second of waiting can feel like an eon. This fickle nature of the perception of time makes it hard to trust. Time can get out of control, and does when we oversleep or miss a plane.

Attention more stable, and also more valuable. Social media provides proof of the monetary value of attention. Facebook doesn’t really care if I browse for an hour, or a minute. They care whether I pay attention to the ads and find them attractive enough to click on them. In fact, if we collectively spent 10x less time on Facebook, but clicked on the same number of ads, they would be happier, since it would decrease the load on their servers.

Yet money from ads aren’t by far the most prized thing governed by attention. We’ve probably all heard or seen the story of a marriage failing because one person didn’t pay attention to the other.

Fortunately, we can stop that from happening by simply deciding to be attentive. However, there is a limit to how much attention we can pay. Indeed, the word ‘pay’ is not accidental. We pay for attention with energy. The cells in our brains are living organisms, and just like any other living cells, they need energy in the form of glucose to live. When we pay attention, it exhausts us, because we are keeping millions of cells focused, working.

That brings me back to social media. If you wake up, and the first thing you do after hitting the alarm is swipe right on the newest Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter notification, you are already starting to deplete your mental energy. And if you scroll through a few feeds and walls, you might exhaust the brain to the point when it may be impossible to think clearly when you are confronted with a vital decision.

Now, one of the things we get in return for paying attention are good and clear memories. Attention helps encode our experiences the right way in our brains. That is no small benefit, since our lives are, to a degree, a collection of our memories. Moreover, what we remember consciously, or subconsciously, serves as a foundation for any of our future actions.

We should all guard our attention with our lives, because what we pay attention to becomes our lives. Pay carefully.

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