In today’s fast-moving, over-scheduled, multi-tasking world, focusing our attention on one thing at a time can often feel like an exercise in inefficiency. Many of us live in a perpetual state of motion. Victims of our daily grind, our bodies may be present in the here and now, but our minds are often two steps ahead— fixated on tonight’s rush hour traffic, or tomorrow’s project, or how much time we have to complete this thing before we have to hurry along to the next. We value productivity. We hate wasting time. And often, if we’re not killing two birds with one stone, we feel as though we’re just not trying hard enough.

The problem, though, is that a productive life is different than a meaningful one.

And in order to find whatever meaning may be bubbling beneath the surface of our nine-to-five lives, we have to be willing to give our attention to the tasks, people and conversations that truly matter– even when they’re not demanding our presence. Even when they don’t guarantee concrete results. Even when they can’t promise an immediate return on our investment.

The truth is, many of us burn so much energy trying to survive our lives, we end up missing the point of our lives. When skim the surface of our day-to-day while simultaneously cutting ourselves off from our own depth. We miss the bigger picture. We lose ourselves in the productivity trap, then have a hard time finding our way back to the things that matter when we need them most.

A fulfilling career doesn’t unpack itself while we’re head down in busy work. Relationships don’t strengthen while we mindlessly scroll our News Feeds. And meaning certainly doesn’t find us while we’re busy checking boxes and avoiding our own deep work.

Whatever we give our attention to becomes who we are.

Thankfully for us, changing who we are is often just a matter of looking in a different direction.