Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

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"In Rapt, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher makes the radical and compelling argument that much of the quality of your life depends not on fame or fortune, beauty or brains - or on what happens to happen to you - but on what you choose to pay attention to. Your world, and even your self, is largely constructed from the thoughts and feelings, people and things you've focused on throughout your life. Much more than you probably suspect, you can, as you move forward, actively direct your attention to create the kind of ...

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2009-04-16 Hardcover New In Rapt, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher makes the radical argument that much of the quality of your life depends not on fame or ... fortune, beauty or brains-or what happens to happen to you-but on what you choose to pay attention to. Rapt introduces a diverse cast of characters, from researchers to artists and ranchers, to illustrate the art of living the interested life. Read more Show Less

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Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

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Overview

"In Rapt, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher makes the radical and compelling argument that much of the quality of your life depends not on fame or fortune, beauty or brains - or on what happens to happen to you - but on what you choose to pay attention to. Your world, and even your self, is largely constructed from the thoughts and feelings, people and things you've focused on throughout your life. Much more than you probably suspect, you can, as you move forward, actively direct your attention to create the kind of experience you want and become the person you want to be." "Drawing from the latest neuroscience and psychology, Rapt looks beyond the sound bites about multitasking, ADHD, and our distracting electronics to illuminate attention's essential function: transforming the vast, chaotic world into your own orderly, user-friendly personal version. Your brain's selective gatekeeper, it's involved in virtually every aspect of life - learning and memory, thought and emotion, work and relationships. As the expression "paying attention" suggests, you have a limited store of this cognitive currency, which you should invest wisely, because the stakes are high. On the deepest level, what you focus on can literally change your brain, and thus your behavior. On the experiential level, taking charge of your attention is the key to personal power and freedom - and the hallmark of the successful and satisfied." "Rapt introduces a diverse cast of characters, from researchers to artists and ranchers, to illustrate the art and science of living the interested life. As their stories show, by focusing on the most positive or productive elements in almost any situation,you can shape your inner experience and literally expand your world - a revelation that's especially meaningful during times of great change, whether personal or cultural. In periods of uncertainty and turmoil, not just individuals but also the larger society must make wise choices about what to focus on, and sustain that attention despite distractions." Along with organizing your internal and external worlds, attention opens the doors to the sublime experience best described as "rapt." By cultivating this ability to be completely engrossed-whether by rolling waves or a soaring aria, by rearranging your furniture or writing a poem - you improve your capacity for concentration, broaden your inner horizons, lift your spirits, and most important, feel what it means to be fully alive.

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Editorial Reviews

Paul Bloom
Gallagher devotes much of this engaging book to reviewing the psychology and neuroscience of attention. A journalist and the author of several books about human psychology…Gallagher blends the science nicely with examples of people whose disciplined attention has contributed to their success
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Gallagher (The Power of Place, Working on God) couples personal ruminations and interviews with experts to explore the role of attention in defining consciousness, identity and the human experience: "who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love-is the sum of what you focus on." From paying attention to your inner dialogue (helping eliminate negative thought patterns) to bucking the myths of multi-tasking (says cognitive scientist David Meyer, "Einstein didn't invent the theory of relativity while multi-tasking at the Swiss patent office"), Gallagher draws practical conclusions from her examination of conscious ("top-down") and unconscious ("bottom-up") attention strategies. Though her claims to "a psychological version of... physicist's 'grand universal theory'" are a bit outsized, Gallagher takes illuminating forays into the evolution of the species and the global diaspora, looking for instance at how "Western individualism" emphasizes top-down focus while the Asian mentality encourages a broader, contextual perspective. A fascinating psycho-social look at human motivation and the power of focus, Gallagher's latest is worth paying attention to.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594202100
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/16/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.44 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Winifred Gallagher
Winifred Gallagher’s books include House Thinking, Just the Way You Are (a New York Times Notable Book), Working on God, and The Power of Place. She has written for numerous publications, such as Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. She lives in Manhattan and Dubois, Wyoming.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Choosing the Focused Life 1

Chapter 1 Pay Attention: Your Life Depends on It 15

Chapter 2 Inside Out: Feelings Frame Focus 29

Chapter 3 Outside In: What You See Is What You Get 43

Chapter 4 Nature: Born to Focus 55

Chapter 5 Nurture: This Is Your Brain on Attention 67

Chapter 6 Relationships: Attending to Different Worlds 81

Chapter 7 Productivity: Work Zone 99

Chapter 8 Decisions: Focusing Illusions 115

Chapter 9 Creativity: An Eye for Detail 133

Chapter 10 Focus Interruptus 145

Chapter 11 Disordered Attention 163

Chapter 12 Motivation: Eyes on the Prize 173

Chapter 13 Health: Energy Goes Where Attention Flows 189

Chapter 14 Meaning: Attending to What Matters Most 203

Afterword 219

Acknowledgments 221

Notes and Suggested Readings 223

Index 235

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent

    Rapt is an excellent and unique look at a subject that while not ignored has, in my reading, never before been as well or as productively explored.

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    Posted January 26, 2010

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    Posted January 11, 2010

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