It’s becoming increasingly apparent that a trend I wrote about here last September, the Attention Deficit Society, is at least, in part to blame for the emergence of another impactful trend – mindful living. After that earlier post, I began watching how friends, family members, co-workers, etc., were addressing the growing number of things vying for their attention every day. What I’ve observed so far and what they’ve told me in discussions on this topic may be a strong indicator of just how widespread the mindful living trend could become.
Among the things I’ve learned is that people are becoming much more keenly aware of doing things they feel are unimportant at the expense of those that are more important. A great example is our propensity to hit the ‘Unsubscribe’ links in unwanted email messages as a more mindful approach to dealing with those ‘must have’ emails that almost always go unread. There are many other ways in which we’ve begun mindfully doing things different. They range from a collection of relatively small day-to-day decisions to bigger ones like the types of trips we may be taking (a common theme seems to be remote and unplugged).
I’ve heard a few people use the term ‘contemplative computing’ interchangeably with mindful living but, to me, they’re not synonymous. Being aware of why and how much we use mobile or other computing devices is, no doubt, a subset of mindful living. In fact, for many, it’s probably the largest subset. While contemplative computing it a perfect way to describe one facet of the mindful living trend, it really only refers to the manner in which we use a single category of technology. Television, for example, would be another.
What will be the end result as the “Attention Deficit Society” and “Mindful Living” trends evolve? No one can say with certainty yet but here’s an informed guess. Technology – especially mobile phones, tablets, and wearables – are evolving in such a way that they’ll become key to focusing our attention on those things we care most about. Applications will be ‘teachable’ in the sense that they’ll learn, with a high degree of accuracy, what we find interesting, what we like or dislike, what we typically ignore, and what will most likely prompt us to take some type of action. The role of another megatrend, big data, cannot be underestimated in this regard.
In the end, I’m confident each of us will have the tools to find the right balance. For some, it may be a lot more quality time with family and friends. For others, it could be even greater immersion in the experiences that one or more technologies deliver. Mindful living will enable the best of both worlds: the conscious decisions we make about how to spend our time as well as the growing number of decisions we allow technologies to make on our behalf.