Mary Oliver once wrote that “attention is the beginning of devotion.”1 You’ll never grow in your love or appreciation for someone if you never notice them. You won’t deepen your enthusiasm for something if you never give it any thought. And although attention may not be sufficient for devotion, it is necessary. Genuine love or enthusiasm will neither take root nor continue to grow without it.

The problem is we are daily inundated with demands for our attention. Headlines and digital notifications are designed to make us notice them. But if we wind up giving them an inordinate amount of your attention, who or what gets overlooked?

What you give your attention to says a good deal about what you care about—even more so than what you say you care about. It’s easy to say you’re devoted to someone or something. But if you never give them any attention, in what does your devotion consist?

When comparing who or what you want to be devoted to with where your attention actually goes, you may see some areas that “need some attention.” The good news is you ultimately have the choice of where to focus your attention. It may be hard and require some boundaries. But it’s this choice to intentionally direct your attention that can be the means of growing in your devotion to the people and things that matter most in your life.

  1. I came across this quote first in the Franklin Foer’s article in The Atlantic by the same name. ↩︎