Attention, Routine and Comfort

Life is an endless pursuit to focus our attention effectively. What do you want to achieve? What is important to you? How do you balance work, life, family and friends? Being in a foreign country heightens this pursuit tremendously!

The routine of life at home reduces our need to think about where we place our attention. We shift between work, meals, exercise and plans with family & friends, which creates structure and requires less deliberate attention. We can shift our priorities at the margin, but the routine establishes a consistent base.

Being in a foreign country, having no routine, no family, less work requirements, fewer friends and limited plans, elevates the importance of where we place our attention. You’re forced to apply your mind in each situation and cannot go with the flow – the flow does not exist. Consistently choosing is tiring as we aren’t used to being so deliberate with our time. Where are you going to work? Where do want to work? Do you even enjoy your work? What do you enjoy about work and what don’t you? Now, take work and replace it with home, friends, family, etc.

Of course, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. An opportunity to direct our attention towards the ends we truly desire. There are similarities when people move from traditional employment to self-employment and suddenly become the masters of their time. How liberating! We get to choose! Moving countries escalates the phenomenon as all aspects of life are up for question.

I guess what people mean when they say that they’re “settled down” in a new place is when choosing rebalances vs. routine. When we reduce the amount of energy we’re expending on thinking where to place our attention. Being so far away from routine can imply that we begin to crave that routine.

The question is, what routine do you want? What are you willing to compromise in order to create the comfort of routine? Is the routine truly productive? Does it add long-term value and fulfill you? Or are you just seeking routine to create comfort?

Productive routine allows us to become successful by using our time effectively. Speed through the mundane and focus on rewarding creative exploits. Far too many people create routine just for the sake of it, running around from meeting to meeting, leading us to think we’re successful just because we’re busy. But being busy is not the goal. Pointless routine and endless busy-ness turn us into hamsters on a wheel.

It’s easy to seek out comfort when you’re so far away from home. Find people, places and foods that remind you of home. Or get immediately caught up in the latest gossip of your new home to fit-in as soon as possible. Comfort psychology can become a routine because it makes us momentarily happy, makes us feel at home. But it’s often meaningless and can even be contradictory to our goals. Comfort can leave us unmoored, fluttering from one short-term comfort to the next. Comfort can leave us lazy and unambitious, which leads to longer term dissatisfaction as we’re persistently distracted from real goals.

Here’s to productive routine, less pointless busy-ness, an awareness of short-term comforts and capitalising on change in the pursuit truly meaningful ends.


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