Attention plays an outsized role in determining the quality of our life.
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport engages the relatioship between the object of our focus and our contentment. For Newport's thesis, he is concerned with the difference between focusing on deep, meaningful work and shallow work or distraction. Ultimately, focusing on deep work as opposed to mindless distraction actually makes someone happier. Newport relies heavily on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow. This runs counter to the widespread assumption that distraction and unstructured leisure where one does not have to thing provides one with happiness when they are emotinally weary. While this is certainly true, a fuller understanding relates to the idols of the heart. I need to tease out both Deep Work and Flow in further notes.
In general, people emphasize their cicumstances as the determiner of their emotional state. What happens to us (or what fails to happen to us) is most often seen as the source of our joy or contentment. This undersanding is pervasive and accords with an internal Locus of Control. However, it does not accord with brain science.
In her book Rapt, Winifred Gallagher claims contentment is less the product of one's circumstances than the object of their attention. She writes:
Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love is the sum of what you focus on. Winifred Gallagher, Rapt.
Get Rapt and work out her notes on this topic.
In this way, a person's emotional state is not bound by their circumstances. Instead it is informed, transformed even, by where they choose to place their focus.
Brain Science on Focus and Emotion
This can be seen in the way the brains emotional centers fire. In empirical studies of the amygdala, scientists have analyzed the response of younger patients to postive and negative stimuli and noted that their amygdala fires at both. Whereas, in elderly patients it only fires at the positive stimuli. In other words, the brain wires itself to focus on the positive and overlook the negative.
Focus on what is good.
The same could be said for the distinction between giving attention to those things that are shallow and mindless versus attending to activities that are spiritually edifying.
This understanding of attention and circumstances agrees with Scripture's exhortations to the believer. Paul addresses the issue clearly in Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
Paul makes clear the connection between our attention and our spiritual formation.
Peter makes the same claim in his first epistle. He writes:
Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Peter's exhortation addresses the affective domain of worldview tranformation by noting the connection between ones attention and their desires. In fact, all three domains come into play, as the result here is transformed living. See Learning Domains and Worldview Transformation.
I need to fill this section with substance. Exegete relevant passages.
We are What we Worship
Since worship is about affection toward a particular person or thing, it necessarily invovles attention. Those things about which we think the most, the ones that captivate our minds also captivate our hearts. We essentially become what we focus on the most. Connect this concept to the idea of Beale's book.