"Nothing is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it"

πŸ’Œ Newsletter

The Focusing Illusion and 4 implications

Welcome! I'm Daniel Matteo, a political activist & campaigner turned management consultant turned coach. And this is my politicwise newsletter, where I share the key insights to fuel your personal & political journey.

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Now, let's jump into it...

"What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

This question was asked in 2011 by the publication edge.org and Daniel Kahneman (the psychologist & economist, winner of Nobel Prize laureate in Economics and author of 'Thinking, Fast and Slow') answered:

The Focusing Illusion.

And one sentence captures the idea:

"Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it." (Daniel Kahneman)

What we pay attention to becomes important in our minds, if it 'really' is or not (based on data, our values or objectives).


Paraplegics are often unhappy, but they are not unhappy all the time because they spend most of the time experiencing and thinking about other things than their disability. When we think of what it is like to be a paraplegic, or blind, or a lottery winner, or a resident of California we focus on the distinctive aspects of each of these conditions. The mismatch in the allocation of attention between thinking about a life condition and actually living it is the cause of the focusing illusion.

In politics, the media set the agenda and politicians try to shape it. Because: what we keep talking about, becomes important in the minds of citizens - whether it's warranted or not.

There are least 4 implications:

  • Be aware what you are focusing on. It's important πŸ˜„
  • Be aware who you are focusing on. We tend to pay attention to leaders quite a bit (what they're doing or should be doing). They become important in our minds - and they are to some extent. But let's not underestimate our own agency in shaping the world.
  • Politicians have a responsibility to shape people's focus and should use this power deliberately and with care.
  • People are not the only force that shape our focus - organizations, institutions, and algorithms do so, too.

πŸŽ™οΈ My latest podcast

Focusing Illusion in politics
About the episode The Focusing Illusion, as described by Daniel Kahneman, states: β€œNothing in life is as important as we think it is while we are thinking about it.” This concept is relevant in politics in two ways: what we think and talk about, and who we think and talk

πŸ“š What I read & listen to

Enjoying the golden nuggets of edge.org, asking the brilliant minds of our time questions like "What is your dangerous idea?" or "What will change everything?".


πŸ–‹οΈ My favourite quote

"Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it." - Daniel Kahneman on edge.org