attention and direct experience

William Liao
2 min readFeb 20, 2022


Today’s post is my third on the development of personal philosophy — a short phrase or sentence that performance psychologist Michael Gervais suggests we establish to help prevent our fear of other peoples’ thoughts (FOPO) from removing your attention from the beliefs, talents, and values that empower us to thrive in the world.

If you missed the first two posts, you can check them out here (FOPO) and here (courage and vulnerability).

Okay(!), so here’s where things stand after a full week since drafting and implementing a personal philosophy:

Top-level observations are that the three words I initially gravitated towards have remained sticky. And whenever I’m overly concerned about what other people are thinking about me, declaring the phrase “be playful, courageous, and vulnerable” in my mind has been extremely helpful in reducing my anxiety, shifting my mindset towards curiosity and joy, and increasing my productivity.

I don’t think there’s any wizardry going on here.

Your mind is finite real estate:

If your mind is filled with unrealistic and irrational thoughts about what peoples’ opinions may or may not be, then perpetual worrying about others’ views becomes your reality.

If your mind is filled with thoughts about the kind of person you want to be (courtesy of a personal philosophy statement), then ideas and actions around becoming that person become your reality.

There’s a simple but profound truth here: the quality of your attention dictates the quality of your experience.

To learn how to focus your attention elsewhere is to know how to fundamentally change your experience.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (