4 States of Human Attention


Human attention can be classified into four distinct states, each representing a phase of engagement, communication, and interaction. These states are akin to the states of matter, encompassing solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, and are integral to understanding how humans perceive, promise, act, and achieve.

1. Solid State: Outcomes (Past Tense)

In the solid state of human attention, outcomes are evident and undeniable. Actions that have been completed are perceived as facts, expressed in the past tense. For example, statements such as “I paid rent” or “I closed those 3 deals” reflect tangible achievements. Outcomes are immune to interpretation and provide a firm foundation for trust and collaboration.

2. Liquid State: Actions (Present Tense)

The liquid state represents the actions being taken in the present moment. Unlike solid outcomes, actions are subject to interpretation and opinion. While one person sees the effort and intention behind an action, another may perceive it differently. This state encompasses statements like “I’m working” or “I’m making dinner,” which, while clear, can lead to differing perceptions and debates about the quality or intent of the action.

3. Gaseous State: Promises (Future Tense)

Promises represent the gaseous state of human attention, characterized by the intent and commitment to perform an action in the future. Expressions like “I will pay rent” or “I will close those 3 deals this month” fill the room with expectations but lack tangible substance. Promises are volatile and intangible, creating a sense of anticipation but also potential uncertainty.

4. Plasma State: Ideas and Creativity

The plasma state symbolizes the boundless realm of ideas, creativity, surprise, and wonder. It transcends the other states by embodying the human propensity for imagination and innovation. Unlike the concrete nature of outcomes or the interpretive nature of actions, the plasma state is ethereal and infinite, where ideas flourish and creativity knows no bounds.

One might ask, how do we transition from the intangible plasma state of ideas and creativity to the tangible solid state of outcomes? It’s a transformation that requires understanding and deliberate effort.

If we were to visualize this transformation using a metaphorical thermometer, the plasma state would be extremely hot, filled with the fervor of creativity, surprise, and wonder, while the outcome state would be cool, calm, and concrete. So, how do we bridge this gap? The short answer is: cool it down!

The Mechanism of Action

Action is the crucial mechanism that transforms the heat of ideas into the cool, undeniable reality of outcomes. It’s the bridge that spans the distance between the abstract and the concrete, the vision and the reality.

The process doesn’t involve heating things up with more ideas, more creativity, more surprise, or more wonder. Instead, it calls for the opposite approach: taking decisive, focused action on the plasma of ideas and shaping it into tangible outcomes.

Self-Assessment Through Language

A practical way to gauge your progress in this transformation is to pay attention to how you speak to others about your ideas. Are you communicating in the past tense or the future tense? If your language is consistently framed in the past tense, reflecting completed actions and achievements, you are well on your way to accomplishing your dreams.

Your words become a mirror reflecting your progress, and the more you find yourself speaking in the past tense, the closer you are to turning the heated plasma of ideas into the cool solid state of outcomes.


In summary, the four states of human attention provide a valuable framework to understand and navigate the complex journey from ideation to realization. By recognizing the essential role of action and being mindful of our language, we can effectively cool down the plasma of ideas, transforming them into solid, tangible outcomes. This process not only brings our dreams to fruition but also fosters trust, collaboration, and continuous personal growth. By mastering these states of attention, we enable ourselves to lead more purposeful and fulfilling lives.

Author: John Rector

John Rector, a former IBM executive and co-founder of e2open, has an impressive portfolio of leadership roles across a range of companies and industries. In the realm of digital marketing, he has successfully led Social Media Target, ensuring its competitiveness in the ever-evolving digital landscape. He has also served operationally at Rainbow Packaging, focusing on the delivery of farm-fresh produce. John's creativity and vision for web technologies shine through at Bodaro and Palm ❤️, the latter being a graphic design studio founded in June 2023. He has also ventured into the education sector with Nextyrn, a tutoring startup that leverages AI for personalized learning experiences. His entrepreneurial spirit has also seen the founding of Potyn, an innovative project that uses AI to create bespoke art. The newest additions to his extensive portfolio include Nozeus, Infinia, Blacc Ink, and Maibly, further expanding his influence across various industries.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: