(Pictured: Fable, demonstrating the power of undivided attention.)
Today’s post is the first in a series I’m calling The Tools in Your Pocket, and we’ll start with your Attention.
Often when we want to feel better or do better, we seek fixes and solutions outside of ourselves. If you’re a Control Enthusiast like me, you know what I’m talking about. We try to change our circumstances. We try to control other people. We buy things. We overestimate the potency of what’s “out there” and underestimate what we have within us.
If you read my first blog post, you may remember I talked about finding the space in which you choose your response to any given situation. “The Tools in Your Pocket” are tools you already have for leveraging in that space. These tools are always available to you, at your disposal; you need only be aware of them and use them with intention. Like any tool, they’re not useful sitting in a drawer somewhere. Like any tool, the more you practice using them, the more useful they will become.
The first tool I’d like to highlight is your Attention. Attention is the concentration of your focus, through your senses and your thinking, on anything, to the exclusion of other things. In every moment of your waking hours, you are paying attention to something. By the time your head hits the pillow at the end of each day, you’ve given your attention to thousands of things, events, tasks, people. This often happens by default, and that’s the problem.
I want you to think of your attention as a powerful laser beam, literally containing your life force. It sends your energy and your power to whatever and wherever you direct it. If this sounds overstated, think back to the last time that you felt someone give you their full attention: fully present to you, holding space for you, listening deeply. Feeling someone else’s full attention can feel as potent as the rays of the sun. And like any energy, your attention is finite, precious.
When we’re in default mode, we let our attention, a conduit of our energy and power, be frittered away. We give it away to things undeserving of it. We multitask. We let our phones siphon off hours of our attention each day. Because of our brain’s negativity bias and its evolution in protecting us from danger, we automatically employ much of our attention scanning for threats in the environment. We overspend our attention — and therefore, our energy — on the things least worthy of it: the vague email from a colleague, the weird look someone gave us in a meeting, the upcoming dreaded event on the calendar. Attention is a precious resource to be allocated, and if our brain is left to its own devices, it will squander it.
Whatever we give our attention, we are giving our power. This is why it’s so important, inasmuch as you can, to be intentional and conscious about where you direct and redirect your attention, moment to moment.
To be more deliberate with your attention, this powerful “tool in your pocket,” ask yourself throughout the day: What is currently most worthy of my energy and my power?
Hint: It’s most often the things you can actually control.