Attention and the gooey center

Imagine this scenario:

You are traveling in a new city, and walking down the street. You notice a particularly nice tree, and the sunlight is gliding through it in just such a way to make you stop and look at the nice scene. As your staring up and around like a tourist, someone walking by and says, “Oh! I love your hair! It’s beautiful.” What’s your immediate response?

Something like: “Oh thank you!”
Or more like “It’s a little frizzy today.”

In other words, do you take a complement or write it off?

This is such a small moment, hardly worth remembering, but underneath this compliment is….. a conspiracy! No no, I’m just joshing. (Just making sure you’re still paying attention. 🙂 Within this small interaction highlights a lot about you and what you mentally focus on.

Consider the opposite scenario:

You are traveling in a new city, and you are walking down a street — “the streets are so dirty here!” You think. You notice that you feel particularly sticky and sweaty today. You pull out your phone — missing the nice tree — and check the weather. 49% chance of rain — you’re doomed. As you are looking down at your phone, someone briskly walks by and gives you a look of “Watch where you are going, you tourist. Keep walking around with the face up your phone’s butt and you’ll get hit by a Hyundai one day”.

Again such a small moment, that completely sours your entire day. Did they insult you or did you just make it up in your head? And if they did insult you, why must something as small as a few negative words make you dwell on it all day.

There’s so many small moments like this in life. Involving compliments, criticisms, sunburns and cracked sidewalks. In fact, life is made up of small moments. Small moments in-between a lifetime of small moments.

And throughout it all, in the gooey center is us starring out into the world, giving out our opinions. You might not realize it, or you might not believe it, but how we direct our attention and attitude changes everything.

“Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good like and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.” — Winifred Gallagher, Rapt

And just to show how serendipitous and clever life can be, as I was writing this, someone backed into my parked Jeep with their minivan. What a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. I could get mad and give all my attention to being late for work, or all the hours I’ll have to spend getting it fixed. Or I can focus on the good instead of dwelling on the bad. I don’t have the luxury nor desire to waste energy on something that won’t matter a week from now. My time and energy are too important to let ‘being upset’ control me.

Oh course, this can be easier said than done sometimes.

Problems pile up (and high) some days.
And I wake up on the wrong side of the bed more often than I would like.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t change our mind or attitude. Often the solutions are simpler than we think: Have you eaten recently? (Was it something healthy?) Have you taken a break recently? (Need a power nap?) Have you moved your body recently? How much water have you had today (versus how much coffee)? Have you talked to a friend today?

Sometimes simple taking a shower can give our day a reset.
All we need to do is find a way to reset ourselves — today, and focus on shifting our attitude and attention — today. By focusing on each today, we are priming ourselves to to think and act more with an abundance / opportunistic / capable mindset, instead of a negative / hopeless / fruitless one.

Attention is an essential skill to be practiced every day. What we focus our lens on, ultimately becomes who we are. Dwell on the negative side of life, and life becomes all negative. And practically, the more we can narrow our focus on what matters most to us, the more our time and creative output increases.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #582

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What others say about attention:

My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which Inoticeshape my mind” William James on Attention, Multitasking, and the Habit of Mind That Sets Geniuses Apart – Brain Pickings

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