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Managing Your Attention (Part II)

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Becoming Aware of Your Attention Can Change Your Life!

“Paying attention” may have a very different meaning than what you’ve always thought. And when you pay attention in a certain way, i.e., “manage” your attention, it can have a profound impact on your life experience. In the first part of this two-part blog, I shared that the first step to managing your attention is to become more aware of it. Now I’d like to offer you more ideas for developing this superpower.

Managing Attention is a Superpower

Managing your attention is a learned set of skills. It’s also a superpower for life — both for your moment-to-moment living and for your entire life. Essentially, it’s about being able to control or direct your attention “on demand”.

1. Noticing when your attention has drifted and non-judgmentally “bringing it back”, and
2. Bringing yourself to the present moment “on demand”.

    By paying attention to your attention, per Part I, you’ll become more aware of when your attention is not where you want it to be. As a reminder, attention:

  • is subjective;
  • is dynamic — it’s frequently ‘on the move’;
  • has a geography — it travels between three locations: your Body, World (through your five senses), and Mind.

For example, say you are in a Zoom meeting, and you notice that your attention is in your mind, worrying about an upcoming difficult conversation. You can kindly(!) say to yourself, “oh, my attention has wandered and I want to bring it back to this meeting”, and then you can reset yourself.

Bring Yourself to the Present Moment

“Being present” or “being in the present moment” is a key aspect of managing your attention. It’s an idea found throughout ancient wisdom traditions and philosophies that means you are not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Your attention is focused in the now.

That all sounds good, but I have discovered that you can’t just “be in the present moment” without understanding HOW to get there.

Here’s where the geography of attention, described in Part I, comes in. Putting your attention on either your Body or your World instantly brings you to the present moment. In fact, you cannot feel a bodily sensation, listen to a sound, or see something (etc.) at any other time than the present moment. (Take a moment and think about that one!)

So, to be present, you simply have to bring your attention to:

  • your body (i.e., any bodily sensation), or
  • your world (i.e., any direct experience with one of your five senses)

Practices for Strengthening Attention

  • Spend five minutes a day bringing yourself to the present moment (by bringing your attention to your body or your world). This can be done in 10- to 30-second intervals.
  • When you catch that your attention is “elsewhere”, non-judgmentally bring it back to where you want it to be, like the Zoom meeting example described above. This builds on the practice in Part I to simply notice whether your attention is in your Body, World, or Mind.

One note of caution — strengthening your attention is not about always being in control of your attention. It’s about controlling it more often, hopefully “on demand”. It takes practice. It is a practice.

Remember, how you manage your attention has a BIG impact on your life.

As you direct your attention more regularly and start to spend more time in the present moment, you will notice a positive shift in your experience. Benefits can range from becoming less susceptible to the myriad distractions coming at you, reducing your stress levels, and improving your productivity.

There really is a superpower here waiting to be developed!

Mike Normant, CEO, Unlimit Group

A former global learning & development director at eBay, Mike is now CEO of The Unlimit Group, an executive coaching and leadership training company. Mike is also an active member of executive coaching cadres at Skyline Group International, Lee Hecht Harrison, and Sidekick.
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