Dear Why Team member,
Welcome to another week of reflection where we dig a bit deeper by asking questions that begin with “Why?” I hope this week’s message finds you well.
This week we ask:
Why pay attention to where we pay attention?
Consider your attention as a form of currency. Your attention is certainly valuable; for example, consider how valuable your attention is, especially to your loved ones. The more we pay attention to our loved ones, the greater the value we receive from our relationships.
Just as we wish to invest our money wisely, it’s wise to invest our attention wisely. Considering more where we pay attention can have a profound impact on our lives. What are you buying with your attention, and why?
If we aren’t paying attention to where we pay attention, we may be buying more of that which will harm us more than help us. Is a person truly rich if they are paying more attention to what they don’t have rather than to what they do have?
Seneca said, “A Great Mind becomes a Great Fortune,” Clearly where we pay attention can determine the value of that fortune to both ourselves and to others.
A number of years ago, I had an opportunity to relax on a private three-story yacht in Miami. Yes, three stories high. My wife’s best friend’s husband was the Captain. The owners were out of town and allowed us to spend a few hours enjoying their magnificent possession, which they kept in a slip next to their home; in what won’t surprise you was a very exclusive neighborhood. As we relaxed on the top deck, being the ever-inquisitive person that I am, I asked my friend, the Captain, the common question many ask about the very rich: “Is he happy?”.
I will never forget his response.
He said that he was happy until his neighbor bought a bigger yacht. Apparently, where he was paying his attention was having a greater impact on his life than where he was paying his money.
Victor Frankl, in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” said that happiness isn’t a destination, but rather is experienced as the result of living a meaningful life. Ask a wealthy person why he or she still works, and you’ll often find that where they are paying their attention is the primary source of their joy and fulfillment; it’s less the outcome and much more the process, the journey, the work itself.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who interestingly has the longest and most difficult name I have ever heard, wrote an outstanding book titled “Flow” that gets at the state of mind in which time can stop for us, where both the challenge in which we are contending is matched beautifully to the skills we have developed. These are the moments we are most fully present, paying all our attention to that which is of utmost importance to us in the present moment. Mihaly says it is in the flow state that we feel most fulfilled. Notice that in flow, we are not paying our incredibly valuable attention to the past or future; this is not to say that attention to either doesn’t have value. The past has given us so many valuable lessons, and insights and attention to the future prompts us to plan in the present. But consider when we pay too much attention to the past, such is the case for many who suffer from depression. The past is hopeless as there is no hope to change it, but there is hope for changing how we think about it. How about when we pay too much attention to the future, the result is often more anxiety. Why? Because we humans are more likely to pay attention to negatives than to positives. Since our brains are primarily built to protect us, their natural bias is to pay more attention to danger. It’s no wonder that the primary commercials on television, during the nightly news, are for prescription drugs. And consider what the drugs address, mostly anxiety-related disorders. Isn’t the word disease really dis-ease?
We’re all living a dream, if yours is more of a nightmare consider more where you are paying attention. Those who have a regular discipline of gratitude are paying more attention to what is present, rather than to what is absent in their lives.
Consider paying more attention to where you are paying attention. Are you proactively buying with your attention more of what you want, increasing the value of your life experience, or are you reactively buying with your attention more of what may be lessening the value of your life experience?
To improve your life experience and your ability to respond to what life will bring, pay more attention to that which will best serve you and notice as a result, how you become more valuable - for yourself and for others.
Make it a great week!