Are you paying attention?

Whether you’re of a more scientific or spiritual bent the secret’s out: What you pay attention to grows.

And at any given moment, we could be paying attention to any number of things. From our immediate senses, to our thoughts (about the past, present, future — based in fact or entirely imagined), to impressions of other people or our environments, to our emotional state or mood.

In that sense, we can grow just about anything.

Noticing what we’re noticing is useful for a number of reasons:

  1. It increases our awareness of automatic patterns
  2. It allows us to notice the impact of our attentional field and/or our “mental filters”
  3. It is a starting point to shifting our awareness to something that’s most useful to our goals

There are a number of ways to hone our attention and overall level of consciousness. Meditation practices focus on state awareness: The state and quality of our present moment experience. Coaching and therapy often reveal links between what’s happening in the present with larger patterns, meaning the ways in which the current focus, or mental filter in some cases, reflects more general tendencies. They’re also more utilitarian, intended for worldly outcomes versus a state of peace or spiritual bliss.

In contrast to these practices, day to day we tend to operate on automatic. There are valuable survival advantages to this. But in a world that’s increasingly complex and disrupted, automatics just don’t work as well — for thriving or even for surviving. If we can’t control the environment and it changes often or drastically, we need to be nimble to do really well.

How does this relate to your career and leadership goals or challenges? Your awareness and ability to direct your attention is everything. It allows you to optimize your efforts with less mental, behavioral or emotional “drag” and to make good decisions much more easily. It opens up a much wider range of possibilities. And it invites the wisdom of the bird’s eye view — on the situation but also yourself.

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