I love wisteria. Seeing those trailing explosions of frothy purple blossoms always makes me smile.
So why had I just driven for 15 minutes on a road where they grow wild and lush on the oaks and pines and not seen a single one?
I’d been “in my head,” all thoughts and attention focused on the writing conference I was about to attend along with a smattering of other things:
How would my face-to-face meeting with the agent go? Remember to stop by the bublish booth. Don’t forget to get the drycleaning. How can I take the material from last week’s presentation and make it even better? Are these shoes going to be OK for walking if I can’t find a close-by place to park? Look over the materials for next week’s client’s session. Need to call Mom. Was my book synopsis compelling enough? Goodness, I have to remember to rework my speech for Friday? What should I cook for dinner tonight?
Some old habits are really hard to break. This mind-racing-everywhere behavior was a hallmark of my first act of life, something I had to perpetually monitor.
I was either looking back or looking forward. Both of those are good things to do—but not at the expense of the current moment.
One of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that your brightest future hinges on your ability to pay attention to the present. ~Jay Dixit, psychology writer
We’ve probably all experienced:
- Going on “autopilot” and missing parts of crucial conversations or body language that would have helped us better handle a situation.
- The errors that result from not paying attention. Research has shown that we make 50% more errors when we’re not totally focused on what we’re doing.
- Muddling the boundaries between what’s urgent and what’s important. Because our thoughts were elsewhere, we missed key clues that could have prevented the emergency we’re now facing.
We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, and decoherence. ~B. Alan Wallace, scholar
The work of Michael I. Posner, a neuroscientist interested in attention, is fascinating, especially his concept that we have three types of attention:
- focus (concentrating on one input to the exclusion of all else),
- awareness (the stimuli to which we choose to select or ignore), and
- “executive” attention (planning and higher order decision-making).
Now I had to do is “re-remember” all these things! Ha!
3 ways to tame the wild waterfall of tumbling thoughts
To make sure I didn’t miss seeing the miles of glorious wisteria blossoms the next time I traveled down the road, I promised to get re-grounded in mindfully paying attention.
I commited to doing three simple things:
1) Focus on where my focus is,
2) Don’t reward myself for being a star multi-tasker, and
3) Never lose sight of the “and” because it’s all about life and love and leadership.
What’s worked for you so you pay attention to the present, past, and future?