Would you like to Change Direction? How Attention Determines Direction
You can’t control negative thoughts that pop into your head.
You can’t stop thinking about problems, past offenses, failures, or disappointments by trying not to think about them.
Tell yourself to stop thinking about white elephants and you end up thinking about white elephants.
The only way to stop thinking about white elephants is to give your attention to pink giraffes.
The way you think determines the quality of your leadership.
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts…” Marcus Aurelius
Attention is direction:
Self-proclaimed motivational quote hater John Green said, “What you do with your attention is in the end what you do with your life.*”
Unmanaged attention always ends in a bad place.
“Contrary to what we tend to assume, the normal state of the mind is chaos.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
3 ways to monitor and manage attention:
#1. Reflect on habits of thought.
Attention determines direction like a bike goes where the rider looks.
Set an alarm to sound every 30 minutes for a day. When it sounds, record the focus of your mental attention.
- Problems or solutions.
- Disappointment or satisfaction.
- Obstacles or opportunities.
- Weakness or strength.
#2. Use triggers to redirect negative attention.
“Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Rollo May
I tend to think about frustrations. When I notice frustration, I redirect my attention to gratitude. “What are you thankful for?”
#3. Questions for redirection:
- What solution might improve this nagging concern?
- What fulfills you about working with your team?
- What opportunities lie within this obstacle?
- What do you respect about this frustrating person?
- How might I have this tough conversation quickly?
You can’t control what pops into your head, but you can control the focus of your attention.
What redirection question is most relevant to you today?
How might leaders monitor and manage their mental attention?
*I searched John Green on goodreads and come up with 7,338 quotes. Thankfully, not all are motivational.
Attention determines direction like a bike goes where the rider looks. This is true for motorcycles also and training includes turning your head on curves. Motorcyclists sometimes look at what they fear, and go right off the curve or into a fence post. I did that once, fortunately at low speed. Experienced riders reminded me to turn my head to where I want to go and not look at where I don’t want to go.
Thanks Duane. You are so right. You go where you look. I road for years and closely averted a few potential accidents because I was looking in the wrong direction. Look where you want to go!
I live by and coach by the mantra “we all move in the directions of our thoughts”
Thanks Tom. If we don’t like the direction of our leadership/life then it would be useful to change the direction of our thoughts. One thing that seems to be important is thoughts have trajectory.
I keep a quote posted to my work laptop. It simply says, “Where focus goes, energy flows!” It always helps me refocus.
Thanks Debbie. Love that quote. I did a quick search and it’s ascribed to Tony Robbins. I would do a little more research before making a final determination though.
What redirection question is most relevant to you today?
I see what opportunities lie within this obstacle? As we learn to circumvent obstacles opportunities do exist, we have to learn to recognize them, manipulate them and correct the course.
How might leaders monitor and manage their mental attention? Learn to eliminate distractions and focus on the task at hand. Keep interruptions at a minimum, perhaps turn off cell phone/phones, Call forward to voicemail till you have time to deal with the next opportunity.
Thanks Tim. Your insight about eliminating distractions is a kick in the pants. We are so addicted to business that we think distraction makes us important.
Happy New Year Dan! Good article and I especially liked the suggestion to try a time period where you set the alarm for every 30 minutes and see where your mind was dwelling. I also really loved the comment by Duanevoy: “….turn my head to where I want to go and not look at where I don’t want to go.” Human nature tends to stare at the disasters — but looking to the recovery will be the better choice…especially in 2021.
Thanks Mary Ellen. Happy New Year to you! An unmonitored mind ends up in a bad place. As you said, “Human nature tends to stare at the disasters…” Perhaps we should liken our thoughts to a pony. Point the pony to the place you want to go.
The secret to turning lead into gold is to heat up the lead and stir it while not thinking about hippopotamuses. And if you try it, all you will have is a pot of hot lead and thoughts of hippopotamuses.
Now all I can think about is hippopotamuses!! Thanks! 🤪
This is a very good post, and nothing better to start the New Year than a reminder to stay focus on goals.
Funny is that I wrote on my last post about how we ignore problems, negativities and failures in life, that we end up having them again each year because sometimes is necessary to detect them to avoid they come back again (which somehow is a paradox, as we can’t ignore the obstacle that we want to overpass).
Same like Duanevoy I use to ride bicycle and motorcycle and I can tell that is 100% truth to stay sharp and focus on the direction one wants to go.
Happy New Year Dan!
And thanks for such a good post!
Great advice overall. In contrast, how do we explain ah-ha moments when tend to relax and discover serendipity?
Thanks Mark. If I understand your question. Ah-ha moments often happen in the shower, on a walk, are while engaged in other relaxing activities.
“What you choose to focus on becomes your reality.” – Jen Sincero