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.


Attention determines direction like a bike goes where the rider looks.

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.

  1. Problems or solutions.
  2. Disappointment or satisfaction.
  3. Obstacles or opportunities.
  4. 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:

  1. What solution might improve this nagging concern?
  2. What fulfills you about working with your team?
  3. What opportunities lie within this obstacle?
  4. What do you respect about this frustrating person?
  5. 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.