Investing our attention
“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.”
- Jim Rohn
Mindfulness has become more mainstream over the past ten years. Mindfulness experts like Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chodron and Jon Kabat-Zin have shared their wisdom on the practice of being more present in our lives. People sometimes mistake mindfulness for meditation since they share some similarities. In meditation we may be focusing on our breath or a mantra. With mindfulness, we are focusing on what we are doing in the moment with our full attention. I see it as internal vs. external focus. Even though the concept of mindfulness may be new to some of us, paying attention is an idea instilled in us at a young age.
Paying attention in school was something I struggled with from kindergarten to college. If I was not interested in the subject, my mind chose to wander off to somewhere outside the classroom. I was reminded by my teachers frequently to pay more attention in class. It also seemed the less attention I paid to my homework, the more I paid for it on my report card. I learned to put my assignments off until I had just enough time to finish them. That way, I could not afford to be distracted. I forced myself to pay attention. It did not always produce the best results, but I always got it done, for the most part.
Looking back, I realize how my ability to get distracted prevented me from excelling more in school and in my relationships. Paying attention felt like more of a chore or bore for me. Now, I understand the value in paying attention. I have learned how to focus more on my work and in my interactions with people. Mindfulness techniques have been a contributing factor to helping me be more aware and present. Distractions still happen. The difference now is that I am able to catch myself quicker and regain my focus.
Instead of paying attention, I now look at it as investing my attention in the work I do and the people I interact with. By investing our attention in whatever it is we are doing, we create the opportunity to produce more favorable outcomes in our life. Developing relationships with neighbors or coworkers. Creating a new exercise routine. When we are actively participating in the present moment, we are investing our attention, hopefully with the best of intentions. Call it whatever. Attention. Mindfulness. Focus. It can do wonders for improving our wellbeing.