Our attention is really our creating energy. We all have this gift of attention that we can place where we want to. Whatever we are putting our attention on, we are actually making real. If we put our attention on a story about how someone doesn’t care about us, that becomes real for us in that moment. If we put our attention on a flower in your garden, we are bringing it into our field of awareness and it exists for us now. There is an infinite amount of things we could put our attention on in any given moment, internally and externally, and where we choose to place it becomes real for us.
How well are you controlling your own attention:
Do you feel pulled in many different directions?
Do you feel easily distracted?
Is your attention going to stories or worries that work against you?
Is your attention exhausted?
Is your attention tuning in to what is wrong or lacking?
Does being present feel like a waste of time?
If you relate to some or all of these, you probably don’t have optimal control of your attention. Not having control of your attention is a major cause of stress, unhappiness and failure. A big part of training your mind is learning to manage your attention.
There are so many things that really pull our attention these days. We have social media, news, calls, texts, and Snapchats. Kids these days think it is normal to just jump from one thing to the next, and to interrupt what they are doing constantly. It is basically becoming socially acceptable not to manage our own attention! However, there are consequences.
We only have a certain amount of attention in any given moment.
The problem is, when we are not in control of your attention, we lose our creating power. Imagine a balloon with tiny holes leaking the air out. When we are scattered, we end up creating a little bit of one thing, and a little bit of another, instead of building momentum. When we alternate between focusing on our goals, then focusing on our limitations, we are working against ourselves. When we are putting our attention on judgments and worries, we are tying up our creative energy, which means we have way less attention to put on the goal.
When we are not directing our own attention it becomes very hard to direct someone else’s attention. This is the situation that many people face at home as parents and at work as managers. We want the people around us to be disciplined, but we can barely manage our own attention! This leads to frustration and negative attempts at keeping order such as yelling, blaming and giving inappropriate consequences. We all know how much we regret when we don’t treat the people around us kindly. Our reactions are caused by our lack of control of our attention, not by their behavior.
When we are focused and centered, we still may not accept or like something, but we are deliberate in our response and it has a much more peaceful and productive effect on everyone! When we are in any position of leadership, if we are directing our own attention deliberately, we will find that we will be able to naturally direct others much more compassionately and effectively.
In Avatar terms, the ideal is to have free attention that you can direct wherever you choose. Very often what causes a lack of free attention is a build-up of things that we have been avoiding, a lack of organization, or a holding on to something mentally.
Here is a chart taken from the Avatar Basic Attention Management mini course by Harry Palmer:
Ten Hints for Creating Free Attention:
- Clean out your closet
- Put appointments/bills due on a calendar
- Forgive someone
- Confess a transgression
- Break down a big project into smaller steps
- Divide a long-term goal into smaller goals
- Throw away a broken appliance you were going to fix
- Organize the garage/kitchen cabinets/closet/desk drawer/old files.
- Make a “to do” list
- Decide to put something troubling behind you (for help with this, see exercise 6, step 3)
I encourage you to keep freeing your attention more and more, and to learn to direct it to fulfilling your highest aspirations and wildest dreams!