Attention + Intention = NO Tension

attention-pleaseInformation overload is distracting everyone. We are all busier than ever and constantly attempting our best to satisfy connections on an escalating level of immediacy. If you are always available to everyone else, when are you truly available to yourself? Does your calendar include space for YOU? If your response to that has anything to do with wishing for an 8th day of the week, then it is clearly time to put the brakes on and give yourself a real break.

We are each allotted 168 hours in a week. Some things are not negotiable. Assuming that work/commute can take up to 60 hours, sleep another 50 hours, general daily life activities are an additional 30 hours and we are still reasonably left with 25 hours. How intentional are you with that time? Does it melt into recovery from the overstimulation of your daily routine or do you designate specific periods to activities you enjoy and feed your soul?

According to Linda Stone, blogger and former Microsoft executive, we pay “continuous partial attention” as we skim furiously, hoping not to miss anything. We multi-task frantically yet the “to-do” list takes on a life of its own, morphing into an out of control, anxiety producing document, further proof of our inability to manage life as we should.

Not so fast with the blame game and impossible comparisons to what we assume other people are accomplishing in the fantasy life we have constructed for them. The turning point for a client was driving away from her favorite coffee shop and not realizing that her special latte had taken a nosedive from the roof of her vehicle miles earlier. She had been more attentive to her cell phone than to her unique AM caffeinated order kick start and more importantly, to her own safety! Together we created a preliminary plan to identify the habits that drove her multi-tasking engine and ways to modify those behaviors.

• Pre-plan your day the night before
• Prioritize. Take on the most challenging task first. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and more energy to attack whatever is next.
• Schedule a break that includes some change of geography; a quick walk, a short phone call to a friend, or enjoying a beverage of choice
• Most importantly, staying in the present focuses your attention on what you are doing NOW through its completion. Remember, multi-tasking can take up to three times longer to finish the same task.


Wherever You Go, There You Are!

career-changeThe Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu told the following story:

“There was a man so displeased by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased
with his own footsteps that he was determined to get rid of both. The method he hit
upon was to run away from them. So he got up and ran. But every time he put his
foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the
slightest difficulty. He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast
enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping until he finally dropped dead.
He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would
vanish and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps.”

When we make the decision to stop and be still rather than running away, we have the opportunity to connect with ourselves. Uncomfortable as it may be, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and then what?

Avoidance, denial, and anxiety get in the way of moving forward unless your image of progress is a hamster on a wheel. It may feel like a lot of activity is being generated yet it’s far better to take that energy and get to the gym for a true workout.

So, rather than run away, or play the blame game…STOP!
• Slow down
• Assess your situation
• What changes do you need to make?
• What changes are you willing to make?
• Choose one action
• Commit to doing it
• Take a selfie and record your success!


Lighten Up

A young woman steps into the elevator moments before her boss does. Earlier that day, she had delivered what she thought was a well received presentation to her team. No acknowledgement is made on the ride to the lobby. Our junior executive jump-starts the following silent dialogue as the car descends:

• I blew the talk
• I embarrassed myself and my team
• I shouldn’t have volunteered to present
• I’ll never be promoted
• I hate this job
• I should have gone to medical school
• I’m too old now
• My husband never supported my dream
• I’m asking for a divorce when I get home

An extreme reaction? Perhaps, and yet how many times have we had an over the top response to the perceived behavior of someone else? If so, you are not alone and while we can snicker at the very detailed internal responses in the previous example, this negative self-talk took mere seconds from beginning to end. How many times in the course of the day do you engage in other sorts of negative thinking that in the long term is like a slow, toxic drip? Keep in mind that the average person has over 10,000 thoughts in a 24-hour period.

There is no evidence in this encounter that her boss’s behavior could have been attributed to a poor performance by our presenter. In fact, she was preoccupied with other pressing issues and completely unaware of her fellow elevator riders. According to Ben Battner, author of The Blame Game, “For most people, the fear of being blamed looms larger than the hope of getting credit. This means that in an attempt to avoid risk, people often make the wrong choice- or no choice at all.”

So, how can mini dramas like this be short circuited in the future? We can take deliberate steps to prevent our minds from getting hijacked by pessimism, muffle the inner naysayer and identify the source.
• Slow down…you are not powerless
• Ask yourself why you are feeling so sensitive at that moment
• Is your reaction reasonable based on the facts or a fall back habit?
• Identify someone you can share this with for reliable feedback
• Slow down…you can change your self-talk

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