In an excellent post on Harvard Business Review’s blog, my friend Kare Anderson wrote: What Captures Your Attention Controls Your Life.
In the article she talks about how kids at Disney were not captivated by the magical kingdom as much as they noticed their parent’s attention to their own cell phones. Scary!
Here’s my favorite bit of the article:
…we often fail to realize how what we focus on comes to control our thoughts, our actions, and indeed, our very lives.
Whatever we focus upon actually wires our neurons. For example, pessimistic people see setbacks and unhappy events as Personal (It’s worst for me), Pervasive (Everything is now worse) and Permanent (It will always be this way) according to Learned Optimism author Marty Seligman. Yet, with practice, he found that we can learn to focus more attention on the positive possibilities in situations to then to craft a redemptive narrative of our life story. Consciously changing what you pay attention to can rewire your brain from a negative orientation to a positive one. “Attention shapes the brain,” as Rick Hanson says in Buddha’s Brain.
This excerpt explains a core concept that comes up in many executive coaching sessions: What we pay attention to expands. Meaning, if you choose to place your attention on the things that are not working, or the things you don’t have, you will see more evidence of what’s wrong and what’s missing. Likewise, if you choose to place your attention on that which is working and on the vision or intended outcome, you will seek evidence to support the positive view. Each of us is in charge of where we put our attention, or where we choose to focus. If what you focus on expands, what do you want to shift your focus from/ to?