Great News! We absolutely have the ability to shift our attention…and the caveat is provided we are aware and awake enough and have a decent level of self-observation skills to know where our attention is at any given moment.
And I can hear the refrain, how can I be present and observe at the same time? That’s a good question. The ability to be present to each moment while observing ourselves is a critical transformational skill. The entry point to being awake enough to have a chance at developing this skill is learning how to shift our attention at will. It’s worth learning!
For today, let’s focus on the value of shifting our attention in times of stress and overload, when we have too much coming at us, or when, as a client puts it, we are a sponge that can’t hold any more water. Okay, that’s me paraphrasing what she said, but you get the gist. Sometimes we need strategies to manage ourselves out of a sticky wicket.
So here goes…
Pay attention when your temper seems to be on a short fuse. What can you learn by observing yourself? Refocus your attention onto the real cause of the short fuse. It’s probably not what your anger actually is reacting to, so make sure you take the time to identify the underlying culprit. Then create a plan to address the real problem. You’ll feel more “in control,” better able to cope with the energy of anger, and those around you will be grateful.
When you find your internal self-talk is particularly brutal, it is past time to refocus your attention elsewhere. Give yourself a break, literally and figuratively. Nip the negative talk in the bud when you notice it. Walk away for a minute. Go get some water or step outside. Go have some fun: go to the movies and lose yourself in the story, take the dog for long walk, go out for a nice dinner. It’s time to refresh and refocus on being kind to yourself. Remember self-awareness never outpaces self-acceptance.
When your emotions start taking total control over you, feelings become facts, hysteria starts to well up, and you can’t make sense of anything other than how you feel, it’s time to shift and rebalance your worldview. Many find it helpful to connect with a trustworthy friend and share their feelings. Set a time limit—say 15 minutes to get it all out (rinse out that sponge!)—then integrate your thoughts and your bodily sensations into your current reality. This will help you rebalance your perspective.
When all you can see is the goal in front of you and your teammates and significant others have taken a backseat, shifting just might be in everybody’s best interest. Reprioritize your goal to include people. You aren’t alone, and you don’t need to go it alone—so don’t!
When worry haunts and hounds you and takes up too much of your energy, that’s clearly a sign—REFOCUS NOW. Shift your attention to all that is well in the situation. I know it’s overused to say, “count your blessings,” but there’s a reason so many wise folks espouse the value of gratitude. It works. Identify some of the things that are going well, even little ones, and soak up that positive energy.
In the immortal words of Stuart Smalley: “You are good enough, you are smart enough, and doggone it people like you.”
Cheers to a shift of attention!
By Mary Anne Wampler
PRINCIPAL, TRANSFORM, INC.