Most of us don’t think of ourselves as superheroes. Once in a while, we do something that we are proud of and celebrate that accomplishment as sporadically as it comes about, and then it is gone. Hopefully, we can all think of ways we have out performed our self expectations, and surely we can recall ways others have done so in our presence.
But from day to day, I don’t think we realize the potential of a powerful dynamic that we all hold, ready to activate in any place, at any time. We see “super powers” as outside of us, belonging to others, something everyone else seems to have while we go though our days and weeks trying to get to the weekend, a holiday, a vacation or just stay afloat.
Today, I would ask us all to consider that we actually have an under rated super power called “attention.” Our attention is our ability to look where we want, when we want, for the amount of time we want, until we want to allocate it somewhere else.
I see it as a super power because of the magical nature of attention. Think of how it feels when someone places theirs, on you. When you are asked “Hey, how is your Dad I know he was sick there for a while?” Or “It is so good to see you” or “I am here for you.” Something warm and fuzzy happens inside us when we are the recipients of this super power called attention. We feel connected. We feel seen.
This is a generous gift, that costs nothing and also has the ability to completely re-organize things in a matter of moments. Think of how you feel when you have been able to honestly vent to a trusted friend, when they really listened and didn’t try to fix you, but were fully present. That feeling is the power of attention.
I say attention can “re-organize” because a shift in it can literally re-route the direction of a situation. In college psychology class, we learned that “negative attention” is better than “no attention.” I have seen this repeatedly play out, especially in Zach’s behavior.
Imagine I am running around tackling the “to do” list for the day. A young toddler aged (going back into his early years) Zachary is along for the ride. He sees me bustling around the home, throwing things in the dishwasher, washer, answering the phone, brushing my teeth and setting up my computer to work. He may try to get my “attention” but I don’t see him or hear him because I am “paying” that attention of mine somewhere else.
Until a shoe goes flying from his hand, into the TV. Or a jumbo marble is thrown, with laser like aim, through the glass of a cabinet. Was Zach being “bad” or was that the only way he could get me to see him, place my attention on him, interact with him?
When I learned to slow myself down (a work in progress) I realized that simply altering my flow of attention from the tasks at hand back to Zach, then back to what I was doing, was enough to keep Zach from feeling like he had to break something for me to see him. After doing the dishes, I sit on the floor with him, at eye level and ask him what he is thinking. If I am brushing my teeth, I tell him his are next. I intentionally place my complete attention on his existence and connect.
Now imagine that our attention is the hottest commodity around right now. So many competitors are trying to get it. So they can monetize it. So they can sell it. So it can be hi-jacked without our knowledge. So we can be manipulated without even realizing it.
Since our own attention is free, and has the power to change everything, shouldn’t we guard it like a super power? Shouldn’t we discern what media, people, images, projects and activities are worthy of this magic force we call attention?
If you are so inclined, try an experiment today. Pay exceptional attention on something you would normally over look: Something in nature, the temperature of the air, the person selling your coffee to you, a colleague in need of feedback. Make “paying attention” the goal, instead of preparing the next move or response. See if you can access the energy of connection when you intentionally clear the mind decks of anything but what you are focusing on.
You might be surprised to learn of this super power, and perhaps become more discerning about where you choose to place it.