Pay attention to your attention

So I get to the gym and I notice the guys swinging the weights, using their entire body to get it up, rather than the intended muscle. I notice how they are defeating the whole point of the exercise and then I notice how I keep my form strict so that I isolate the muscles. I watch as they lift much bigger weights than me. Then I notice that they finish their sets with barely a sheen of sweat and chat amongst themselves while I heave and grunt. I put everything into each rep and each set and by the end I am wiped out. And I forget to pay attention to my attention.

I notice how much bigger than me they are – the guys are much more ripped, have greater definition. I notice the way they swagger and look at themselves in the mirror, while I continue on my humble way. I am focused on my form and program, not how I look. But then I realise, that I’m paying more attention to them than me. I realise that I’m the only one doing handstand push ups in the gym, but it makes my shoulders ache from old gymnastics war wounds. While I nurse my shoulder I watch the guy on the machine doing 50 half bicep curls with 5 kg. I lifted my whole body. He lifted 5kg – half way.

I get to my team coaching engagement. I watch how the people around the table pay attention to their view of the world, their way of thinking, their way of defining everything in terms of a problem. I see how they interact, often through a positional arrangement, and then I notice how much I’m noticing and I realise that the content has passed me by. What were they actually saying?

One of the things I say over and over again to my clients is pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. Where you place your attention will often determine the results you get. But what’s interesting is the constant, never-ending flow of attention inwards and outwards. Some things that we pay attention to give us energy. Some things we pay attention to rob us of energy. Sometimes, these things can be the same things.

The trick (in so many ways, and for so many contexts) is mindfulness. Being mindful and aware of the flow of our attention and the impact that flow has on our energy and how that in turn influences our thinking and our feeling. Then choosing deliberately where to focus, what to pay attention to. Then finally, having the strength and discipline to hold that focus and not allow it to falter or sway amid distraction and noise.

By chris

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