Let’s broaden this for a moment beyond your work day, to your overall life satisfaction.
By the very nature of placing your attention on one thing, it restricts it from being focused on another thing at the same time. In reality, our attention is being constantly shifted from one thing to another, all day, every day.
And therein lies a problem.
This constant shifting of our attention often leads us to allowing our propensity as humans to operate on ‘auto-pilot’ to determine what we focus our attention on. Sure, we may be often consciously aware of what we are focusing or shifting our attention toward, but is our attention intentionally focused?
Positive psychology researchers typically report on what contributes to us living more happy, flourishing and meaningful lives, and often, this is looking at the inputs that are correlated with either happiness, wellbeing or overall life satisfaction. However, the research findings are often seemingly conflicting. For example, there are a number of studies that equally suggest that money can and can’t buy you happiness.
What’s becoming clearer to me as I continue studying what the researchers are discovering about the contributors to living a ‘good life’, is it’s not necessarily the input itself (for example, money, religion, exercise, learning, relationships, etc), but rather a big contributing factor is the attention we have on those inputs.
This is what I am now referring to as Intentional Attention.
For example, we all know that trust is important in our lives. However, if we don’t intentionally focus our attention on brining trust into our lives, we leave trust to chance… we just accept that it is important… we take it for granted. And as I’ve posted before, when we take things for granted, we just get used to them and over time, we devalue them.
Intentional attention is the discipline of knowing what you are focusing your attention on and understanding why and how the way you are focusing your attention on something, impacts how that something impacts your wellbeing, in your work and personal life.
Let’s use money as an example. Up to a point, what we know from the science is that it’s not necessarily how much money you have that will have the greatest impact on your happiness… it’s the way you think about money, your attitude to money, your philosophy about money… your intentional attention on money.
Let’s use trust as another example. While we might know and take for granted that trust in our life is important, what will have the greatest impact on your overall wellbeing is not knowing that trust is important… it’s the way you think about trust, your attitude to trust, your philosophy about trust… your intentional attention on trust (self-trust, trust in others and others trusting in you).
Here’s my point. In any area of your work or personal life, where you’re not achieving the intentional results that you’re aiming for, I suggest that you’re probably not taking intentional actions that will lead to your intentional results. Why? Because you’re attention to the things that matter most to you may not be intentionally focused.
David Penglase CSP