Are You Paying Attention?

Family dinner discussing paying attention.

My wife came home from having coffee with some girlfriends the other day. Her eyes were wide with excitement, and she said, “I have got to tell you what just happened.” She proceeded to share her story, and I was paying attention. While at the coffee shop, she noticed someone who looked like they might be homeless or in need of some appreciation. So she bought them a burrito and a coffee then walked across the street with the gifts. She approached and offered the burrito and coffee and was met with a “No, thank you, I have already eaten.” She stood there for a minute, not knowing what to say, and then they looked up and said, “Are you Barbra Porter?”

My wife, who goes by Barbie, was previously a news anchor in our hometown but it has been over 21 years since she was on air. She does not get recognized often these days, much less by someone hanging out in front of a coffee shop. When she recovered from his question, she asked, “How do you know who I am?” He simply replied, “I pay attention.”

Later that night, we had extended family over for dinner. Barbie shared the story, and there were various questions, comments, and even some concerns over the exchange. Then our oldest son, Alec, who is home doing an internship for the summer, said, “Maybe we should all pay more attention!”

As my late stepfather would say, “Brilliant!” Yes, we should all be paying more attention these days. The question is, what are we paying attention to?


In today’s world, our attention is one of the most valuable resources we have, yet it’s constantly under siege. From social media notifications to 24/7 news cycles, our focus is pulled in a million different directions. But here’s the kicker: what we are paying attention to matters more than we often realize. In fact, it is the lens that creates our reality and the life we live.

The Power of Attention:

Research from Psychology Today reveals that the average person spends nearly 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re currently doing. This mind-wandering can often lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

On the flip side, studies have shown that focusing on positive aspects of our lives can significantly impact our well-being and success. For example, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that practicing gratitude can lead to a 25% increase in happiness levels. By consciously focusing on positive aspects, we cultivate a mindset of abundance.

I have personally found this to be true. After two years of writing a thank you note every day, not only did my level of happiness increase, but it also changed the way I saw the world. These notes became notes of appreciation, and I had to really start paying attention to all the things going “right,” and guess what? They always appeared in abundance. This exercise rewired my brain for a life of abundance versus my previous habit of drawing attention to all those things that people get wrong.

Attention and Abundance:

If we want more abundance in our lives, we need to start paying attention to abundance. This can be done through simple practices like gratitude. By regularly acknowledging and appreciating what we have, we can shift our focus from what’s lacking to what’s plentiful. This shift in mindset doesn’t just make us feel better—it can actually lead to greater success and fulfillment.

If you are interested in learning more about my gratitude practice, including the two years of writing thank you notes for 365 days a year, message me on LinkedIn, Instagram, or here.

Designing Your Attention:

We live in a world where companies are vying for our attention, attempting to monetize every second we spend on their platforms. Therefore, it’s crucial to take control and design our lives intentionally by selecting and practicing what we are paying attention to. 

As leaders, we must learn to slow down what’s happening inside of us so we can pay more attention to the things that matter. This allows us to make better decisions, be more confident, and unlock our own inner wisdom, helping us and those around us thrive in today’s VUCA world.

Here are some practical steps:

  1. Gratitude Practice: Start each day by listing three things you’re grateful for. This simple habit can shift your focus from scarcity to abundance.
  2. Mindfulness: Dedicate a few minutes each day to mindfulness meditation. This practice enhances your ability to stay present and reduces mind wandering. Mindfulness can take many forms, and there are many tools out there to help you navigate and train your mind to focus inward.
  3. Digital Detox: Set specific times to unplug from digital devices. Create tech-free zones or periods to allow your mind to rest and refocus. During CLQ Leadership Adventures most leaders willingly give up their phones and are grateful for the experience.
  4. Curate Your Environment: Surround yourself with positive influences. Choose books, podcasts, and people that inspire and uplift you.
  5. Change Your Lens: Become more curious. Start asking yourself and those around you better questions. Questions that are generative can change your future before it happens.
  6. Extra Credit: Embark on a year of gratitude. If you need inspiration, read John Kralik’s book; 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Change My Life.

Conclusion:

As humans, we have long wrestled with the conflict between what we say is important and then what we actually give our attentiont to. Here is another resource from HBR called “To Control Your Life, Control What You Pay Attention to.”

Our attention is one of our most valuable resources. By consciously choosing the right lens to focus on, we can design a life filled with abundance, joy, and purpose. So, ask yourself: Are you paying attention?

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