Time and again, I have written about attention, and time and again, I have tried to illustrate that whatever seems to be obvious to you is a function of what you are paying attention to. So, if you want to pay attention to the right thing, then you need to pay attention to how things work by focusing on the process, not the result. To demonstrate that I really do practice what I preach, I will share with you an experience of how I put these principles into play a few days ago in my own life.
Like other adults, I occasionally find myself raising my voice while preaching the virtues of life to my teenage son, and this is exactly what I was doing a few days ago. But, as I went on and on, it became clear to me that he was not listening to a word I was saying. I wasn’t having any impact on him at all.
So, I paused and pondered the situation for a minute to figure out my next strategy; then, fortunately, I had an insight (an “aha”) right then and there about my teenage son who is going through puberty. I began to see it in a new light.
As I understand it, here is how puberty works: The brain releases a bunch of chemicals that signal to the body and the mind that it’s time to mature, thereby making the leap from boy to man. Apparently, these chemicals are very powerful as my son has hair in new places and a deeper voice, and on some days, I swear I can actually see him grow.
As I thought through what was happening, I realized that my son was intoxicated with hormones, the same way a drunk is intoxicated with alcohol. As I began to pay attention to him differently, it became obvious what was happening. I was ranting and raving to a “drunk.” Assuming my analogy was clear, it became obvious that I should manage the situation the same way that I would interact with an alcoholic.
So, I silenced myself and went about things differently. Rather than go on about what he wasn’t listening to, I kept my tone calm and my comments simple and brief. Since that time, I’ve noticed that the hormones rage and subside at different times. Thus, during the times when he is “sober” and more receptive, I take the time to sit down and talk to him on his terms. The outcome is usually much more positive when I approach him in this way.
I believe the reason is simple; it’s because I have changed what I am paying attention to (rather than changing myself), and as a result, my obvious solution changed, thereby helping me to better manage the situation.
So, the next time you are stuck and the obvious solution isn’t working, pause and pay attention to what is going on. Maybe you’ll have an “aha” and find a new obvious solution, which, before you paused, was not so obvious.
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