Earlier today I was sitting in a meeting, but instead of paying attention I found my mind drifting away, thinking about other things I needed to do that day at work, what I wanted to do when I got off work, a co-worker who was in a bad mood this morning and somehow I had allowed her to get me off center.
And then suddenly I came back to the present, back to the sound of our CEO’s voice realizing I didn’t hear anything she had said over the last five minutes. Not a good thing. It was then I realized that I had to set an intention to pay attention.
It’s so easy to get distracted by all the noise in our heads, our phones buzzing with messages or even a co-worker in a sour mood. This can be helpful of course when you are doing something like pumping gas and need to notice the suspicious looking person approaching, but it is not very helpful when we are trying to engage with another person or pay attention in an important meeting.
Mindfulness doesn’t just happen, you actually have to make the decision to pay attention. This can be part of an intentional practice such as paying attention to our breathing during meditation or paying attention to a loved one and ignoring our phone or any other internal or external distractions.
This is even helpful sometimes in the middle of the day when we realize our minds are all over the place, especially when it’s in the future or the past and not in the present. That’s when we need to bring focus back to our loved one that is talking, or our child that wants our attention or like this morning, our CEO who is lecturing. And sometimes we just need to bring our attention back to us, what we are doing in that moment, even if it’s just walking or breathing.
This may sound very small, but it is actually often difficult to do because we aren’t always aware of when our thoughts and attention have gone away from where they need to be.
The other day I was sitting with my future wife watching a movie, but I realized my mind was somewhere else and instead of enjoying that moment with her I was creating anxiety for myself about a situation that I had no control over. When I realize this I brought my mind back to the present, back to that moment and the anxiety I was feeling dissipated.
It’s a powerful thing, that moment when you realized you aren’t focused on the present and then bring your mind and attention back and choose to live in that moment instead of just letting that moment pass you by.
Choosing to pay attention is such an easy thing to do, but at the same time it’s easy to forget and harder to do consistently without practice.