Attention! Here and now. Attention! Here and now.
A simple phrase, but it’s often all the reminder we need to perform at our best.
In the novel Island, author Aldous Huxley presents a world where the natives have trained their local myna birds to squawk these words to the residents day in and day out. They’ve done this as a public service — to help the population live healthier and happier lives by staying present and paying attention to where life happens: the here and now.
Ever since I read the opening passages, these little myna birds have lived in my head, squawking their patented phrase just like they did to the residents in the book. Until, of course, they don’t.
Such is the paradox of living in the present: the greatest challenge is remaining in the present. Life gets busy, and it’s easy for thousands of distractions to pull our attention away and block the squawks of the “present moment” birds until eventually, they fly away.
This is a timely topic because of a trend happening in our world today. Due to the constantly changing norms in our lives caused by the pandemic, we’ve all taken up part-time jobs as forecasters.
Are masks going to be required this week? Can real estate keep going up? Will we ever reach herd immunity? What’s going on with the stock market and inflation? How will Afghanistan turn out?
All of these are interesting topics, but there is a root problem with them: the answers can’t and won’t be known until a later date. We so often become preoccupied with what might happen that we forget about paying attention to what is happening. That’s not to say looking ahead or reflecting on the past is inherently bad; in fact, it can often be useful. But the problem lies when you find yourself drifting aimlessly between what has happened but cannot be changed and what may happen, but there is no way to be certain. These thoughts become a mental and emotional energy suck that wastes our time and talents.
As a sales leader and entrepreneur, I’m hyper-aware of this threat. I’m constantly tempted to look for information to tell me how our business strategies and investments will turn out. Again, preparation is essential, but rampant speculation only creates stress and anxiety.
When I turn my attention toward the actual work at hand, my energy improves, and so do the results that I generate. In this state, I can truly operate at my best.
Oftentimes, all we can do — and the best thing to do — is focus solely on what we can control. So let’s direct our attention to where it can be of most use: the right here and right now.