Paying Attention to the Right Things

Dr. Purushothaman
October 2, 2013

As the economy continues to struggle, and unemployment is at an all-time high, I find myself speaking to groups of people that are confronted with economic realities harsher than anyone in America has faced since the Great Depression. These folks have often watched their homes, cars, and certainly their savings slip through their fingers, and many of them feel that their once-stable lives are out of their control. I speak to each group for their own specific purposes, of course, but in many cases I find myself weaving a second message into my original: a message of attention.

Back in early 2002, business for motivational speakers was slow. The 9-11 disaster had stolen a lot of the power of hope and motivation, and as a whole, we had moved from serving people to searching for people to serve. I attended a gathering of some of the top names in professional speaking. We talked about how hard things were for us and for the country, and the irony of the need for hope spiking just as the demand decreased.

An expert took the stage, someone who was supposed to tell us how to survive. Instead, she told us that there “was no problem”. She told us about professional speakers that were overbooked and had more clients than they could serve. She pointed to the need for hope, and told us that we were paying attention “incorrectly”.

The concept has been in the public sphere for centuries, under a variety of different names. The most current 'phenomenon' surrounding this simple concept is called The Secret, but in fact there's no secret to it.

As a group, our attention was focused on the problem -- on the lack of business. Our attempts to get more clients were focused on our own empty calendars. The busy speakers paid attention not to their own schedules, but to the needs of their clients. They approached each call not from a 'please, I need you to hire me' perspective, but from a 'how can I assist you?' point of view.

Her words moved me deeply. I knew, intellectually, that we create in our lives that which we focus on the most. If you devote your attention to your problems, they will multiply. If you pay attention to your successes and blessings, they will multiply.

So what does of this have to do with the people I talk to today? Simple: most of them are paying attention incorrectly. The economic realities that we face today are challenges -- but every challenge comes with opportunity built-in. Instead of focusing on the fact that your job is tenuous (or even already gone), focus on what you can do with your time and skills if you're not locked in to your current position.

One personal friend of mine lost a valuable job as a sales director for a major international entertainment company - and his response was to relax, cut back (of course), and start doing what he had wanted to do since his college days -- play with Photoshop. Today, he makes good money as a well-known freelance Web graphics designer. By focusing on the opportunity that his change afforded him, he turned a disaster into a success.

Leadership speakers have known about this basic psychological tool for generations, but as my story above demonstrates, even we lose focus from time to time. Everyone does -- the important part is to recover quickly and shift your attention back to the opportunities as firmly as you can.


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