My parents taught me to pay attention to my environment and be alert for rattlesnakes on our cattle ranch that would hide underneath sagebrush and cactus. My most prized Christmas present every year was a new pair of thick leather high top boots—tough enough to withstand a rattler’s sharp teeth if I should get bitten.
After many years of being alert of my surroundings, awareness of my immediate physical situation became a habit, even after I had grown up and left the ranch. My ability to remain observant while in chaotic and quick moving circumstances was one of the primary reasons I became an FBI agent.
Habits don’t happen overnight; they are a repeated behavior that leaves us comfortable and safe; thus, we continue to choose more of the same experiences. When our attention is focused like this, our nervous system leaves us wanting more of the same.
Whatever act or attitude you give your attention, the more frequently that act or attitude will begin to manifest in your life.
If you focus on anger, anger will show up. If you focus on looking for the positive in your situation, positivity will show up. If you focus on finding a way to pursue your goal, determination will show up.
Pinpoint the focus, and put your attention on whatever you want to grow in life.
Start with Intention
Intention is a choice to act in a certain way. Without it, we spin and turn in all sorts of directions. Intention is an essential component of mental toughness. It is an ability that can be learned and strengthened over time to commit to a specific outcome, and regardless of distraction, keep moving forward.
Intention is the key to transformation. Get serious about what is important in life and come up with a game plan to make it happen. Work on your intentions until they become perfectly clear.
Be intentional about:
- Thoughts: Make corrections when you uncover thoughts that are not in alignment with your intention “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is“~Proverbs 23:7a NKJV)
- Words: Keep your conversations positive about the direction you’re moving “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body”~Proverbs 16:24 NLT
- Deeds: Ensure that everything you do moves you closer to your intention “Even children know by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right”~Proverbs 20:11 NLT
Follow Up With Attention
Attention is noticing the importance of an act or person. We intentionally focus our attention on what is important in our life and those areas we want to grow.
Our consciousness can handle only so much information, so we have selective attention. One key part of the brain which focuses on attention is the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It filters out important information that needs more attention from the unimportant that can be ignored. Without the RAS filter, we would be over-stimulated and distracted by noises from our environment around us.
Whatever we choose to focus our attention on will make it past the mind’s filtering system. The RAS alerts the cerebral, thinking brain of changes in the environment such as:
- Physical needs: when we’re hungry, we pay attention to food
- Choices: if we decide to buy a Volvo (a MUST see video!), we see them everywhere
- Names: we notice the names of those whom we love
- Emotions: if something evokes an emotion in us, it has our attention
- Contrast: we pay more attention to things that are in contrast to other things
- Novelty: the brain notices things in our environment that are new experiences for us
Mental toughness is keeping attention focused on those attitudes and behaviors that you have intentionally identified as important to you in life.
These positive influences will help to keep you moving forward, and not get distracted, when faced with an obstacle or adversity.
End On A Happy Note
If you start with positive intentions, they will lead you to noticing the importance of events, people, and situations that will move you toward your goals and dreams. The result produces fulfillment and happiness.
This outcome shouldn’t surprise you.
Research shows that people who maintain a positive mindset are the happiest. They also perform better in the face of challenge. Shawn Achor call this the “happiness advantage”—every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.
Happiness is not about being oblivious to negative situations in our environment; it’s about developing the mental toughness to find ways to do something about them. Leverage positivity in leadership to move forward and find both meaning and happiness regardless of your circumstances.
Positive thinkers seek out information that is actionable, interesting, and relevant. Leaders who create positive responses to their situations use words like opportunity and challenge together.
Our thoughts, words, and deeds turn into habits of behavior. They can enrich our lives once we understand how to intentionally focus our attention on experiences we want to repeat. What grabs our attention rules our life.
What grabs your attention?
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