Our ability to pay attention is a finite resource. By instinct, we tune out anything that isn’t either food or a threat. Even our field of visual attention is usually limited to what is currently and immediately in front of our noses. Want proof of our limited attention? Watch master pickpocket Apollo Robbins at work. If our attention is so scarce, how do we even make it through life?
With such a scarce resource as attention, we must spend it wisely. Business leaders and coaches love to talk about focused attention. At the drop of a mouse, you can find online articles about being more focused at work from publications like Forbes, Business Insider, Men’s Journal, and Lifehack. Using your attention to focus more on the job should mean your productivity goes up and mistakes go down.
But focusing intently also means you are less aware of the environment around you and the bigger picture. People might joke about “the vision thing” but seeing connections between people, events, and concepts is crucial to innovation and success. And wider awareness can keep your pockets from being picked.
Joe Stafura, CEO of Thrive, frames focus and awareness as two ends of a spectrum. The more you focus on a specific item, the less aware you can be of multiple things around you. Conversely, the more things around you that you are aware of, the less you can focus on any particular item.
Matching your balance of focus and awareness to the task at hand is what Stafura calls Mindfulness. Thrive’s ability to help people strike the proper Mindfulness for a given situation is achieved through the Thrive Program’s structure as an ongoing conversation. The conversation involves the stakeholders who reveal what they really feel is important over time. This happens more easily during a conversation than an interrogation in the moment or trying to recall in the moment.
By allowing everyone the space and time to consider the various factors influencing the situation, everyone can see what others are concerned about and start to see hidden problems and possible solutions. The micro-message format of Thrive helps keep the conversation going, ensuring high retention and lower survey fatigue. Each participant spends just a couple of minutes to update their views, with no travel time or Zoom calls.
So, it’s not just focusing your attention that leads to success. Shifting the balance of focus and awareness to meet various demand throughout the day is key to performance at work, at home, and throughout life.
Managing your attention doesn’t just happen. It is a skill. Training your emotional intelligence or EQ is a great way to acquire this skill. EQ training builds self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness. Within these competencies are competencies such as
- Recognizing emotional states such as bored or distracted
- Managing impulses
- Setting goals
- Organizing tasks
- Identifying problems
- Understanding different perspectives
Teaching these skills in schools helps kids be more mindful in learning. It also helps them be more mindful after the graduate and join the workforce. So it’s no wonder that both Apollo Robbins and Joe Stafura count major companies, nonprofits, and government agencies among their clients. They’re all looking for more mindful ways to pay attention.