That’s not advice you want to get.
But sometime, somewhere in the past, you’ve heard that. And you’ve probably given that advice to others, as well.
“Pay attention” is advice that’s typically dished out when someone believes you’re not fully engaged in a task that they see as important, while you, seemingly, don’t.
Attention lapses often start with that powerful little piece of technology in your hand, your cell phone.
It’s an interruption waiting to happen. And it’s an ever-present “I’ll just take a quick break” machine of escape.
And that small device keeps you tethered to others’ priorities if you’re constantly accessible, unless you take steps to preserve time and attention for your priorities and goals.
In the midst of a bevy of buzzes, beeps, rings and pings, it’s a miracle that we get anything substantial done.
Just when did our attention become no longer our own?
Here are four ways that paying attention can change your life:
1. It can prevent problems (and tragedies, too)
Consider drivers and their attention behind the wheel.
Accidents can be prevented if all drivers are attentive, and leave themselves time, and room, to react well if something dangerous starts to occur.
If drivers sacrifice attention, it can take just a split second for an accident to occur.
Many drivers’ focus is anywhere but on the road.
A surprising number stare at their cell phone screens, reading a text, email or tweet, periodically glancing for a second at the road.
Traveling at 65 mph or more, they cover the length of a few football fields in the four to five seconds they ignore the road.
If you’re anywhere around them while they’re hypnotized by their cell phones, your safety may be in their hands, but it’s not on their minds, you can be sure.
2. Things go faster and better if you’re fully attentive
They just do.
Imagine being a patient in surgery.
You expect your surgeon to pay attention, of course.
He or she and the surgery team will do far better work if they’re each fully attentive to what’s going on.
The same is true for you.
Being “right here, right now,” whatever you’re doing, reduces the waste of distractions, miscues and missteps that often happen when people are half-attentive…or worse.
Your work is far better, and far more rapidly done when you’re paying full attention to what you’re there to do.
3. You can see or make the most of opportunities others might miss
If you’re paying attention, you can see opportunities others miss.
Sometimes they’re golden, career-building opportunities.
Other opportunities are as simple as finding the fastest line in a busy grocery store.
By paying attention, you can tap that opportunity before the distracted even wake up.
4. You’re present in your life, not just skimming the highlights now and then
Your life has blessings and challenges, as every life does.
Speaking just for myself, I’ll admit that it might have been nice to be able to sleepwalk through some experiences in life.
But if I did, it might get to be a habit – avoiding, skipping over, flying past, and generally being absent from my life.
And if I did that, I would have missed out on some of the simplest yet most beautiful parts of life.
Many of those have been the sweet, simple, surprising moments it would have been easy to miss.
Typically, they were unexpected, spontaneous, fleeting.
A glance, a chance to share a moment, a story, an idea, a memory, a laugh.
Be there for your life…the whole of it…not just the final highlight reel.