QUOTES & WISDOM
TOP OF THE MIND
QUOTES & WISDOMfrom the Top of the Mind
QUOTES & WISDOM
Top of the Mind
Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL
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The Power of Focus or Attention
I have chosen this topic as the focus of this week’s selection because it allows us to examine whether our focus or “attention,” or what we are paying attention to, is actually serving us. Specifically, I like the idea of understanding “attention” or focus as what we are doing versus what is being done to us. For example, many people talk about some person or situation “grabbing” their attention, and while I can understand how they would think of it that way, I suggest we dig a bit deeper to see what is really happening, because if some external situation can truly take control like this, it means we are not in charge but instead at the mercy of what happens around us.
Of course, for those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that how we find ourselves reacting to life has everything do with how the brain processes information. Specifically, how the middle brain or the limbic system interprets the data it receives from our five senses. This means that when some person or situation is interpreted as problematic or dangerous, it can feel like it is “grabbing” our attention. However, what is really happening is that we are paying attention to this situation (meaning our brain is directing our attention to this stimuli) and we need to ensure that the payment is worth the cost.
For example, when someone cuts us off on the freeway, we will often break sharply to avoid hitting them. That is the limbic system allowing us to react without thinking to be safe. Unfortunately, we may tend to continue to “pay” attention to this situation by cursing at the offending driver, or even getting up on their bumper to show them how wrong they were.
In this instance, I don’t believe that the payment is worth the cost, because in order to remain upset with this person, we must be feeding our anger and resentment, which means we are dumping stress-related chemicals (adrenaline and cortisol) into our body in a way that isn’t good for our health. Without meaning to, we have just made this person the most important person in our life because we are interpreting their negative behavior in such a way that it changes the chemical makeup of our brain and body.
To be clear, I’m not saying we have no right to feel this way, or even that we are wrong. What I want us to consider is how our attention is either serving us or not, and become more purposeful with respect to what we pay attention to going forward. One way to do this is to ask ourselves this question: “How important or powerful do I want this person or situation to be in my life?” This allows the upper 80% of our brain (the neocortex, or what I call The Top of the Mind) to determine what we focus on going forward.
You may have heard the phrase “What we focus on expands,” or “What we resist, persists.” Both of these refer to the fact that what we pay attention to has a cost, either in a chemical change in our body or, at the very least, taking our focus/attention away from those people and situations we have determined to be valuable. I suggest we evaluate whether the payment is worth the cost so that we can become more influential in our experience of life going forward.
Of course, if you would like me to help you and your organization become more purposeful in how you direct your attention by accessing the more purposeful part of the brain, I suggest you contact me. I have created a system that allows you to avoid having your attention “grabbed” by the types of people or situations that you have determined are not worth the cost, and I would love to support you in becoming more influential in the process.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill