Whatever we pay attention to reflects what we think is important.  More importantly, when we are communicating or being with others, their perception of what we pay attention to then reinforces the respective behaviours.

When you change what you are paying attention to, you not only change yours and others emotional responses, but you change the outcome of the interaction.  What we pay attention to drives every aspect of our lives.

As a parent, when you change what you pay attention to you change not only your child’s immediate response and behaviour, but their future mindset and beliefs. As a leader, a friend, work colleague, and/or family member you change the quality of the relationship and the future outcome of your interactions.

We need to pay attention to WHAT we pay attention to.

For example, as a parent, if we pay attention to mistakes that our children make, then we will tend to respond to our children primarily when there is a mistake.  Our child then learns that they get attention when there is a mistake or an error i.e. We condition that we give them attention when they are not good enough.  The end result being that the child becomes conflicted between needing love and attention, but also wanting approval for doing a great job.  Often leading to either perfectionism or an anxiety disorder.  The over-critical parent is typically the parent who pays attention to errors and failings.

We need to pay attention to WHO we pay attention to.

Or perhaps, when we have dinner with our children, we pay more attention to our phone/tablet until there is an issue or problem.  In this instance, we are conditioning our children to believe that the only way to get our attention is to have a problem or be a problem. The outcome is that the child develops a sense of inadequacy and a desperate need for approval i.e. The next message on the phone is more important than they are. Furthermore, instead of using having a meal together as an opportunity to connect, we are paying more attention to the phone.  The key message that our children receive is that Facebook is more important than they are.

We need to pay attention to HOW we pay attention.

A third example is when we over-react when our child is hurt or sick.  In other words, we pay attention to our child when they are not well.  When they are well we allow ourselves to pay attention to other things like the mobile phone, face book updates, the phone conversation with our friends, email, work, or TV.  The child very quickly learns that they only time they genuinely get your attention is when they are not well.  We have just conditioned our child to be sick and unwell, or over react when they are hurt. 

WE NEED TO CHANGE WHAT WE PAY ATTENTION TO

Rather than pay attention to the emails or face book or mobile phone, we need to pay attention to the people around us, particularly our children. We need to pay attention to the good things, the small things, the facial expressions, and what they do well.  This applies to parents, partners and leaders.

  1. Put the phone / tablet away when you have a meal with your children and pay attention to the stories they tell.
  2. While your children play, pay attention to them playing. Catch their eye during the play.  You will notice that children often look up to see if their parents are watching them.  Put the phone away.
  3. Pay attention to when your children have done something well. Reward their effort with your attention.
  4. When you are at a sports game with your children, pay attention to the game rather than sit glued to your phone.
  5. When your partner is telling you about their day, pay attention to what they are saying. Provide your undivided attention to their story.
  6. Pay attention to the good things in your life, rather than the things that are not going well.
  7. Pay attention to what you pay attention to, who you pay attention to, and how you pay attention.

If your children are important to you, your friends, your partner, your family members, your employees, and/or your work colleagues, then demonstrate that they are important by paying them the due attention. 

Start paying attention to what you pay attention to.  Then be clear on what is most important to you and validate whether or not you are actually paying attention to what is actually most important to you.  Finally, focus your attention on those things in your life that are truly most important. Your life will transform!!

About the author

Gregory Bayne is one of the Directors of Total Leader and Coach Solutions Australia.  Greg works with senior and executive leaders assisting them to make shifts in the way they work, the way they think and the way they live their lives to become better leaders, colleagues and team members. Greg has a particular focus on assisting leaders create a culture or accountability and high performance. His expertise and knowledge is around building and developing a culture of accountability, leading high performing teams, and getting the most out of people to deliver the highest standards of work. We cultivate sustainable behavioural change in individuals, teams and organisations to drive a performance culture.

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