Provision #265: Pay Attention

Laser Provision


Are you paying attention to what’s important? Successful people do just that. They identify and stay focused on the critical variables in their environment. That’s especially important when you find yourself in transition. Read on to learn how you can develop and master this competency.

LifeTrek Provision


Last week I wrote about the importance of learning names whenever you find yourself in a new environment or changed circumstances. We lack the power to move forward successfully until we have mastered the names of people, places, streets, and acronyms.

Several readers responded with a word of thanks for this Provision. One reader wrote: “Awesome word on learning names. Especially good timing as I just completed seminary and am about to go on active duty as a chaplain. Learning names and acronyms will definitely be beneficial. Can you give us some pointers or methods for easy name recognition, etc? Thanks for your work, your encouragement, and your time.”

The answer is simple and goes far beyond the task of learning names. To learn names, and to successfully navigate life’s transitions, we have to pay attention. In any situation, how we spend our attention influences what we get in return. Focusing on important, critical variables generates big dividends. Failing to pay attention to these variables generates big deficits, all the way around.

To keep our attention in the present moment is both a challenging and profound task. It’s much easier to be distracted by what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow. It’s only human to get sidetracked and impatient. But successful people master the art of knowing what’s important in the present moment and channeling their energy and awareness in that direction.

Here’s an illustration. Before we moved to Virginia, my wife commuted for two years. During that entire time, I never learned a single Virginia telephone number. I even had a hard time remembering the area code. Whenever I wanted to call my wife, or anyone else, I would always have to look the number up. Virginia just wasn’t that important to me and so I didn’t pay attention to it. I would mindlessly dial the number, figuring there was no reason to clutter up my brain.

Once I moved to Virginia, I learned my wife’s office telephone number quickly • simply by paying attention to the pattern on the touchtone keypad. So too when it comes to the names of our growing community of friends. By paying attention to what people say, how they look, where they live, and who they are I find myself quickly growing a new mental contact list and relationship map.

But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, your contact list will have limited impact and functionality if you rely exclusively on your mental faculties. As the old saying goes, the weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory. Having a written or computer-based contact list will keep your memory fresh and give you new opportunities to make valuable connections.

I know one successful CEO who adds personal notes to his contact database following every significant interaction. As a result, he can review the notes before each subsequent interaction • enabling him to ask about their spouse or children by name or how some project turned out even after very long periods of time. He can also have his secretary send cards to celebrate significant events.

The impact? People think he has an incredible memory. In reality, he has an incredible system. People are important to him; he therefore pays attention to them and has developed effortless systems to support that attention.

What’s important to you? What are you paying attention to? What are your systems like? Many people work with coaches to answer these questions as they move through life’s transitions. Even in ordinary times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everyone you meet and everything that has to get done. In transitional times, those challenges increase exponentially. The weekly coaching conversation comes as a refreshing and productive stop on the journey.

For many people, the coaching conversation is a great way to stay focused. It can bring people back to their best intentions and leave people with new strategies for paying attention to the things that are important. But one does not have to wait for a conversation with a professional coach in order to accomplish this. We can work on these things independently, through a process of self-coaching, in order to move forward continuously.

One technique that I use with many coaching clients is to crystallize and rehearse a self-directing affirmation. Can you reduce your best intentions to a single sentence? It’s usually possible. Then write that sentence in the present tense, as though it were already true. Right now, for myself, I’m working with the sentence, “I eat and drive slowly.” Anyone who knows me knows that this is not true. But I am coaching myself into a new position by using this self-directing affirmation. Writing or repeating such an affirmation every morning, sometimes with the non-dominant hand, can have quite an impact.

What’s important to you? What are you paying attention to? What are your systems like? Answer those questions, develop a self-directing affirmation, and you’ll find yourself successfully navigating not only life’s transitions, but life itself.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.


Great article on names. I’m a business coach and one of my products is the Dale Carnegie Course. You have given me a powerful reminder of what Carnegie was talking about in his chapter in How to Win Friends on names. Thanks for the gift!


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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