Maverick attention moments differ from yours!
“The universe is full of noise. True wisdom is in knowing what to pay attention to.”DEBASISH MRIDHA
I have treated myself this summer to a course on neuroscience. Like all mavericks I am fascinated by the world around me and always trying to decode it and find out what is really going on. One of the key codes is how my brain (or your brain) functions. In the middle of all the data on physiology, cognition and psychology I found myself transfixed by the section on attention. It turns out that what we take on board and process is very much governed by what we pay attention to.
In an age of constant interruption and competitions for our attention, what consistently gains our attention is what we will process most. The endless online advertisements and click baits are luring our brains by using our biology to trap us into attention on a reality that benefits the people sending the messages. Not we who receive them.
It seems no coincidence to me that this is matched by a massive upsurge in people teaching mindfulness. Encouraging us to pay attention to the hear and how, not the interruptions and the emotional drama. The benefits of such practise are enormous in terms of personal happiness and mental health, but like people teaching how to eat healthily – the junk food is always easily available. And we can all too easily reach for junk information, wrapped in emotions and manipulation.
As mavericks, we naturally pay attention to different things to others. Our attention is captured by different stimulate. That is not to say we are immune to the lure of emotional interruptions and propaganda, but that what naturally draws our attention in our healthy mental state is different. We look for patterns and what draws our attention is the connecting of otherwise unconnected events, ideas, or people. Or for something that does not match the pattern. Sometimes we are the thing that does not match the pattern and we are usually aware of this and often choose it.
I remember as a child being away on holiday in a caravan. All the kids from nearby caravans were corralled into outs as our parents went out for a drink. Before you report all this to social services, this was perfectly normal behaviour in the sixties, as children of 9 and over were viewed as perfectly able to cope on their own for a couple of hours.
We amused ourselves with telling ghost stories. One of the boys was telling a story about a hand that knocked at a window and came in. Suddenly a hand knocked at the window. Within seconds all the children were on the nearest bed fighting to be the one at the bottom who would be safe. All the children but me. While they did what any herd or group would do, the computer in my mind figured out that any dangerous predator would be drawn to the noise and movement on the bed. I had stepped to stand quietly behind the door.
A few moments later my father walked in to squeals of terror. He had come back to check on us and decided to play a trick on us when he heard the story. After a while he turned round to look at me. We both knew I would not be with the other kids.
My attention was drawn to the pattern of behaviour and my behaviour was drawn from an intuitive or instinctive response that meant I felt safer away from the group. Remember Maverick attention moments differ from yours!
I have worked with (and lived with) many mavericks of different kinds. We all have that different attention in common. Some sit in meetings and work out how to redesign the air conditioning while everyone else is talking (and complaining of the heat). Others redesign organisations or workflows to create a pattern more in keeping with its aims.
Sometimes a maverick loses focus and works based on information or patterns given to their attention by someone or something else. Unless the maverick is emotionally connected to that data, it does not last for long.
Maverick attention moments differ from yours!
In an interrupting world, our ability to focus on other things can sometimes make us unaware of the influences working upon those around us. Suddenly we look up from our work and everyone is firmly convinced of a ‘fact’ that appeared from nowhere and has no obvious connection with what went before. Our biggest mistake is to apply reason and to try to persuade our colleagues of this. They look on us with pity and tell us we simply don’t understand and should check it all out on YouTube.
We need to practise our Mindfulness and accept that we may well be standing behind the door, not warm and wrapped up with the others. Our focus needs to be on ensuring we are Mindful, not obsessed with proving ourselves right or distracted by agendas or causes. We must return again and again to the unique and clear attention that can give us so much strength.
What is distracting you today? What do you need to focus your attention on?