– Victor Cousin, 18th century French Philosopher
Knowledge is power. When you know how stuff works, things you can do a lot. For example, who is the world’s greatest detective: Sherlock Holmes, Batman or Adrian Monk?
The TV series, books, movies, cartoons and comics featuring these characters have set up whole fictional worlds about and around their exploits, because these guys are able to do things most people can’t. And the fact that you know who these characters are and are probably aware of the history behind that particular title (“The World’s Greatest Detective”) lets you in on the in-joke.
Detectives detect. They pay attention, finding things out and making connections, and in our popular fiction and media, they usually get to save the day. For mere flesh-and-blood mortals who don’t go through the drama we see on-screen, we’re asked to pay attention to different things, differently.
How would you know what you’re not paying attention to?Hopefully you have a list or a system in place to help remind you, and you make it a point to know what small, quiet, important things make up your life, things that can easily slip out of sight and out of mind. For example:
The nagging little things
- Back pain upon waking? Getting winded after a flight of stairs? Maybe you’ve just been sick, or burning the midnight oil, or celebrated too hard. Maybe it’s just you getting older. Maybe it’s time to replace your old chair, or get a standing desk. Or both. “Well, I think I have to start on some regular physical undertaking that lets me build up my core muscles instead of decaying by millimeters sitting at my computer table. Huh. Maybe I need to figure out a way to move around a lot while still working. And push in some time to take a brisk walk sometime in the morning to get my blood going.”
The quiet important things
- Have I told my family that I appreciated what they’re doing to help me do what I need to do?
- When was the last time I checked to see if our house is in good condition? And are my insurance papers up-to-date, accessible and in order? What about my will?
- Hmmm, my eldest is really getting into books now. Wonder what else I can do to help her develop a love of learning?
It’s the things that slide into the background that escape your notice. They’re quiet, rarely call attention to themselves, and yet serve as integral parts of your life, even if they stay as a back drop most of the time. You have to have reminders to poke at your attention. You have to ask yourself certain questions every once in a while. Like: “What is taking up the majority of my time right now?”
Look at the im-balance.
People keep talking about a balanced life-style as if you have a set of scales and everything has to weigh exactly the same, and that’s not it.
What I’m talking about is: Are you paying attention to the important things in your life based on how important they are to your life?
- Are you respecting and re-examining your priorities on a consistent basis to see where to adjust with time?
- Are you honoring your needs? Do you attend to your necessities?
Sprinting all-out and pacing yourself both have their places in the marathon of life. So does trudging –can’t ever escape that, you know. Lay things out in an orderly, logical fashion. There are seasons to our lives. Use events as mile-stones and markers. Tax season, summer break, winter-proofing the house, back-to-school…it’s just paying attention, y’all.
Ask somebody you respect who can give you a different viewpoint, another opinion, when you say, “What am I missing here?”
Think about what they say.
You’re only one person, no matter how many personas you get to play in your head and on-line, or in real life if you’re into acting. Being one person means that your views points are your viewpoints, no matter what reasoning you use to get there. That also means you will never get all the sides of any one story, so you need other people to help fill in the pieces you can’t see or reach from where you are. You can get a lot of help from a mixed group.
- Those who have been there and done that.
- Those who are there and are doing that.
- Those who don’t care about that but care about you.
- Those who don’t care about you but care, very deeply, about that.
The flip-side to this paying attention is the practice of deliberate ignorance. Not ignorance in the sense of ‘staying dumb’, but in the way of not paying serious attention to things that don’t warrant it. You know. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” And I probably should have used ‘deliberate non-focus’, but you get what I mean, right?
- Too many choices lead to faulty processing and bad decisions. Look first to your needs, then entertain your wants.
- You want to make the bestest decision ever, you get paralyzed. Act, and find out.
- Draw a boundary around what really truly matters to you. Play outside that boundary with the things that interest you, but keep a weather eye out on what’s going on inside those borders.
Think of it like this: important little things are part of the glue that helps keep the bigger pieces of your life together. They’re like nails. You don’t leave nails lying around to rust and become unusable, or get misplaced beyond finding just when you need them most. You keep track. You know where they are, and you pay attention. You can’t build to last without thinking of the little things.
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