How What We Pay Attention To Affects Us

How What We Pay Attention To Affects Us

About 4 years ago I was working on a multi-billion dollar, federally-funded project in Houston. My company was tasked with managing several components of the project. As you can imagine, when there's this much money involved, there's also heavy amounts of politics and scrutiny. With a great deal to accomplish and so many people watching, the only thing that mattered was our performance. 

A quarter of the way through the project enters my new supervisor, one of the most focused and productive people I've ever met. She demanded one thing from her team: results. That's it. That's all she cared about. It didn't matter how much or how little we did to accomplish a task, all she paid attention to was results.

This made our day-to-day activities more purposeful and deliberate. Focusing on results stopped rewarding "busy work" and instead rewarded work that got the job done. Results was her motto and something that we came to tease her about, but really, her laser-beam focus had a profound effect on me in my professional and personal life in that it made me question and critically assess everything. I began to ask myself questions like, "Will this action get me to my desired result?" and "I just did this. Did I get the outcome that I wanted?"

Focusing on results is another way of saying we're paying attention to a thing. And if it's true that we attract what we pay attention to, then we, as single people, may very well be damned if we don't pay attention to what we pay attention to. 

With incredible amounts of singles-focused content existing in magazines, on bookshelves, on social media outlets, and even on blogs, some of what I've feasted on in the past has informed me, entertained me, chastised me, or riled my righteous indignation, but NEVER, and I mean never, has consuming any bit of this content resulted in my getting the relationship that I want.

Does that mean I'll stop reading the occasional article? No. I won't because I'm a reader first, I'm curious second, and I'm a glutton for punishment third. But as a student of "results" I must admit to the uselessness of engaging in activities that don't support my personal or relationship goals. 

After watching a video of men discussing why successful black women are single, this rant to a friend perfectly sums up exactly why we should carefully consider what we feed ourselves and recognize how it affects us: 

"These types of conversations are futile. They continue to confirm a few things for me: 1) Everybody has the answers, yet no one has the answers b/c it's impossible to have the answers for something that has so many variables. 2) These forums ALWAYS invite black male and female bashing and a general lack of empathy. 3) I'm beyond this conversation. It's tired, it's silly, it's boring, and listening has never resulted in my getting a date. I've gotten zero results from listening to these types of conversations. It literally does nothing to support my goals. All it does is feed me with more negative messaging...I stopped inhabiting spaces that attract this type of thinking. It's a hope killer, but I think that's the point. These conversations always bring out hate and bitterness. Not a place I belong!"

As I wrote in "Why I Stopped Reading Nearly Everything Written For Singles," so much of what is written and spoken about the single experience does not affirm our place in the world, nor does it celebrate singleness or consider real reasons for being single that don't involve accusations of wrongdoing. A real reason like: you're single because you make wise choices about who is and isn't going to participate in your life. 

When we pay attention to things that condemn who we are, we pay a price.

We are essentially lining ourselves up with those negative messages, sometimes internalizing them. Chipping away at our belief and peace of mind. Manifesting itself in things we say and project. When we engage in meaningless relationship debates, we are expending precious energy on that which needs no debating. When we buy into negative narratives--that men are no good, that women are no good--we're robbing ourselves of the joy that comes with positive expectation.

My hope is that we pay attention to what we want--not what we don't want. My hope is that we align ourselves with things that celebrate who we are as we are, messages that inspire hope and remind us of our individual power and uniqueness. 

Before the project ended, I began working at a different company, but my former supervisor included me on a team email announcing that our efforts resulted in our exceeding expectations on the project. It's no doubt that the success of the team was in major part due to her singular focus on the results that she wanted.

She didn't focus on what she didn't want. She didn't focus on what others said could or couldn't be done. She focused on what she did want. And all of her efforts mirrored that.

In a similar way, let's put our energy in and focus on the results that we want without being distracted by what we don't want. Pay attention.


Photo credit: Keri-Lee Beasley via CC Flickr