As a child, I had a habit of daydreaming in school, as I was often bored and my mind would wander. I grew accustomed to my teacher walking over toward my desk and asking what I’m sure he or she meant as a rhetorical question, “Are you paying attention?” I would always answer affirmatively, in part because once the question was asked I was indeed now paying attention to what the teacher was saying. As I got older, I realized that in fact, I was always paying attention–maybe not to what was being taught at the moment, but I was certainly paying attention to something– my friends, the clock as it got closer to recess, or to the creation of plans for play after school.
The fact is that you and I are always paying attention. The question is not if we are paying attention, but what are we paying attention to? We have a saying that runs through all of our Living Compass Faith & Wellness programs, one that stresses the importance of paying attention: “Whatever we pay attention to is what will grow.”
My wife Holly, and I recently recorded a new episode of our podcast “Living Compass for Families” that is based on becoming more aware of what we pay attention to (see below for the link to it) and so the saying, “Whatever we pay attention to is what will grow” has been on my mind a lot. You might say I have been paying attention to this saying and therefore its importance has been growing for me.
For those of us who are in the midst of observing the season of Lent, this is a time to focus our attention on what matters most in our lives. This year for Lent I have been paying attention to my spiritual, emotional, and physical wellness. Daily scripture readings, along with a daily practice of writing or speaking of things for which I am grateful has helped me pay attention to my spiritual and emotional wellness. Abstaining from eating wheat for the season of Lent, has been my way of focusing on my physical wellness and I am enjoying feeling better physically. Each of these experiences have reminded me, once again, that whatever I pay attention to is what will grow. Lenten disciplines, while probably not often thought of in this way, often have the effect of enhancing some area of wellness in our lives.
The essential question for each of us is not, “Are you paying attention?” The essential question is, “What are you paying attention to?” If our attention is being paid to what annoys us in life, then that annoyance will grow. If our attention is being paid to our worries then they will most likely grow as well. If our attention is paid to what we cherish most about a friend or loved one, then that feeling will grow. If our attention is paid to our relationship with God, or caring for our bodies, or taking time to be playful, then each of those things will grow as well. If, on the other hand, our attention is so scattered and divided that nothing is getting quality attention, then it should not come as a surprise if there is not much that is growing in our lives.
So what do you want to see grow in your life? In others words, what do you want to pay more attention to? Your work? Your relationships with family and friends? Your spiritual life? Your physical wellness? Whether you are observing Lent, or not, there is not time like the present to discover that what you pay attention to is what will grow.
Next week I will be paying attention to my need for rest and relaxation as I take a week’s vacation. This column will return in two weeks.