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The Attention Direction: Where Your Mind Goes, You Go

I am a safe harbor, come tell me your troubles.

Most of us are familiar with the law of attraction, which is the belief that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, you can cause positive or negative experiences. I believe it’s a little more involved than that, and more along the lines of: where your mind goes, you go…or what I call the Attention Direction.*

In undergrad, one of my religious studies professors at Santa Clara University brought a group of his students on a chartered boat excursion out of Santa Cruz. Once we were out of the harbor, he asked if anyone wanted to steer the boat. I volunteered.

There was only one rule: Don’t hit anything.┬áThis seemed easy enough considering the only other boat I saw was way out on the horizon.

He asked, “Do you know how you avoid hitting another boat?”

“Steering away from it?” I offered.

“Don’t focus on the other boats. Focus on where you want to go,” he replied. “If you focus on the boats to avoid hitting them, you’ll end up steering straight toward them. Even if you think that other boat is way out there and there’s no way you could hit it with all this ocean around you, you eventually will if that’s where you’re focusing.”

I contemplated that for a moment knowing this was more than just a boating lesson he was trying to teach me.

“So,” he asked. “Where do you want to go?”

That lesson has stuck with me even 20 years later.

So when I look at my client’s (and my own) goals, I try and notice where the focus is. Sometimes it requires turning “don’t” into “do.” For example, “Don’t fail the new job interview” turns to “Knock the socks off my interviewers.”

If we’re working on financial goals, and my client simply wants to “Pay all [their] bills and have enough left over to go on one vacation a year,” then that will be all they’ll be able to do. Simply focusing on hitting a particular threshold, they’ll never move beyond that. We then turn the goal into something like, “Live comfortably and abundantly with the freedom to do what I want, when I want.”

If a client is self-describing their current job as “soul-sucking” and their energy and focus is simply getting out of a soul-sucking job, chances are they’ll jump straight into another soul-sucking job because that’s where their focus is…on the soul-sucking. The energy focused on running away will result in more of that popping up.

Instead, I advise clients to focus on what they want to run toward. If they can shift into a mindset and body-connection to what it feels like to work in a job that inspires them and creates a floating feeling, and that’s what they focus on finding, that’s where they’ll go. Focusing on the kind of boss, environment, role, responsibilities, tasks and coworkers that makes their heart sing will be the direction they head.

If you’re curious which direction you are headed, try noticing your thoughts. What is your Attention Direction? Are you focused on what you don’t want to happen and on avoiding particular things? Or are you focused on what brings you joy?

Then ask yourself, which direction do you want to travel?


*While I thought the term Attention Direction was my original concept. Upon a simple Google search after writing this blog, I see that it is actually used in a variety of forms regarding where people (and animals) direct their attention. Each use case looks to be unique and in different areas of study, therefore, I feel confident in adapting the term for coaching.