I’m following a blog by Tina Seelig. She is from the Design school at Stanford University and is chronicling her path to her 60th birthday.
In one of her first entries, she writes:
“It takes considerable effort to focus our attention beyond what we anticipate, especially when we’re dealing with familiar experiences. For example, we literally tune out when we’re performing repetitive activities, such as driving or walking on routine paths. We also focus predominantly on things that are at eye level rather than looking around more broadly. And, we pay attention to objects that we expect to find and ignore those things that don’t fit.”
We tune it out when in our routine.
We have a narrow focus instead of looking wider.
We pay attention to what we expect to find and ignore things that don’t fit.
She notes that it takes energy and intention to “notice” differences.
Our brains are conditioned to be on automatic pilot much of the time. We learn patterns and the brain takes over. We drive the same routes without paying attention. We have the same habits. We move through life routine.
When we choose to break from those routines, we must choose to do so. You say to yourself “this is important, I must pay attention” or “I really need to concentrate”.
Our brains adjust with this intentional choice. But, the adjustment takes energy.
It explains why intense concentration or study zaps our energy. It’s hard work.
Seelig notes the older we get the more likely we are to stay on auto pilot. Youth have more energy and more to learn. Thus, their curiosity is higher.
She challenges us all to choose attention and concentration more often. Stop. Look around. Notice the detail. Smell the roses.
Our Five Minute Walks are an exercise designed to cause us to look with intention with fresh eyes. You can turn on fresh eyes anytime you choose. It’s just a matter of choosing to do so.