Focused attention

Mar 2016    

These days, with so many things demanding our attention and energy, giving our focused attention to what we are doing is often a challenge. We seem to be torn in so many directions that being able to multi-task is one of the prerequisites for life today.

Yet can we really be good at doing many things simultaneously, or are we just fooling ourselves? Or is it the preserve of a few who seem able to work and even play whilst juggling several balls at the same time? Even if they are able to do this well at work, is this ability also apparent in their personal life?

In today’s fast-paced and highly-wired world, it seems that some things still demand our focused attention. When it comes to certain relationships, we all want the other to give us their full and focused attention. You may have invested in one of those cameras that help you monitor remotely what is going on at home, to see if your baby is getting her afternoon nap or if your children are doing their homework. But such forms of parenting cannot replace the face-to-face interaction that needs to happen when you get home.

You can Skype with your spouse when they are overseas or send each other text messages. These, however, cannot take the place of the person-to-person connection with words and touch that binds a relationship. No amount of technology-enabled communication can replace personal contact.

Giving our focused attention to what we are doing is often a challenge. We seem to be torn in so many directions that being able to multi-task is one of the prerequisites for life today.

Giving something or someone our focused attention invariably involves an investment of time. If we want to develop a relationship with a person, we must be prepared to set aside time for it. This means that it just would not do to say “I will give my spouse or children ‘quality time’ in the form of a family vacation” when there is no meaningful quantity of time for the rest of the year. This same principle applies to all relationships, including our relationship with our Maker and even with ourselves.

Do we need to set aside time for ourselves? Are we not already a very self-absorbed or self-indulgent society? Perhaps, but many of us just go about making our lives full yet lacking in meaning.

We seem to live our daily lives in a frenzied absent-minded fashion. We seldom stop to appreciate the coolness of the evening breeze on our face, the smell of freshly-cut grass, the cooing of pigeons in the shade. I am not asking if you can recall what you ate, though some may even struggle with this question, but how your food tasted. You may even have had a full and heavy meal but did not pause to appreciate the textures of the food.

What is the object of your focused attention? What preoccupies your thoughts and attention? The end of the first quarter of the year is upon us. Have we noticed its passing? What, and more importantly, who would you like to focus on for the rest of this year? Can we be more mindful of where we focus our attention?

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.


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