Training your attention is complicated, in part, because "attention" isn't actionable - it's an aggregate activity. Noticing is its progenitor.
Noticing is taking stock of facts that surround you. It is an activity. It's actionable and measurable - you can tell when you're noticing or not noticing. The information you collect while noticing, consciously and unconsciously, allows you to build context which informs your field of attention -- a sort of expanded state of consciousness - that can then inform choices. While we talk about training attention, and the attention economy, the leverage point is noticing what we notice. We notice alerts, pings, sounds, etc... but what if we chose to notice something quite different -- our immediate situation.
Perhaps you're sitting in your living room, or reading this on the bus en route to work. Wherever you are, take a moment to notice three things that are facts -- an object you see, something you smell or is there music playing... or what color is the door? how many windows are in your room? are there other people near you?
By pausing to note facts (notice) you alight from passive and step into agency. You can also chose to be affected by what you notice - how does the texture of the curtains feel on your palm, or how do your shoes move on this floor? In this way you will engage even more of yourself, your brain and mind. The more you notice and interact, the more information you'll gather and have at your disposal to assess. Rather than self-instructions to "stay safe" or "don't forget your pitch," noticing awakens your senses so that you are part of what is happening -- this is whole person engagement and situational awarenss.
Noticing is good will and participatory. It may take time to develop. It's like a language. Your first toddler sentence was likely somewhat jumbled. Language develops as a collection of sounds that attempted to convey what we're thinking, feeling or want -- the cognition develops long before the ability to articulate it. What if you think of attention as a language and noticing as the mechanism for building grammar and vocabulary? With practice comes acuity.
Attention is often associated with love -- but attention is what’s felt - a bi-product. Noticing is the participatory end of attention and how we engage with love.
Next time you feel nervous or don't have a plan for executing at the level you want or need, take a moment to notice something - anything - in great detail. You'll be practicing the grammar and vocabulary of attention so you engage and uplift the capacity of your whole self. This is a conscious, constructive plan for actualizing what you desire. And is an act of love to yourself and others.
Informed and Inspired by —
Ellen Langer (The Art of Noticing, Mindfulness and The Power of Mindful Learning)
Carl Rogers (A Way of Being)