Paying Attention Intentionally

Out of necessity we learn to run on auto-pilot, paying attention mechanically and passively most of the time. This underscores the need to pay attention deliberately and voluntarily, thereby liberating our awareness from robotic activity.” Daniel Goleman

This is another of my four assumptions of my theory of wisdom. I believe part of my wisdom is my willingness to pause and reflect. Maybe not always, but it is always a valuable skill to have available. Often, the most important times for me to be reflective are when I don’t want to be, but need to be. Reflecting on what I am paying attention to is important because I only see and experience what I pay attention to.

My reflection wisdom tells me that the way I see things depends on the way I choose to see things. This means there is more than one way for me to see things and more than one thing to pay attention to. Otherwise, I am on autopilot. To discover other ways of seeing and paying attention, I need to ask questions. Don’t ask, don’t learn.

To be wise has change from being able to answer the questions to being                          able to question the answers. Unknown

I believe it is wise to ask myself questions and learn. Taking the time and effort to pause and reflect by asking questions is like Chris Argyris’ double loop learning. Argyris uses a household thermostat metaphor to explain double-loop learning. A thermostat is programmed to measure and adjust room temperature automatically (autopilot), single-loop learning. Double loop learning turns the questions back on the questioner, asking questions about the reasons, beliefs, and assumptions behind the programmed way of seeing and doing. Is the present setting and heat source the most effective? Why was the current thermostat setting chosen in the first place? These are often why questions.

My reflection assumption wants me to ask questions (double-loop learning questions)    about the reasons, beliefs and assumptions behind the way I see and do things?

  • Is the way I am seeing things programmed on autopilot?
  • Why am I seeing it this way? Why am I doing this? What is another/better way?
  • What assumptions are behind my programmed way of seeing and doing?
  • Is my view an asset or a liability? Why? What behaviors will it lead to?
  • Is it an erroneous perception, an unrealistic perception, a creative perception?
  • Would someone else see it differently? Why?

Tell me what you pay attention to, and I will tell you who you are. W. H. Auden

Asking double loop questions helps me learn to recognize my “autopilot” attention and to pay attention to what I am not paying attention to. It might help to have a question and learning partner to give me feedback about my answers. This is another “double-loop”.

Should I ask? Do you ask questions about what you are paying attention to? And why?


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