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The Lost Opportunity of Unpaid Attention

My tree is wobbly enough to be vulnerable to even the slightest breeze and my eagle would not make America proud. Those are two things I learned in yoga.

They are two poses that require balance on one leg. The tree is a graceful form that is the very picture of equilibrium. The eagle pose looks like a malformed pretzel trying to get up and hop out of the factory.

Focus is the only way to do them well. That’s one of the benefits of practicing yoga: the ability to clear the mind of anything else and pay attention.

I became interested in learning more about yoga as a way to balance other workouts. The stretches and the balance complement weight training. Kind of smooths out the rough edges of aging as well.

Because I’ve tried yoga in the past to only comedic success, I was apprehensive. But, you know what? Everybody has the same thought. So why worry about that?

The best part turned out to be exercises in concentration. They helped reinforce how critical attention is to success and enjoyment.

For example, take this month’s interview with Publisher Paul Feldman. In it, Gino Wickman lays out a comprehensive program for leaders to get their business out of the mud and onto the road. Although the program has many parts, attention is the essential thread pulling those parts together.

Gino’s methods direct business leaders first to cast attention on the company and determine its reason for being. Quite a few enterprises wander away from their purpose and pick up ventures they don’t do well because leaders haven’t kept their focus.

Another significant part of Gino’s program is a report card detailing data that show whether the company is on track. It is based on the familiar principle that what gets watched, gets done.

But it is more than just monitoring that makes the difference. It is the gift of attention, which lets other people know they matter to the company. Many of us have had jobs where we felt eminently replaceable and felt that no one would miss us if we were gone. How motivating was that?

Then there were the jobs where people took an interest and a mentor cared about our career. Those are conditions for real growth.

The attention doesn’t just make the business more effective; the focus is critical for fulfilling work. It’s how we get in the zone. We focus on what is in front of us and love what we’re doing. Before we know it, it’s time to go home.

And when we go home, what’s happening there? Is it a flurry of activity where no one talks to anyone else for very long? Is it just a couple of people watching TV and simultaneously poking at their phones? Are we destined for a lonely day when we wonder where the time went?

I know a few people who went through a divorce they never saw coming. Their spouse just left or had an affair that they didn’t suspect for some time. How does that happen? In some of those cases, it had something to do with being disengaged. Already gone.

Same thing with the kids. One day they’re young adults and we don’t know how they got there, with life an open road in front of them and home in the rearview mirror.

All we have is the person or task in front of us. The degree of success in that moment depends on our attention to it. If this is an employee looking for your direction, that person is not looking only for your opinion, but for your presence. Doesn’t that warrant looking up from your email?

If we have wondered why we haven’t had a whole lot of fun with our spouse in quite a while, maybe it’s because we’re not really there. Instead we’re focused on a hurt from the past or a worry about the future. Or we’re just checked out.

Perhaps having kids didn’t turn out to be the bliss that we had expected. It’s easy to be so subsumed in the constant demands presented by child-rearing that we miss out on the child.

Attention is the water that makes things thrive.

Here’s something else I learned in yoga: The less I worried about how I was doing and the more attention I paid to what I was doing, the better I did.

I’ll admit my eagle never quite flew, but I know the sky is there, waiting for the day when it will.

Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. Steve may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @INNSteveM. [email protected].

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