Lesson 75: Pay attention

Published 3:11 pm Thursday, May 27, 2010

The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.

Keanu Reeves

The more you shift focus from yourself to the world around you, the more you will be able to understand your place within that world. There is an exception, but lets start with the rule.

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Have you ever known someone who seemed to stay in his or her own little world? They seem oblivious to everything thats going on around them. Some kids do this when they get immersed in a video game. My dad used to read the newspaper so intently that anything my mother asked him would be answered with an absent-minded Umm-hmm.

We all retreat into our

personal worlds occasionally; surgeons do it while operating, authors do it while writing

a book. Theres nothing

wrong with it. As the saying goes, Im in my own little worldeverybody likes me there.

So spending a brief vacation in that little world every once in a while is probably healthy. But moving in permanently is not.

You need to pay attention to your surroundings, if only for your personal safety. Walking through a parking lot late at night can be dangerous if youre not paying attention. Knowing whats going on around you at a wild party can keep you out of trouble, and perhaps out of danger. Being aware of the speed limit on the highway can prevent your getting a speeding ticket and help you avoid an accident.

Being aware can help in many other ways as well. At work, if you pay attention, youll probably recognize needs that are not being met by anyone else; if you take up that slack, youre likely to be recognized as a go-getter. Paying attention to what you eat and drink can help keep you healthy and sober. Close observation of the people around you can help you determine who would make a good friend, who might not be trustworthy, and who can be counted on in a pinch.

Now heres the exception: Pay attention to yourself as well, without retreating into your own world. Determine what interests you, so you can learn more about it; perhaps this is the place for you to create a career. Be aware of when youre starting to get sick, so you can head off the illness early. Learn to trust your own instincts; theyre usually right. Then use what you have learned about yourself and your surroundings to make a better place for yourself in the world.

Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.