The quality of attention we apply and the selection of filters we use to limit it can be enhanced with exposure to different frames of reference and more effective classification patterns.
Before we can enhance the quality of our attention deliberately, we need to become aware of how we are filtering and applying our attention currently. For most people, attending is something we do with reference to content; that is what we are attending to.
Discovering Our Attention
If we want to identify and track how we attend at any time, a simple method uses common content as our medium. To give you a taste of this, take a composite memory of driving your regular vehicle, as if you are driving now, in the present. Driving your car is the frame for this experience and it queues your driving perceptual filters. Now consider the following questions:
- As you are driving, are you aware of looking at the road ahead?
- How far ahead do you look, normally?
- Do you notice the presence of other vehicles?
- Do you notice anything about the cars in front of you?
- Are you aware of movement in your peripheral vision?
- Are you aware of the sound of your engine routinely?
- Are you aware of the sound of your engine when it sounds different?
- If you have music playing, do you notice it?
- Do you register the speed you are doing?
- Are you aware of selecting the distance you drive behind other vehicles
- in slow traffic?
- in medium fast traffic?
- when you stop at traffic lights?
- Are you talking to yourself?
- Are you seeing through internal images?
- Do you feel speed, torque, acceleration?
- Do you feel emotional responses to your thoughts?
- Are you aware of the speed limit?
- Are you aware of the sequence of traffic lights?
- Are you aware of when to signal at a roundabout?
- Are you aware of the route you are taking to your destination?
- Are you aware of finding the appropriate pedal with the appropriate pressure?
- Are you aware of steering the car?
Your answers will provide you with valuable insight into your process for attending while driving. The next question in response to each answer you gave is:
How do you know that?
The elements of attention can be classified and punctuated in different ways. The driving questions invite answers related to use of our senses and internal representations of remembered and imagined sensory experience. We use our senses and internal representations to think and attend. The quality of any experience we have is related to the combination of senses and representations we select to process it. Most selection occurs outside conscious awareness. So another classification for attention is what are we aware of consciously and what are we responding to outside conscious awareness? We took a common scenario like driving and asked the questions above to bring some of our process to conscious awareness.
Now you have more conscious awareness of what you do while driving, you can enhance your experience and possibly your skill as well. For example, the further ahead you look, the more time you have to respond to changes on the road in front of you. If you detect and respond to movement in your peripheral vision, you can avoid potential obstacles more smoothly. If your attention is on the road instead of on your internal experience, (be it dialogue, images, sounds or sensation), you are likely to detect and respond to more external activity and drive more safely. If the rearview mirror is in your peripheral vision, you will detect flashing blue lights at the earliest opportunity. Once you have updated any parts of your driving experience, you can allow the changes to automate once more, so they function seamlessly while your conscious attention is where you want it.
This exercise can be applied to any activity, experience or context you choose. It is a useful method for refining skill development, enabling us to identify the elements of a skill set that could benefit from enhancement. We can pick and apply the enhancements, practice them deliberately and allow them to integrate into automation.
Using attention includes (but is not limited to) the following components:
- The frame, context or situation for attending.
- The combination of senses and representations used in attending.
- Conscious awareness of parts or elements of the experience.
- Conscious awareness of prior knowledge and related future outcomes.
- Unconscious awareness of prior knowledge and related future outcomes.
- Unconsciously included parts of the experience.
- Unconsciously applied frames and perceptual filters surrounding the experience.
Another aspect of attention is how we apply each of our senses to the content we are seeing, hearing or feeling, be it internally represented or externally sensed.
(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).
By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.
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