A River Worth Riding: Lesson Four
How to stop caring about what people think of you
The Power of Focus and Attention

Each evening, a father would bring his daughter down to the water’s edge and show her the river’s secrets. As they sat quietly one evening, a mother wolf appeared on the bank and began drinking with her pups. “Did you know that inside each person lives two wolf packs?” asked the father.

She was a clever daughter, who knew that she was much too small to contain even one wolf, so she asked her father to explain.

“The first wolf pack has six siblings,” he said. “They are anger, envy, greed, resentment, revenge and lies. The other wolf pack also has six siblings. They are fairness, joy, love, empathy, forgiveness and truth. Every day, both of these wolf packs struggle and fight to keep their hold on your life.”

“Which wolf pack wins?” the daughter asked with wide eyes.

“The pack you feed the most.”

What feeds the wolf packs inside of your mind?

Your focus and your attention.

I knew a girl who rode life’s rapids. She was good at riding the rapids. Whenever she finished one rapid, she started preparing for the next. She only felt safe preparing for rapids, so she focused all of her attention upon surviving life’s rapids. Eventually, her life became one long rapid, and she missed the rest of the river entirely.

The power of focus says that if you only look for rapids, you will not see the calm. In other words, the more you concentrate on rapids, the more your brain will actually devote its resources to spotting rapids. Until eventually, rapids dominate your every thought and begin to affect your behavior. The same is true for many aspects of our lives. What we think about shapes how we feel about ourselves and others. Do we feel positive? Do we feel negative? Whatever we focus our thoughts upon inevitably shapes our lives.

So how can the power of focus help you to build a worthwhile life?

You’ll need to incorporate five exercises into your daily practice.

1.      Imagine the future you want

2.      Notice your distractions

3.      Understand how you process sensory data

4.      Exercise and stretch your attention span daily

5.      Practice controlling your negative emotions

Techniques for incorporating all five of these exercises into daily practice are fully examined in our companion book A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life. Click here for ordering information.

What’s the bottom line on focus?

William James once wrote, “The greatest day in your life and mine is the day we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That is the day we truly grow up.”

Your attitude is the result of your focus.

Do you want more fear in your life? Then focus on what you fear. Do you want more emptiness in your life? Then spend all of your time reminding yourself how empty you are. Do you want to feel helplessness? Then focus your thoughts on everything that you’re helpless to change.

Whatever you focus upon, you’ll find.

Do you want more gratitude? Then notice what makes you grateful. Do you want everyone to seem wonderful? Then pay attention to what makes people wonderful. Do you want a sense of joy in your life? Then cultivate what brings you joy; take a trek through the woods; play with some kids; lose yourself in a museum; sail down a river.

The power of focus says that whatever you focus your attention upon will grow and expand in your consciousness until it becomes your reality and affects your behavior. So spend more time focused on what you want, and you’ll start seeing more of what you want.

Change your focus, and you will change how you experience the river.

A River Worth Riding: Fourteen rules for Navigating Life
Copyright: Lynn Marie Sager 2005

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