We find what we’re looking for

Attention: if you are a monk, currently in a sensory deprivation chamber or on a deserted island there’s no need to read this post.  Really.  Please go back to what you were doing.

If none of the above apply to you please read on.

Our brains aren’t sponges they’re sieves.

Unless you fall into one of the three categories above, you are constantly bombarded with things vying for your attention.  So many things that it’s a sheer impossibility to pay attention to it all.   From ads, emails, tweets, congested traffic, meetings, music, background conversations … our brains are constantly filtering out what isn’t important or urgent.

As a result we pay attention to what we think is important, relevant or urgent.

This is helpful.  It focuses us.  It saves us from the insanity of trying to read, know, be, do and have everything.

Alas our sieve can get ripped and let important things through.  And then, unless we’re on top of it, we’ll only find what we’re looking for.  And that’s dangerous.

One of my first jobs was working retail.  We went through a lot of managers.  All types from the guy who got so angry he pulled his phone out of its socket and threw it across to the room, to the guy who seemed to think it was funny coming onto a young girl.

Then there was ‘Mr. Chart’.  In his wisdom he had a large chart drawn up, with all of the employee’s names across the bottom and increments of moola along the other axis.  Our task?  As employees we were to watch our fellow employees for mistakes they made.  Then we were to calculate how much money we’d saved the store by pointing out the error and that sum would go on our chart, by our name.

It was a race to the bottom.  Everyone got busy backstabbing and spying.  General mayhem ensued.

The result?  We only found what we were looking for.  Mistakes.  Errors.  Gaffes.

We missed all the opportunities to find out what was working, the examples of great customer services, employee suggestions for new ways of doing things that would add to the company’s development.

Nope, none of that.  We were focused on what we were looking for.

What are you looking for?  As a trainer what do you look for – in your participants, in your content, in learning opportunities?  And in the process, what’s escaping your sieve?


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2 Responses to “We find what we’re looking for”

  1. Linda Gabriel Says:
    July 23rd, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Love this – so important to remember that we tend to find the evidence we are looking for. I just wrote a post on the magic of seeing things in a different way.

    There’s an old Huna saying: “Energy flows where attention goes,” meaning that what we focus on gets stronger. So why focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right?

  2. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    July 28th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    For folks who are interested, you can read Linda’s post here. Love the ‘glassphemy’ that you refer to in the post – what a different perspective indeed! Great idea (turning the ‘problem’ of breaking glass in a recycling centre into the raison d’etre).

    I’ve been reading David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ and one thing I like about it is getting all the stuff you’re thinking about down on paper/electronically so it ‘frees up psychic energy’. Like your saying ‘ energy flows where attention goes’. It’s so true.

    Thanks for commenting Linda, appreciate your insights.

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