- July 5, 2017
- Posted by: Robert Rose
- Category: Business Transformation
I was recently talking with a marketing leader at a big B2B brand. She was overwhelmed – not by work tasks but by the feeling that she was making no progress: “My days are filled with meetings, and emails, and content, and stuff. Work is a never-ending game of Whac-a-Mole.”
I asked her if she was persisting, existing, or resisting.
All three words come from the Latin “sistere,” which means “to cause to stand.” To persist is to stand through. To exist is to stand forth. To resist is to stand opposed. Basically, I was asking this leader, What mode of “standing” are you in?
Each mode – persisting, existing, resisting – has its place. Each can work for or against you. Knowing which mode you’re in can be the first step in handling situations that place more demands on your attention than you can accommodate. Since we can’t control all the things coming at us every day, we might as well choose what we pay attention to.
In fact, we must choose. You may have heard of Miller’s Law, which is commonly interpreted to say that our brains can attend to roughly seven bits of information at a time. Forgot where you put your car keys? Maybe you were attending to more than seven things when you set them down. Forgot to make that phone call? Maybe it was item 10. After a few items clear out, you say to yourself, “Oh, right, I forgot.” The truth is, you didn’t forget. You just didn’t have enough attention to go around.
We never have enough attention for everything tugging on our attention. From moment to moment, we have no choice but to choose.
When you’re overwhelmed, it’s empowering to remember that the source of your overwhelm is not your circumstances but your response to them. It can help to evaluate your mode of “standing,” your approach to your situation, your choices about what you’re attending to and how.
If you’re in persisting mode, are you persisting at a long-term goal, focusing your attention on something that matters to you? Or are you stubbornly persisting in some matter that should have fallen from your attention long ago?
If you’re in existing mode, are you choosing what you’re paying attention to right now and right now and right now, living in the moment with intention? Or are you constantly trying to attend to everything that pops up around you, as my marketing friend was trying to do?
If you’re in resisting mode, are you sorting out which things merit your attention? Or are you resisting make choices because everything seems important?
The wise Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Life is a game of Whac-a-Mole only if you let it be. You have only so much attention to pay. How you pay it is up to you.