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A Simple Way to Address the Gap Between Attention and Intention

I know how it feels when you’re on the ropes, when life has gone sideways, and it’s hard to stay on track. Perhaps it seems there is no track. When you’re in new, ominous territory.

Meanwhile, your days are still a flurry of hither and thither. You get to the end of it, and wonder what happened. What got done? You wonder whose day it was really, and for what?

I remember being in the bunker a few years back. I had come to a place where life kept dropping bombs. I was hunkered down, dazed by the explosions. Wondering, what now? It seemed everything was in a state of going, or having gone bad.

Alone, alienated, and full of anxiety about the future, I woke up one morning and decided I needed a walk. “Probably better to do calisthenics or something more rigorous” I told myself, but for whatever reason, I shut up the “should” in me and started walking.

It was cold, I didn’t know my way around the neighborhood. I’d been living in a friends trailer, and had now graduated to another friend’s empty house that was on the market for sale. He’d offered to let me stay there until he could find a buyer.

My thoughts that morning were a mish mash that bounced from concerns about my children to the lawyers, to the funny noise my car was making, but I walked. A couple of miles later, I finished and headed for work, and another worrisome day of problems, some new, some old. I knew it would be a while before the madness would subside, but at the end of that day I could tell myself, “at least I took a walk.”

The next day I walked again.

The next week I began to jog instead of walk.

Eventually, I had a full fledged morning exercise routine that I’ve now maintained for years.

I know that sprints are all the rage these days, and they can be helpful at times, but this is a different approach. I’m not in a hurry. Consistency, not urgency, is the key. We’re all pulled in many directions every day; this is a way of pulling myself back to what matters. Over time it becomes gratifying as I begin to see I can rely on myself to do it daily. It’s a sense that I’m pecking away, methodically, at something important.

At the beginning of the month, I pick no more than 3 areas I want to give attention. Every day for 30 days, preferably mornings before “the pull begins” I take each item on the list and ask, “Did I address this yesterday? How might I address it today?”

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