I've been living in overdrive mode for the past few weeks. Between planning a wedding, working on my coaching certification, traveling, and moving, it's a wonder I've even had time to come up for air. So nothing took me by surprise more when I had a chance to take a leisurely walk one afternoon and ran smack dab into a blooming magnolia tree. The first thing that crossed my mind was..."when did that happen?" The second was a strong reminder that while I was busy, life was still ticking along beside me. The only thing missing? My attention.
So often we get caught up within ourselves and life that we forget the simple act of noticing. Noticing in its simplest form is both a skill and an art. It involves maintaining a general awareness of what is going on around you and paying attention to details that you might otherwise miss if you were just going through your day on cruise control. Noticing, however, makes living proactive. It helps you take a step back, intuitively know where to probe deeper, and bring a greater consciousness to decision-making.
In the workplace, the practice of noticing is invaluable. It allows us to see the whole picture, stay attuned to dynamics, and question things that might be misaligned with strategy or direction. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Max Bazerman notes that in the business world today, "failure to 'notice' and take action can mean losing an important customer, getting edged out of a market, or even going to jail."
In our personal lives, noticing plays a similar role. It allows us to look and listen to ourselves, seeing every experience as a data point and a lesson to draw from when considering future moves. In his piece for The New York Times, David Brooks highlighted Dwight Eisenhower's humble recognition of his own terrible temper as an example of this type of self-confrontation. He noted that Eisenhower "did silly things to tame his anger. He took the names of the people he hated, wrote them down on slips of paper and tore them up and threw them in the garbage. Over a lifetime of self-confrontation, he developed a mature temperament. He made himself strong in his weakest places."
This type of self-work elevates us to a higher level of extreme noticing. Truly being right-here-right now is the foundation for being self-aware. Want to practice becoming a better noticer? Here are a few things that you can do to bring a greater sense of conscious noticing to your daily life:
- Practice empathy. An excellent way to start becoming a better "noticer" is to mentally remove yourself from a situation, and think about what might be important or how something might affect the other person. Doing so will help you be more conscious of social cues, become a better communicator, and allow you to act with compassion.
- Be enlightened. When posed with a question or an idea, allow yourself to consider a solution from every angle, even those that may not be the final answer. Maintain a sense of intellectual curiosity and tap into lessons learned so that your final decision is a holistic view of the big picture.
- Look inward. Really check in with yourself, even if it's for a few minutes a day. Those moments that you spend considering your thoughts and actions adds up over time, and help you build a more natural sense of noticing. In an interview with Krista Tippett, Seth Godin said, "the only way you get that discernment is by practicing. Is by saying, when I pick this am I right? When I put this in the world, did it resonate with the people I was trying to reach? And then, so then we get to the 10,000 hours and the whole notion that if you practiced noticing enough, you'll get good at it."