Lockdown. The word of the year from the Collins Dictionary.
Pandemic. Another word of the year chosen by the Merriam Webster Dictionary.
I have another suggestion.
I will choose another word. A term that I believe encompasses valuable aspects of this year and the years to come. Not a term that was used all the time this year, although the phenomenon was ubiquitous. But it should be. And has to become ingrained in our lives in the future. My word of the year is “attention”.
“Of course!”, you might think now, “Claudia’s word is attention. After all, that’s her topic”. Wait a moment … and let me take you through my thought process….. and you may agree.
Why is attention my word of the year? We suffered from a lack of attention this year. And an abundance of giving attention. And we learned that we need a wealth of attention for 2021 and beyond.
To be attentive to yourself, to other people and to situations around you means, on the one hand, to be alert, mindful, present and aware, to be attentive and to perceive. It also means caring, listening, being considerate and empathetic. And of course, it means to be focused, concentrated, devoting ourselves to something undisturbed while we block off the noise and overload of stimuli around us. Paying attention, being attentive — demands, above all, time that we claim we don’t have, and it demands openness, interest and interpersonal sensitivity.
What happened to the attention we should pay to ourselves, to our physical and mental health, to our family, friends and neighbors, colleagues and co-workers, caretakers, teachers and society, and to our environment? Before 2020 too often we neglected all of this. Not taking the time to be attentive to ourselves, to others and to the world comes with a price tag.
Our lack of attention
The consequences of our lack of attention in the past revealed themselves brutally in 2020.
This year we noticed how little attention we tend to pay to our health and our lifestyle in order to build up and stabilize our immune system over the years. A strong immune system is a valuable weapon against the virus.
We realized how little attention we pay to ourselves. Daily, regularly, over the years. We strengthen our inner and mental power through self-love, reflection, and awareness of our visions and values. Have we been taken care of ourselves in recent years? So that we are mentally and emotionally armed in stressed and crazy exceptional situations, such as the pandemic?
Abundance of attention
We experienced how important it is to pay attention to the people in our lives who are dear to us. How much love and time were we able to give in 2020, but perhaps could only do it virtually? How did that feel? Probably bad because we needed closeness but were not allowed to be close. Perhaps good because we actually did take care of our relationships with friends, family and colleagues in recent years and it was great to stay connected even if we were only able to do it virtually.
This year we learned what management truly means when faced with a situation of having to “lock down” your company. Attentive companies have tried to take care of their employees and guide them through the crisis with empathy. Executives and employees of companies that had already been implementing since years a mindful and human corporate culture were mentally healthier and more prepared to get through the crisis.
We have seen the importance of attention in all areas of nursing, medicine, and the respective research fields. Being concentrated, intense, focused, open-eyed, quick-witted, present, aware and alert are all terms that describe the phenomenon of attention. They express the commitment that people have made on the front lines of this pandemic. Their utmost attention was required at all times.
With images of clean air, clear water and wild animals in urban spaces, we realized how much we neglected and procrastinated the protection of the environment and that it is overdue to pay immediate attention to the damaged environment.
Be more attentive in the future
So why is “attention” my word of the year? Because this year we have noticed on an extreme level how important it is to be attentive and “paying attention” will not only be relevant in 2021, but well beyond the pandemic. Furthermore, being more attentive to ourselves, our loved ones and fellow human beings, as well as working, doing business and treating the world with more attention makes our lives more fulfilling, richer and healthier.
“Attention leads to deeper interpersonal relationships, to more intense feelings, to more clarity when deciding and evaluating and ultimately to finding our purpose”, writes Prof. Dr. Reinhard Haller in his book The Miracle of Appreciation.
Hopefully 2020 will be over soon?
I often read sentences like Hopefully 2020 will be over soon! Don’t panic, just like every other year, this one will come to an end and, like every year, we look to the next filled with positive expectations. As every year, the world on the morning of January 1st will not look much different to the evening of December 31st. And, even with all the crap in this year, do you really want to forget 365 days in your life? Take some time and peace and reflect if there have been some good moments as well … Moments of awareness, gratitude, brief glimpses of light, possibly phases of new ideas and impulses?
Aren’t we grateful for the attention given by the many caretakers and lifesavers this year?
We became aware of the fact how little attention we have paid to ourselves and our health lately — and we want to change that in the future, right?
Our lack of attention to our environment has been made more “visible” to us than before.
We value the attention of our family, friends, and community. Will we pay more attention to this in the future?
We have learned our lessons and have become aware of what it means to be attentive. Let us take this feeling and insight with us into the next year and far beyond, in order to be more attentive to ourselves, to others and to the world.
Claudia Brose is a business professional working at the intersection of conscious attention and business. As founder of Master Your Attention she inspires and educates about how can we use our attention potential to build better lives and businesses.
Master Your Attention | www.claudiabrose.com