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DUNN: Paying attention can help shape your life

As children going on long road trips, my siblings and I would play a game in which the object was to find the most of a particular color of a car.

Sounds boring, right? On the contrary, that little game was a lot of fun for us.

Thinking back on those times, I’ve gained some clue about how this was the case. What was fascinating about that game was that the moment we decided on a color, that color seemed to “magically” appear — a lot. At least they did to our little minds.

What I’ve considered as a slightly more sophisticated explanation since those days is the idea that we had simply noticed that color more because we were consciously looking for it. From that place of conscious awareness, we were able to notice what had already been. Those red or blue or black vehicles did not magically appear, our new attention to them created this illusion. They were there all the time, passing by, going unnoticed.

It dawned on me that many of us go through our daily lives like those cars and trucks on the highway, passing, switching lanes, accelerating, decelerating, taking ramps, etc. We are simply about the business of getting to where we are trying to go while so much of what enriches life goes by unnoticed. But perhaps, my greater realization was that when we have experienced adversity, personal tragedy, and/or shaming experiences in life, what gets noticed is what will shape our lives.

If we are not able to turn our attention to our resilience, strength, courage, useful skills, and abilities, we will not notice them and our experience of ourselves, others, and the world around us can become distorted. Many of us have lived our lives feeling inadequate, unfulfilled, and unhappy in some way because of what we have chosen to give our attention to.

That same adversity, personal tragedy, and shaming experience can offer a wealth of insight and personal knowledge that can be used in truly meaningful ways, but we often do not notice this. It would require that we turn our awareness to the takeaways or the value of our experiences. What might happen if we were able to bring our attention to the useful, salvageable, livable, encouraging parts of our experiences? It is possible that we might notice more of them.

What might happen if we brought our attention to our uniqueness, the things we do well, things we appreciate about ourselves, and things others appreciate about us? It is likely that we might notice more of these as well. See, these things don’t just magically appear, they’ve always been there, you just never noticed them before.

What has fallen outside of your conscious awareness? What haven’t you noticed that if you did, could bring about a positive change in your life?

Be encouraged.

Email columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.