Do your remember learning how to ride a bike? That first day balancing on two wheels? I remember that day clearly. It was a warm muggy summer afternoon in the back alley of our apartment building. My father wore orange shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt bought from a souvenir shop in one of our beach holidays, and flip flops. He had a lit cigarette in his mouth as he unscrewed the bolts that allowed the bike to return to its full two-wheeled bronze banana seat racing glory.
I was five years old and I felt both excited and nervous. I remember him tossing out his smoke before holding the back of the bike steady so I could climb up. As I started to peddle he ran along holding on for a few seconds. I could hear the rhythmic slapping of his flip-flops behind me. Then, suddenly, silence. He released and I was alone. It was exhilarating. At first all I saw was open space. A wide laneway offering freedom. Then I remember seeing this one rock in the middle of the laneway (in my mind it appeared incredibly large). I remember thinking “I’ll be fine as long as I don’t hit that rock.” A thought I fixated on, “I’ll be fine as long as I don’t hit that rock,” “I’ll be fine as long as I don’t hit that rock.” This thought focused my eyes on the rock so that was all I saw. The rock that I so wanted to avoid became my whole world at that point. The exhilaration was gone and replaced by a fear of falling and being embarrassed. Can guess what happened next? Of course, I rode right to that rock and lost my balance. On the other hand, if I had continued to focus on the open road I would have been fine.
That was my first lesson in attention. Attention is important because we receive millions of bits of information from our external and internal environments every second. What we select to focus on will therefore have real implications on our lives. What we focus on expands in our consciousness, and we also tend to move towards the object of our attention. Do you focus your attention primarily on where you want to go in life or on the obstacles that you see along the way?