Here is an excerpt from Lee’s book, Leadership Matters. It contains 31 daily insights to inspire extraordinary results.

day 2: Attention

Time is a great equalizer; it runs at the same speed for everybody, rich or poor, jet pilot or snail farmer. You can’t manufacture time, you can’t reproduce time, you can’t slow time down or turn it around and make it run in the other direction. As the saying goes, “life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster is goes.” We cannot really manage time, but we can manage our attention. Attention is a resource we all possess. Your attention reflects your conscious decisions about which activities will occupy your time. You are where your attention is … not necessarily where your body is. Whereas time is the great equalizer, attention is the great differentiator.

Once we are made aware of something in our environment, if we pay attention to it, we will see more of it. For example, when was the last time you saw a yellow car? Maybe yesterday or last week? Now, if you live in New York City, you see hundreds of yellow taxis daily. Even still, you can look for yellow cars that are not taxis.

Now that I have made you aware of yellow cars, you will start seeing more yellow cars in the following days. Has there been a sudden invasion of bright yellow cars? Of course not. They’ve been there all along. The difference is, now you are aware of them – you have a heightened awareness of yellow cars. I call this connection between heightened awareness and more frequent sightings The Yellow Car Phenomenon.

The first time I became aware of The Yellow Car Phenomenon was when my wife was pregnant with our first child. We spent our weekends driving from store to store shopping for all that wonderful baby stuff. Then at lunch at work the next week, I looked around and thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, there must be something in the water here in Dallas. Everyone is pregnant!” No doubt, I had breezed by hundreds of expectant mothers before, never paying much attention. Now that my wife was pregnant, it seemed that everyone else was also. Amazing!

It’s the power of personal attention. If your mind is ready to pay attention to something – new people you want to meet, selling opportunities, new applications for an old product, ways to save money, new markets to enter, chances to learn a new skill, ways to generate more income – you will start seeing more of it. These things have always been there, but now you’re paying attention to them. When you change the way you look at things, things change the way they look.

Instead of paying attention to every single piece of information in our stimulus-rich world, if we really look for those things we want in our team, business or family, that’s exactly what we will find. Keeping the Yellow Car Phenomenon in mind, if we pay attention to the positive, we see positive. For example:

Look for…                                 See …

Humor                                            Life as comedy
Signs of positive progress             Good performance to recognize
Cooperation                                   Teamwork
Opportunities to coach                   Coachable moments

On the other hand, if we look for negative things, that’s what we will see more of:

Look for…                                 See …

Drama                                     Dysfunctional team
Mistakes                                  Underperformers and frustration
Hidden agendas                       Selfish behavior

It’s the power of our attention. For proof, just count how many yellow cars you notice tomorrow.

Action Questions:

1. Where do I tend to focus my attention during the day?

2. Where do I need to focus my attention in order to inspiremyself? My team? My family?

3. What “yellow car” am I paying attention to this week?

“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.” – Paulo Coelho

Copyright © 2012 by Lee J. Colan and The L Group, Inc.