Seeking Attention to Everything

Taken from

Every year, we are always being reminded of how we should behave and conform to the societal norms. That we need to do more of this, focus more on that, so that we can be better and stronger than the previous year. I understand the good intention of people around me telling me all these. But I can’t help to wonder if anyone really can define what is good or bad in our lives? Isn’t good and bad just subjective? Maybe there is a societal agreement on what is good and bad to the measurements of a person’s success, but how do we know if societal success is exactly what an person wants for his/her life?

There was once a young sailor who decided to head out into the vast seas with a seasoned captain in a small ship. The captain instructed the young sailor, you are to stick to the north star to be on the right path towards the promised land. Without question, the young sailor focused his entire attention on the north star. He worked day and night, acquiring valuable skills and knowledge about navigation and sailing. The seasoned captain felt happy, seeing the young sailor’s growth. All seems merry.

Yet, in the midst of this relentless focus on the north star, the young sailor had also ignored many important things in his life. It seems fair, if you want to focus on a singular goal in life, you have to forgo something. Health, family and time are among some of the important ones.  And as time passes and without the promised land on sight, the young sailor began to doubt if the promised land is really going to be a reality.

One day after months and months on the seas, he asked the seasoned captain. ” Do you really know where are we going?”

The seasoned captain shouted out with pride, “To the promise land of success, of course!!”.

“What is the success? How do we know that this success is right for me?” the young sailor inquired.

“You will know when you get there. You will fulfil your every dream. Just follow and don’t ask question.” The seasoned captain reassured.

Years later, the ship finally reached its destination (a far away land with beautiful shores and people). And the young sailor (who is now middle age) discovered to his horror that this is not the kind of success that he seeks. The destination while beautiful is not what he wants for his life. Disappointed, he can’t help but to notice his failing health, his broken family and his lack of time to change course. How sad.

Who is at fault now? The seasoned captain who apparently seems to know what is right for the young sailor? Or the young sailor who chooses to follow relentlessly without question?

I sometimes wondered how does anyone develop the conviction that something is a must have in life. I always know that nothing in life is a must-have. Exactly because nothing in life is a must have, everything in life deserves my attention, isn’t it so? I bet if today I tell you that family is not a must have, you will go up in arms. But that is the truth. Family is not a must have in life. Yet, the society doesn’t allow for that kind of thought. When someone would spend his/her entire life just paying attention to everything, the society will always assert that this person is not focused and that he/she will never be ‘successful’. How absurd.  Can’t paying attention to everything become a focus in one’s life? Wouldn’t that be a great focus skill that we can all acquire? Who are we to assert that this is not possible?

As a teacher, I often cautioned myself never to impose too much of my life philosophy upon my students. Implied in my message is inevitable as a teacher we will impose some forms of philosophy and thoughts upon our students. But my call is for us to be careful. To do this with awareness and make this awareness known to our students so that they can judge for themselves if this is what they would want to believe in too. And let us not tell our students to focus on something (claiming that this is what will lead them to the promised land) instead tell our students to pay attention to everything and explore everything fully. It may take a longer path for them, but it is their lives. Let us not decide what is ‘best’ for them. Help them develop the skills and knowledge to be able to critically look at everything in their lives and decide for themselves what is best for them.

The only way to discover our true potential is to clear out the clutter and focus on what matters.

Let see, how do you know what really matters if you can’t distinguish that from the clutter? Clearly, you need to develop the ability to focus on everything first, understand everything completely, before you can discern what really matters to your life and exercise your true potential.

Herein lies a caveat, what really matters to your life change over time and with it, your potentials change. So do you still want to focus? If yes, on what?

Here is my call for this new year.

Let us forget about this success and focus talk and let us start thinking about how to maximize our ability to pay the same level of attention to everything. Only through enhanced attention skill can we truly experience life in its purest form without a filter. And paying the same level of attention to everything can become the focus of our lives. And in my view and according to the view of my life mentor, the most important skill for us to acquire.




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