What You Pay Attention To Creates Your Life

By Bill Harris in Attention on November 20th, 2007 / No Comments

Your Internal Map of Reality is really just a way of taking what comes in through your senses and turning it into what you feel, how you behave, and the people and situations you attract or become attracted to. There are several steps in this process. In the simplest sense, you begin by deciding what to pay attention to. Then, you decide how to pay attention to it, in other words, how to represent to yourself internally whatever you are paying attention to (i.e., how to think about it).

These two simple steps involve a number of rather complex sub-steps. Deciding what to pay attention to involves choosing what you allow in through your senses – a simple example being whether to watch television, read a book, or watch the sunset. Next, of all the millions of bits of information touching your senses in each moment, you have to decide which to notice and which to delete and therefore not notice. This is no minor decision (and, right now, if you’re like most people, you’re making it unconsciously and automatically). The amount of information coming in through your senses in each moment is enormous.

You can pay attention, in any moment, to only a tiny fraction of it, which means that you must delete most of it. And because this onslaught of sensory information keeps coming and coming and coming, you must make this decision over and over, in every moment. To make this easier, your internal map of reality consists of certain automatic, pre-set ways of deciding what to let in and what to delete.

This method, as handy as it is, has certain drawbacks. You decided how to decide what to pay attention to when you were very young, before you had any real criteria for deciding how to do it. To be truly effective as a human being, you’re going to have to take this process off of autopilot and learn to do it consciously and intentionally. In each moment, and depending on the outcome you have in mind, what is most resourceful to pay attention to changes.

Consciously deciding what to pay attention to and what to delete has huge advantages. One automatic method of deciding what to pay attention to is your beliefs. Beliefs are crystallized, pre-set ways of focusing attention, and as such become self-fulfilling prophecies, in the sense that we find ways to make whatever we believe come true in reality (or at least seem to be true, which usually amounts to the same thing). When you believe something, you delete whatever does not support the belief, and keep the rest.

Beliefs also strongly affect your ability to attract or become attracted to people and situations that help confirm that what you believe is, indeed, true. A wit once said, “If I hadn’t believed it, I wouldn’t have seen it.” This bon mot actually describes how it works. For instance, if you believe that in relationships men will be untrustworthy and unreliable, you will notice, attract,and become attracted to men who are, indeed, unreliable.

In a crowded room, your attention will be automatically drawn to such men. At the same time, you’ll fail to notice, or fail to become attracted to, men who don’t fit this profile (another example of how we use unconscious cues to attract certain people and situations). If you do encounter men who are reliable in relationships, you won’t be attracted to them, or you’ll interpret what they do as evidence of unreliability, even if that isn’t really true.

If you believe it’s difficult to make money, you’ll focus your attention in such a way that you’ll attract or become attracted to situations where it is, indeed, difficult to make money. You’ll also fail to notice situations where it might be easier to make money. If you do notice a moneymaking opportunity, you’ll discount it, or act in a way that leads to failure anyway – again, confirming the “truth” of what you belief.

Different beliefs cause us to attract different people and situations, to behave in different ways, and to create different outcomes – outcomes that demonstrate the truth of what you already believe. Your goal, of course, is to operate your internal map of reality consciously and intentionally, adjusting how you use it on the fly to fit each situation and the outcome you want to create. This means choosing what to believe based on the outcome you want.

Since you will find a way to make anything you believe either come true or seem to be true, choosing what to believe becomes a method for creating what you want.

Most people choose what to believe because “it’s true.” In other words, they believe it because they have “evidence.” Once you have evidence and, based on that evidence, believe something to be true, you will find ways to create more evidence – which is why psychologists call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. This means that you shouldn’t decide what to believe based on past evidence. Instead, you should decide what to believe based on the outcome you have in mind.

Now how do you do that? Doesn’t that mean you have to disregard “the evidence” – to pretend that what the evidence tells you is true isn’t true? Yes, you do, in a sense. How, then, do you go against the evidence you currently have for what you believe now, assuming that you want to change what you believe? First, you understand that beliefs generate evidence, and evidence also generates beliefs. If you decide to believe something that is more resourceful, you will generate evidence that this new belief is true. In fact, ALL beliefs are “true,” in the sense that all beliefs generate their own evidence.

Next, you look around and realize that someone else, somewhere, believes what you would like to believe. If so, it is possible to believe it. So, borrow that other person’s evidence until you have your own. Believe “as if” the belief is true. If you do think “as if” the belief is true, and act as if it is true, you will generate the ideas, the motivation, the internal qualities, and the behavior, which will make it come true.

You can choose what to believe, based on what you want to create. When you change what you believe, you change what you pay attention to and what you delete, and in doing so, you change how you feel and behave, and what and whom you attract.

A second key aspect of your Internal Map of Reality is your values. Values are simply what you think is important. When you think something is important, you pay attention to it, and you spend time on it.

Values, then, are another filter that determines what you pay attention to (and, therefore, what results you create). Values also have an additional and more specialized role: they are the source of motivation.

If something is important to you, you pay attention to it, and you are motivated by it. As with beliefs, you can choose what is important to you. Most people make this choice when they are too small to have any criteria for choosing. How do they choose, then? They choose based on pressures applied by their parents. Parents have an agenda, sometimes positive and sometimes not, for what should be important, and this becomes another unconscious, automatic part of your Internal Map of Reality.

You can, however, choose what to value, and in doing so, take charge of your life. In addition to beliefs and values, there is another collection of filters we use to decide what to pay attention to and what to delete, called metaprograms…

Centerpointe’s Life Principles Integration Process
(LPIP) is a step-by-step method for mastering your Internal Map of Reality. To experience a free preview lesson, just click here.

Stay tuned for part II of “What You Pay Attention To Creates Your Life”

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