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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Look Back to Look Forward



In what direction do we hold our vision? We have 360 degrees to work with, but where do we put our attention?
The study of attention, and how it impacts us every day of our life has been a life long fascination. New developments in neuroscience are giving us clues about attention that are suggesting how we use our attention can change the hardwiring of the brain radically and for the better. If we learn to pay attention to our attention, we can even create transformations that defy our greatest expectations.
My first lesson on attention came from Larry, a 24-year-old mentally challenged adult living at the Bess Stone Center, a residential home for mentally disabled adults in Lawrence, Kansas. Larry and I met on my first day of work. He was very tall and very thin. Perhaps the most striking feature of his appearance was the wide suspenders he wore to hold up his pants. His teeth protruded and his head was oversized.
"His name is Larry," Mary Jean said to me. "He is 24 but has the mind of a 2-year-old." He doesn't talk, he just grunts. As she spoke those words, his head tilted and I immediately knew he understood her harsh words. Larry looked different, and even though his outward appearance was unusual, it was clear that there was much wisdom that lay beneath Larry's surface, a fact that I was about to learn.
Larry, who did not possess the ability to communicate through words with others, put his talents to work and made an invention. By inserting the 'foil' from the inside of a ketchup bottle top into a clothespin, Larry was able to gaze into the small foil 'rear view mirror' for a fully encompassing view of the world.
Larry used his invention and attention to watch the man who came to polish our floors once a week. Larry watched the up motion and the down motion in his mirror, and once his mind mapped the rhythm, he imitated floor polishing even when the polisher was not there. I asked him if he wanted to try it out and sure enough, Larry became the best floor polisher ever.
He polished floors every day. Then he took me outside and motioned with his arms he wanted to polish the grass. After it clicked in, I realized he wanted to transfer his new found skills to learn to mow the grass. And he did, he became the best grass mower we had ever seen!
Larry's energy and passion for learning became contagious. Soon enough, everyone became alive in a new way. Bertha wanted to play the piano, and she did, in her own way. Albert wanted to have 'money in his pocket' and so Mary Beth gave him money to carry to the store for food shopping. Mark wanted to build a house, and so we gave him wood to build a miniature house which upon its completion was donated by the Bess Stone Center to its 'sister home' for mentally disabled children. The local newspaper heard about the change at Bess Stone and came in to write a feature story, which went on to greatly inspire our small town in Kansas.
Larry taught us all about looking back to look forward. When you are gazing back at your life, pay attention to finding experiences that inspire you with passion and excitement-and lo and behold, they will help you attend to the future in new ways.
- Exercise your Looking Back to Look Forward skills with others.
- What you pay attention to drives your intention.
- Use your 360-degree mirror to find memories that ignite your passion.
- Share those memories with others, as Larry taught us to do, and watch your life transform.
- When we put our attention on what gives us passion, we catalyze growth in our selves and trigger the Growth Instinct in others.
© 2012 Judith E. Glaser.
This excerpt by Judith E. Glaser, courtesy of Editor Laura Lowell, is Rule 38 from "42 Rules for Creating WE". Judith E. Glaser is one of the most innovative and pioneering change agents and executive coaches in the consulting industry. She is an Organizational Anthropologist, and the world expert in WE-centric leadership-working at the intersection of leadership, brand and culture with a direct line of sight to the customer. In 2007 she co-founded The Creating We Institute, a research and development partnership with practitioners globally-dedicated to harvesting new forms of engagement and innovation in the workplace. Judith is a sought after keynote speaker, and has appeared on NBC Today, FOX News, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, and is frequently quoted in the WSJ, and the New York Times. You can purchase the book at Follow 42Rules at!/42_Rules.
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