Where is the Focus of Your Attention?


A patient that I’ve known for many years has been coming in for the past weeks complaining about a plumbing problem in his home.  Each visit I got an update.  The cast of characters in this story are:  1.  Ed (my patient)  2. Sam (Ed’s plumber)  3.  Ralph (Ed’s handyman) and 4.  Joe (my plumber).

Here’s the story: 


Ed’s been having a plumbing issue in his building.  He called Ralph, his handyman. Ralph’s life isn’t going to well, so the cost to working with Ralph is listening to his somewhat horrifying and ongoing stories about things.  It is uncomfortable to say the least.  Ralph’s physical health and stamina are poor at best, so Ed must do much if not most of the heavy lifting – requiring him to be present to listen to Ralph’s sad life story. The work is slow, usually effective, and at a reasonable rate, let’s say $30.00 per hour.

The plumbing issue, Ed soon discovered, had not been fully resolved by Ralph.  Ed, however could not reach him for weeks (he later discovered) because Ralph was so depressed he could not answer his phone.  Ed was forced to call his plumber, Sam.  Sam does great work, but he is too expensive according to Ed, let’s say his rate is $75.00 per hour.  Sam came out, told Ed the problem.  Ed decided to call Ralph one more time, and as luck would have it, Ralph answered the phone.

Are you still with me?

Ralph came out, did what Sam the plumber suggested.  That did not fix the problem.  Ed reminded me how much pain he is in because when Ralph does the work, Ed must do the heavy lifting and carrying of things up and down the stairs – 4 flights.  Ed wanted to know if I knew a plumber?  Sam is just too expensive.  I really like my plumber.  He comes the day I call him, he gets the job done quickly, never needs to come back and I think what I pay him is worth the value offered.  I am excited to offer the referral.

Ed calls Joe, my plumber, and his rate is more than Sam – let’s say it’s $125.00 per hour.  Next visit in, Ed tells me this and absolutely thinks this is outrageous, with no intention to have him do the work.  He is calling his already overpriced, yet unreliable plumber and waiting to have him come back.  Remember his assessment was incorrect at the outset.  At this writing the problem is not yet solved. 

Why am I telling you this story?

In this story, Ed tracked mostly on how much money he spent as the criteria for the quality of his life.  [Ed is retired and lives quite comfortably on significant investments]. Yet he has been so upset, complaining, and still the problem remains over six weeks later.  I wonder if he tracked on that, and made a different decision (actually didn’t have a plumbing problem anymore) what impact it would have on the quality of his life during December and January.

How does this work in your own life?  Are there times in your day, or in your life, if you gave it some thought, that where you focus your attention would have an impact?  You may call it positive thinking.  I prefer the image of resourceful thinking.  Does what you are thinking about give you more or less of what you want? 

Are you giving your ‘power’ away in somewhat indiscernible ways?  Are you willing to take the time to consider that one way to have more of what you want in life is to notice it when it is happening?  We all have filters at play that affect what we can notice.  If you are able to slow life down a bit to become more conscious of what is occurring in every moment, you can take better stock of your own contribution to what is happening. 

For example, Let’s say you want more connection with your partner.  Do you really amp up the complaining (externally or internally – thinking) when your partner stays at work til 8pm?  When your partner comes home at the time you like, do you give it the same energy?  Or do you just say (to the partner or yourself) well, that’s just the way it is supposed to be? 

I’m suggesting that, if you gave what you want the same amount of mental and emotional energy, you may have more moments of having the experience you want – in this case, savoring out loud how much fun you are having together, etc.  That’s all there is to do.  Are you able to just have fun, enjoy the connection, which is what you are saying you want.

We really have very little that we can control in life.  One thing is – what we put our attention on.  Try to notice when you are getting what you want in life, and give it some attention and energy.