Sunday, September 18, 2016

Attention is a Drug. Are You Addicted?

attention drug addicted“Attention is a drug,” said my brilliant friend.  His profound insight literally STOPPING our conversation. He was right.  (He usually is.) It IS a drug, and people are ADDICTED.


It started when discussing what feels like a landslide of over-sharing on Facebook. Every intimate, sometimes tragic, often graphic detail of people’s lives are being spilled out onto browsers and into minds of friends and not-so-friends all over the world. Why?  Attention can be like cocaine. People get manic for a hit of likes, comments, shares and messages. And that? Needs to change.


The truth? All humans require attention. But here’s the deal: It’s not a character flaw to crave attention; our brains are wired that way. Babies cry out for food and safety and so begins the ultimate early lessons of cause and effect. It’s only when that need for attention careens dangerously over the edge that people begin to see it as a problem.


Psychology Today states “extreme attention seekers go to unhealthy lengths driven by emotional desperation”. Is that it? Is that why people are pouring themselves out on social media or worse? Upending relationships or spiraling into food, alcohol or drugs?  As leaders we have a responsibility to manage our attention to create significance.


As a keynote speaker for corporate audiences and associations around the globe, I am often asked to share leadership strategies on how to accelerate productivity, increase sales or drive client experiences. My tip? It comes down to ATTENTION. Teams want to be seen and heard, and families want to feel valued.


In my keynotes we prescribe the following for this attention addiction:


See People.  We all want and need to be heard.  My 5-year-old friend Donovan reminded me of this when he grabbed my cheeks in both little hands and demanded, “Neen, listen with your eyes!” How’s that for insight? Are you SEEING people in your life?  Does your team get your complete attention when they walk into your office or do you stay disengaged? Does your family get your undivided attention when you get home or are you checking today’s Facebook posts? Bottom line? If the people we care about don’t feel seen, they’ll seek attention somewhere else. Seek out a true friend who will be honest with you. My best friend and I always say, “she’s my person”. It means we see and hear each other deeply, at our best, and at our worst. It’s an understanding, truth and commitment. Who is your person?


Stop the Drama.  I am allergic to drama. I don’t engage in it or tolerate it. The running joke? Is how BORING my life is compared to those online. It’s also healthier.  Make your life, work and home – a no drama zone. It’s a powerful way to better see and hear the people that matter the most to you.


Create significant moments.  Every day explore ways to help people feel that they matter. A handwritten note. A smile for a stranger. Compliment your barista. Thank your security guard. Shout out to a team member on email or thank a client with a gift. Personal attention gets results. Look for ways to help people feel significant.  Who needs reminding they matter to you?


My friend Jon Petz, keynote speaker and author of the book Significance in Simple Moments shares, “People have a false sense of social significance when living their lives online.” We discussed some people’s personalities crave the recognition from others as they don’t get it at home or from their relationships with people they love, so they seek it from strangers online.


I’ve been guilty of over-sharing online. Posting a picture of a meal on Instagram, texting a friend for a late night conversation when traveling, feeling lonely at the airport, and re-tweeting online compliments. Not my proudest moments, but human ones. Let’s all just make to look at those attention cravings and ensure we haven’t crossed that addictive line.


Today, be ah-amazing. Use your ATTENTION for good. Like making a connection with the people around you.  When you do?  Attention pays you back – in the best possible ways.

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