Take a picture

“Something attended to appears to change
even as one attends to it.”

Father of American Psychology, William James

Vary how you focus on the object of your attention
Vary how you focus on the object of your attention

Ever think about what it means to “be attentive”?  Do we:  (1) hold the object of our attention still in our mind or (2) do we vary how we focus?

Harvard psychologist, Ellen Langer, studied K-12 students’ attention and found that most young people (and their parents!) used the first strategy, even though it’s not the most effective way to focus.  Because our brain responds to novelty, we cultivate a vivid focus when we vary what we look for in the object of our attention.

Because it’s easier to practice taking charge of our attention when using an external object, we’ll use a photograph for this exercise.  However, feel free to use a “live” object. You simply have to BE STILL with it.  


  • Seek something familiar, something you routinely encounter in your life.  Perhaps it’s the peaches on your tree, the outline of your car, what your desk looks like at your office.
  • Use your smartphone to take a picture of the object.
  • At least three times during the day, take out this picture and create a vibrant and clearly perceptible image in your mind… as if you are making room for its distinct presence in your mind.
  • Smile as you observe how you establish your mental image.
© Copyright 2014 Maria Hunt

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