Deficit Attention Disorder?
March 15, 2012 by Kay Grossman

Attention is getting more attention these days. Marcus Buckingham, author and co-author of numerous books including Now, Discover Your Strengths, and the more recent StandOut, frames effective problem-solving in terms of where we choose to place our attention. Are you focusing on what’s wrong? Or are you focusing on what the situation will look like when it’s working? The latter is the way to go, since what we pay attention to grows, or as Buckingham aptly describes it, “attention amplifies everything.”

We know from brain studies that neuronal circuits are activated by focused attention. We also know that these circuits become strengthened when we activate them, and that strengthened circuits become our default patterns of thinking and behaving. Rather than focus on the problem itself, which is likely to further exacerbate the problem, we can serve ourselves well by intentionally placing our attention on possible solutions.

Following is Buckingham’s attention-based approach to problem-solving. I recommend that you add it to your Attention Portfolio!

Solving Problems: Your 5-Step Plan

By Marcus Buckingham

When we look at many aspects of our lives, our instinctive reaction is to pay attention to the deficits of the situation, to what’s wrong. When you ask people, “what is the most effective way to solve a problem?” 83 percent choose “find out what is wrong and fix it.” I call this Deficit Attention Disorder, and I suggest that it merely serves to amplify problems rather than resolve them. A more productive and positive approach looks like this:

  1. Define the problem as objectively as possible. Leave out any judgments. Simply state the facts as if a video camera were replaying the issue to you.
  2. Know that attention amplifies everything, so detach yourself from what you perceive as being the source of the problem. Your focus on it will exacerbate it. You are not fixing the problem. The problem is simply showing you something.
  3. Change follows the line of your questioning, so ask, “what does it look like when it’s working?”
  4. Define three steps that you can take to shift the situation toward the imagined future that your question helped you create. This is the best use of your energy. Ensure that the steps allow you to use identified strengths or will help you create strong-moments.
  5. Look for evidence that your steps are having the intended result. Keep asking, “what’s working?” and focus on further expanding the success of your intent. The problem will shrivel.

When problems do occur, don’t analyze them, break them down and ruminate over their meaning. They don’t mean anything. They just are. Shift your focus to what working looks and feels like, and then dedicate your energy to manifesting that. Problems don’t magically disappear, but they do transform when your attention is on generating a positive vision.

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