Because I’m Standing Here, Paying Attention

Another day, another lesson learned from tech support.

This time, it’s the scenario that has played out so many times over both of my careers in tech: someone complains about a bug, or something that doesn’t work properly. I ask them to replicate it so I can see it happen. The person tries to replicate the issue, and this time, there’s no problem.

And they always say this line: “it’s because you’re standing here!”

It’s a joke, of course. They don’t actually believe my presence made the issue work. But we examine the difference between the time it worked and the time it didn’t… and the difference is I was standing here.

Yes. I was standing here watching. And you know that you were being watched. And so you took yourself out of autopilot for a moment and paid attention to where your hands where, which options were ticked, which buttons were pressed. And whatever your autopilot brain made you do before that caused a malfunction, you avoided this time. And so it worked.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s probably that paying attention is a tool that you can use when things don’t work.

Your kids won’t clean up their room like you asked? Pay attention to the procedure. What steps happened to create this “malfunction?” You think you’re being strict, but you didn’t provide enough steps to make tidying a solid process and an autonomous habit. You knew this was important, but yelling at the kids was easier (and perhaps an autonomous habit for you).

You can’t lose weight even though you’re dieting and working out? Pay attention to the procedure. You think you’re eating healthy, but you didn’t count the sugar in your morning latte that added 250 calories. You ate a cookie after your run that was about 300 calories, when the run only burned 240 calories. You knew eating less was important, but you didn’t track every calorie meticulously. (Hint: food journaling and calorie counting are versions of paying attention).

Accountability, that matters too. My watchful eye holds my tech user accountable in a non-accusatory way. Who’s watching what you’re watching? Who is paying attention to the things you’re not?

It’s easy to rely on our autopilot brains and then get frustrated when things don’t work out. What’s hard is paying attention.

And the investment you make by paying attention? It pays off when your brain gets rewired and these changes become part of the habit.

A worthy investment, if you ask me.