Once upon a time, we went car shopping. We went to the used car lot, looking for not one but two cars, since we were already looking for a second car when I hit a deer and totaled both our (only) car and the deer. (That’s another story.)

We finally settled on two cars – both of which happened to be from Mitsubishi. But at one point I asked, “Why aren’t there more Mitsubishis on the road? Why aren’t they more popular?”

The salesman (and my husband) looked at me as if I were from Mars and said, “Are you kidding? They’re all over the place.”

You know what? They were right. They were everywhere.

I had just never noticed them.

Until I started paying attention.

Paying attention

Rollo May wrote (in either Love and Will or The Courage to Create) that the root of the word “attention” is the word “to tend.” What does it mean to tend to something? It means “to care for.” Thus, he pointed out, people pay attention to things they care about. That seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it stopped me in my tracks. It made me think, and it has shaped my thinking ever since.


What if I hadn't noticed the reflection in this traffic mirror? I would have missed a great photo.

In Creating Space for Wonder, I wrote about the importance of Noticing: “I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.” Since then, I’ve begun noticing that other people are writing about the importance of Noticing as well.

Havi Brooks of The Fluent Self wrote a wonderful piece about a recent exercise she went through with Dave Rowley of Creative Chai that was focused on Noticing. Then Karen Caterson wrote a delightful piece for the Captains Curious, in which she described a situation where Noticing that she had fears and an agenda made it possible to set those fears and agenda aside.

Noticing Noticing

It makes me laugh that I am noticing Noticing. It just does.

Maybe I am only noticing it because I am paying attention. I have started to care about it. Or maybe more people are noticing… things. And writing about it.

And one of the things I am noticing about this phenomenon is the relationship in these articles between noticing and freedom.

Noticing and Freedom

Yes, freedom.

Havi appreciated the freedom of just Noticing what was happening without any obligation to do anything.

Noticing her reaction to a situation freed Karen to handle the situation differently than she might automatically have done.

By Noticing what is happening around and inside me I am able to create space for wonder and free myself from the encroaching walls of concern and worry.

Noticing can free us from reacting automatically to situations.

Noticing can free us from worry and future-tripping. (Unless all you notice is what reinforces your reasons for worry. That’s a whole other topic.)

Noticing can free us to choose our next step.

We are free to choose what we notice, although sometimes life whacks us in the head and we can’t help but notice something surprising.

What have you noticed lately? Anything surprising?

To what do you pay attention? What does this tell you about what it is you care about?

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8 Responses to Notice

  1. Beverly Mederios May 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    I love this topic, especially this time of year….what am I noticing…..the re-birth of new life in the plants, trees and flowers in gardens…..I have a grape vine in my front patio area, it was without leaves just a little more than a month ago…, without even cutting it back during the winter……all the green grape leaves are back and beautiful as ever…..will I get any grapes ? can not promise anything, but have had a few pop up in the past, but alas, not even large enough to harvest for wine…….we feel like we are in Italy or maybe just our own wine country…..

  2. Susan May 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Wonderful, Bev, thanks for sharing that! May you always notice the beauty around you!

  3. SilverMagpies May 4, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    I am always noticing things, especially natural objects. And when I point them out to my family they all look at me as if I were from Mars, “how did you see it in the first place?”

    I like to pay attention, you see so much more of the quiet world that way.

  4. Paula -Creative Catalyst May 4, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    Noticing noticing, yes. Wonderful, Susan. I’m a passionate noticer. . . I ask my students questions like “What color did you see most this week?” often they look at me blankly in the beginning, but over time they start to NOTICE things 🙂
    There is a wonderful quote which has been attributed to numerous sources, but I believe originates in the Sufi tradition: When a pickpocket sees a saint, all he sees are his pockets.
    One way of interpreting that is that we see what we look for, which in itself is a very powerful premise . . .

  5. Susan May 4, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Nancy, yes, you do see more of the quiet world that way. And everything we notice can connect to something else at some point.

    I suspect that even though your family looks at you as if you were from Mars, that almost alien appreciation for everything you notice is part of what they love about you.

  6. Susan May 4, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Hi Paula! Like Nan, you are teaching others to Notice. Yay! When we share what we notice, it can be contagious.

    It is indeed interesting that we see what we look for, and it is another level of awareness to be willing to notice what we’re not looking for and what does not conform to our world views.


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