CHARITY ORGANISATIONS AND CHARITY COMMISSION INQUIRY


The Charity Commission is the government department that regulates and maintains the Central Register of registered charities in England and Wales. The Charity Commission answers directly to the UK Parliament rather than to Government ministers.

Charities are custodians of trust and are therefore legally bound by Charity Commissions’ rules and regulations of operating, management, governance and reporting as detailed in the Charity Commission’s website and in charity’s trust deeds. Many charities are failing to pay attention to and adhere to these rules and are therefore being caught in the commission’s scrutiny and inquiry nets. While these are in some cases due to ignorance, negligent and oversight, the law requires certain standards to be met and adhere to as registered and operating charity organisation. In the public interest, the Charity Commission usually releases a public statement whenever it opens a statutory inquiry into a charity and publishes a report of the inquiry.

The common trend of what charities are being audited and investigated for are avoidable and in some cases require minor internal control and procedural adjustments. These includes but not limited to:

  • The administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees
  • Timely preparation and submission of accounting and returns information
  • Conflicts of interests and transactions with connected parties
  • Adherence to safeguarding policies and procedures.
  • Misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and/or breaches of trust or non-compliance with charity law
  • Insufficient oversight and control of the charity, especially with regards to its assets by trustees
  • Ensuring that the charity is operating in accordance with the provisions of its governing document and exclusively for charitable purposes
  • Management and oversight of staff, use of the charity’s premises and safeguarding procedures by trustees
  • Failure to submit annual report and accounts to the commission when the charity’s gross income is over £25,000.00 per annum.
  • Fraudulent Gift Aid claims or administration.

In most cases, it is an issue of not knowing what to do, where to go or who to turn to especially before it becomes an open inquiry or just at the first instance that a charity receives the inquiry notification from the Charity Commission. But now, there is a solution; The Administrator International is a consultancy organisation with years of experience in dealing with and managing charity inquiry affairs on behalf of clients and representing them before Charity Commission.

The Administrator International specialises in setting up systems, structures and operations for charity and other not-for-profit organisations and can also carry out “health checks” on existing systems to identify gaps and recommend control or corrective measures. We also provide trainings for Trustees, Management and Staff, Leaders and Volunteers and other statutory obligatory requirements like safeguarding, fire, health and safety etc.

For more information on how we can assist your organisation in these and other areas, call The Administrator International for an initial conversation on 07853 060 707, email info@the-administrator.org or visit our website at www.the-administrator.org

 

 

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Developing Mental Strength


Mental toughness is the ability to regulate your emotions, manage your thoughts, and behave in a positive manner, despite your circumstances.  It is a measure of your resilience and confidence and it is more than just willpower; it requires hard work and commitment, establishing healthy habits and choosing to devote your time and energy to self-improvement. Mental toughness allows you to make decisions that others might not have the courage or wherewithal to undertake.

Although it’s easier to feel mentally strong when life seems simple, but true mental strength becomes most apparent during tragedy, setback or disappointment. But choosing to develop skills that increase your mental strength is the best way to prepare for life’s inevitable obstacles. It is wisdom to prepare before the challenge or test of life come knocking; so, here are few tips that can help you develop your mental strength.

  1. Embrace Change.

Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Your biggest fear should not be of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. Let the environment of change and uncertainty energize and strengthen you mentally and bring out their best in you because it forces you to be resourceful.

  1. Stop Worrying About Pleasing Others.

Are you a people pleaser? Or do you go out of your way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. You should strive to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but don’t be afraid to speak up. Mental strength helps you to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset, so learn to navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

  1. Celebrate Other People’s Success.

It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mental strength helps you to develop this ability. Mentally strong people don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). Use other people’s success as a motivation to work hard for your own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

  1. Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for yourself.

To become mentally strong, you can’t be feeling sorry for your circumstances or dwelling on the way you’ve been mistreated. Rather, learn to take responsibility for your actions and outcomes and understand that sometimes life is not fair. Mental strength will help you to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned.

  1. Enjoy Alone Time.

Learn to enjoy and even treasure the time you spend alone. Use your downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, don’t depend on others to shore up your happiness and moods. Determine to be happy with others, but also be happy being alone.

  1. Understand that the World Owes you nothing.

Learn to enter the world prepared to work and succeed on your merit at every stage of the game because in the current economy, everybody is gaining the realisation that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package or a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. So be prepared to fight for what you want and desire.

  1. Be prepared for the long haul.

Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. There is no quick fix or immediate results anywhere. Apply your energy and time in measured doses and celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. Dig deep for a “staying power” and understand that genuine changes takes time.

  1. Don’t Waste Energy on Things you Can’t Control.

Mentally strong people don’t complain about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognise that all these factors are generally beyond their control. Safe yourself sweat and heartache by recognising that the one thing you can always control is your own response and attitude.

  1. Don’t Dwell on the Past.

There is strength in acknowledging the past especially in the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. Instead invest majority of your energy in creating an optimal present and greater future.

  1. Take Calculated Risks.

Be willing to take calculated risks. Learn how to weigh risks and benefits thoroughly, and fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before taking any action. Look before you leap, count the cost before you set out. The more calculated risks that you take and come out successfully, the bolder and stronger you will become at spotting risks and taking even better calculated risks.

  1. Evaluate Your Core Beliefs

What are your Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms (NUTs)? These are the beliefs about yourself, your life and the world in general that have been developed over time mostly from past experiences. Whether you’re aware of your core beliefs or not, they influence your thoughts, your behaviour and emotions. Negative core beliefs can be inaccurate and unproductive and if not checked can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Identify and evaluate your core beliefs and where necessary modify them purposefully and intentionally with hard work, it can change the entire course of your life.

  1. Practice Tolerating Discomfort

Some discomfort is often necessary for greater gain, and tolerating them will help make your vision a reality, one small step at a time. Being mentally strong doesn’t mean you don’t experience emotions rather, it helps you to become acutely aware of your emotions and make the best choice about how to respond. Mental strength is about accepting your feelings without being controlled by them.

It involves knowing when it makes sense to behave contrary to your emotions like stepping out of your comfort zone to challenge yourself. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions takes practice, but it becomes easier as your confidence grows.

  1. Expend Your Mental Energy Wisely

Ruminating about things you can’t control drains your mental energy. The more you think about negative problems that you can’t solve, the less energy you will have leftover for creative endeavours. Focus on what is only within your control, save your mental energy for productive tasks, such as solving problems or setting goals. When your thoughts aren’t productive, make a conscious effort to shift your mental energy to more helpful topics. The more you practice expending your mental energy wisely, the more it will grow and become a habit.

  1. 14. Reflect on Your Progress Daily

Create time to reflect on your progress toward developing mental strength by asking yourself what you’ve learned about your thoughts, emotions and behaviour at the end of each day. Consider what you hope to improve upon from today and accomplish tomorrow. Developing mental strength is a work in progress, there will be times when it seems more difficult than others, but by reflecting upon your progress daily, you can reinforce your ability to reach your definition of success while living according to your values.

 

 

SELF-SABOTAGING BEHAVIOURS AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM


Check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Sometimes we make mistakes because mistakes are inevitable, no matter how much time and thought you put into a plan. Other blunders are the result of laziness, rashness, inflexibility or plain arrogance. Honest mistakes can be costly and are very frustrating, but mindless and avoidable errors are especially very expensive and gut ranching. The knowledge that a misstep could have been avoided is the bane of every thoughtful person.

Usually when plans don’t go well, you point a finger at other people and find someone else to blame. But a thoughtful person owns the mistakes and seeks to learn from them so as to avert them in the future. This often requires honest self-appraisal and internal inspection which eventually will help you to recognize your own thought patterns and change them before they cause bad behaviours or negative results. There are common behavioural patterns that you inflict on yourself and they are forming roadblocks and even insurmountable mountains in your progress and development in life. Over the next few weeks, we shall be looking at 5 of such self-sabotaging behaviours starting this week with “comparing yourself with another person.”

Comparing Yourself to Others

Life and the society are hyper-competitive and can batter and bruise even the healthiest egos. But the damage is exacerbated when you constantly measure yourself by other people’s standards. While it’s undeniably important to be aware of what the competition is doing, but too much focus on others is bad for business and worse for self-confidence. To maximize success, sometimes we must tune out and lock the door to the outside world so as to focus on improving our self.

When you see yourself as your “chief competitor”, and work to better the yesterday’s version of yourself, you will go far and eventually learn to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to illusive rivalries. You have your race to run and you cannot live your life on other people’s agenda and purpose. We are all human beings but your destiny and purpose in life is different. Comparing yourself to others will only make you vain or bitter because your true identity and capability will only be revealed in your lane and purpose.

Comparing yourself with others is an insult to your own being because it limits you to only reaching their level, but when you compete with yourself, you will reach your highest level potential and your best.

Many people cannot look at themselves in the mirror and smile, because on the road to “Rise and Shine”, while comparing themselves to others and living someone else’s life they somehow lost themselves. In order to shine in the eyes of other people, they became blind to themselves. Comparison can easily grow out of objective reasoning to negative thought patterns such as suspicion, judgmental attitude, resentment sadness, self-hatred, envy, bitterness, ungratefulness, and unfriendly rivalry. Each person has a distinctive personality and a unique appearance, and that is what made them special and one of a kind.

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

  1. Recognize your differences.

Most people compare their weaknesses to other people’s strength! Their insides with others’ outsides; what they haven’t accomplished with what others have – including people who have a huge head start on them!

Whenever you notice yourself comparing yourself with another person, take a moment to remind yourself that you are good enough just as you are, even if you don’t have something you see in those around you such as business success, academic credentials, wonderful home, hot body, celebrity social life or high-achieving kids. They are very likely looking at something you have or do well, and wishing they did, too.

  1. Avoid your triggers.

Social media such as Facebook can trigger depression as people compare their lives with those of their increasingly expansive online network of “friends.” But remember, people can photo shop their postings by highlighting the good and leaving out the not-so-pretty parts. So if Facebook feed makes you feel miserable about yourself, then log off or take a social media sabbatical.

  1. Focus on your own progress.

Research have shown that the happiest people are not just those who make positive comparisons with others, but include those who don’t make any. Instead, they focus on their efforts to improve themselves. Imagine the difference it would make if you re-channelled all the energy you’ve expended comparing yourself into bettering yourself. You are your ultimate frame of reference, so track yourself against yourself.

  1. Admit your envy.

The emotions we don’t own will own us. So if you’re wrestling with the envy, the best way to loosen its grip is to acknowledge and verbalise it. You might feel a bit foolish by admitting you’re jealous of someone else’s success, talents or attributes but having the courage to admit it can be liberating. Not only that, but by having the courage to confide in the person you’re envious of, can forge bonds in ways harbouring hidden envy never can.

  1. Get off your own back.

You might think you’re the only person who ever struggles with feeling like you’re constantly falling short of your expectations, but the truth is that many people have made self-criticism an art by habitually focusing on what they haven’t done as well as what they would like rather than on all that they have. Imagine the difference it could make if you focused on what you did well? Imagine how much better you could channel your energy if you weren’t always pulling yourself down and marking yourself wrong.

Also, don’t beat yourself up when you catch yourself making comparisons because it will only fan the “I’m not enough” flames. Instead, try being kinder to yourself; accept your own humanity, fallibility and vulnerability. As a bonus, it makes you more forgiving of others’ failings, too.

The truth is that we all have our own fears to overcome, burdens to carry, gifts to share and lessons to learn. So run your own race and focus on doing the best you can with what you’ve got. The rest will take care of itself.

#BecomeaBetterMan

 

 

 

 

 

The Reality of Perfectionism


While perfectionism is commonly seen as believing you want to be perfect or perhaps the obsession of wanting something to be exactly right, being a perfectionist can manifest in other subtle ways. Here are few questions to ask yourself to find out if you are a perfectionist. Do you:

  • Have to check something just one more time, “just in case”?
  • Procrastinate with the thought that it isn’t the perfect time to start something?
  • Always be the first person to spot a mistake?

The problem is that perfectionism secretly pulls you down. It stirs your doubt and fear, and generally makes progress much slower than it should be or it completely stops you in your tracks. You might not realize just how much it’s been stalling or holding you back from making progress in your life.

Perfectionism is more than pushing yourself to do your best to achieve a goal; it’s a reflection of an inner self mired in anxiety. Perfectionism is born out of uneasiness, concern and doubt rather than a simple basic want to do things well. While some people take mistakes as a lesson but perfectionists see them as personal flaws. They mentally beat themselves up and feel that sense of failure – the same fear of failure that perfectionism stems from.

Another source of perfectionism is the issue of ego. Many people want things to be perfect because they have a mind-set of caring what other people will think of them – that they’ll be judged negatively if something isn’t up to a certain standard. Childhood experiences can also allow perfectionism to evolve in your personality especially if you’ve learnt from a parent or guardian that you somehow can’t be lovable if you’re not perfect. This transcends into your way of thinking throughout work and relationships into adulthood. And of course, the restricted rules during your education years can teach you at a young age that following rules is important and it is to your detriment if you’re to break them in any way or not live up to them.

Many people take comfort in being a perfectionist but it’s a common myth that perfectionism creates perfection. One downside is the time wasted on making something seemingly perfect and actually causes you to become less productive. Spending more time on something can often be an illusion – we think we’re improving something but that time isn’t necessarily quality time and could be hindering your performance.

How to Change Your Perfectionist Mind set

Abandon the “All or Nothing” Mind set

A common mind-set when it comes to perfectionism is either you want to do something well or not at all. But the problem with this is in denying the importance of the process. Achieving greatness comes from the experience and insights gained from this process allowing you the chance to tune and apply these for future success. This inadvertently reduces the chance of failure overall despite what the perfectionist mind may try hard to deny.

Keep in Mind the 80/20

The 80/20 rule is a good one to keep in mind – only 20% of your efforts can amount to 80% of the results. Any more than this isn’t going to make a huge difference plus it gives you that leeway to tune up the details at a later date.

Actively Ask For Positive Feedback

Feedback is every perfectionist’s worst nightmare and while getting both positive and negative feedback is the ideal, this is something a perfectionist would struggle with already being aware of shortcomings and inadequacies. Therefore, asking for positive feedback on a regular basis can help counteract this and get the mind used to a balance of opinion.

Sort Out The “Must Haves” From the “Good To Haves”

Before you start any project, make sure you create a list of the ‘must haves’ and the ‘good to haves’Make the ‘must haves’ an absolute priority and only include the ‘good to haves’ if time and cost allows.

Set Realistic Goals

Setting unrealistic goals is a definite trait of a perfectionist and ends up causing feelings of inadequacy because they can be hard to achieve. Having goals is a wonderful thing but raising the bar too high can create feelings of unmotivated and lack. So harvest that desire to improve yourself by all means, but not to the point of making yourself feel less.

#BecomeaBetterMan

 

 

SME and GDPR Compliance


With less than 3 months to the new EU law on Data Protection – General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becoming an enforceable law across European Union countries, I have noticed that most of the available materials are focused on the race to compliance and what organisations needs to do. Good as these have been, as a consultant (www.the-administrator.org)  from my conversations with SME organisations especially the not-for profit, many are concerned about the whole GDPR business especially with meeting the compliance deadline or at least working towards it. One can argue that they should have been getting ready for the nearly almost two years grace, but if you understand this sector (not-for profit) in particular, you will realise that they are mostly administered and managed on a shoe string budgets and volunteer personnel.

The main concern they have is based primarily on what is required to be compliant – data discovery, mapping, sorting, categorising, deleting, storing, and all the new Data Subject rights etc. Again, while one can argue that this should have been part of their operational ethos all along, the fact is there are many organisations out there who cannot boast of a “clean house” as far as their data is concerned especially in line with the GDPR regulations and expectation – and I am talking of big and large organisations. It is no surprise that the number of GDPR related job vacancies is very high because many organisations are in the same boat as these small and medium size companies especially the charities and other not-for profit ones.

However, what has compounded this concern for the SMEs is two folds. First, there are no quick fix solutions out there to get them ready for the deadline date. Most of the tools available on the market which are being touted are not primarily GDPR compliance tailored. Most of them are primarily based around:

  • Data security
  • Malware threat resistance
  • Server activities monitoring
  • Monitoring of interactions of other software on the servers and their impacts on the core business
  • Cyber security
  • Risk Management & Reporting

While all these are part of what GDPR compliance requires, they are not entirely devoted or aimed at speeding up the process of compliance especially for SMEs.

The second and maybe equal problem facing the SMEs is the financial implication of these tools. They are mostly capital intensive – like cloud based servers and such investment cannot be justified by the smaller companies without the potential bigger financial burden for them. For instance, a church with an average member of 300 and an annual gross income of £75,000 will never be able to afford a Cisco, IBM or any other major provider of some of these hardware and software needed for a GDPR compliance operation. Even where such cost is amortised, the financial burden will still outweigh the potential benefits to these organisations.

So, the questions are:

  • Is there anything out in the market that can aid these SMEs in managing the GDPR compliance process?
  • Is there a software that can be deployed to assist with:
    • Data identification, gathering and sorting?
    • Data mapping or data flow
  • A software that will provide templates for:
    • Gap analysis questionnaire
    • Different policies that are easily editable to suit different organisations
    • Vendor or 3rd party risk-assessment questionnaire etc.
  • A simple stand-alone database software that can be easily and quickly deploy to handle all the data for onward in house management
  • Cost – is there anytshing available to provide all these benefits at reasonable cost to the SMEs?

I realise the ICO’s website has wealth of information and ideas on what to and how to, but ultimately, these SMEs are still left with grappling with manual rather than automated system which may not put them in a compliance state come May 25th 2018. While it will get them on the way, the danger is that most organisations will abandoned the process once the date has come and gone which is not what is required or expected of them especially when they can only rely on volunteers to come in and perform these tasks for them. In summary, how can a manual process that can take between 3 – 6 months be speeded up via automation and be completed in a fraction of this time?

Just my thought!

www.the-administrator.org

 

 

 

 

BECOME A BETTER MAN – BE ASSERTIVE


Who is a nice guy? – A volcano waiting to erupt!

 Symptoms of a “Nice Guy”

  1. Nice guy take a passive approach to life and relationships.
  2. Instead of standing up for themselves, they let others walk all over them.
  3. They’re perennial “People Pleasers”.
  4. Nice Guy have a hard time saying no to requests — even unreasonable ones.
  5. When they want or need something, they’re afraid to ask for it because they don’t want to inconvenience others.
  6. They’d rather get alongthan get ahead.
  7. They appear generous, flexible, and extremely polite. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll often find a helpless, anxious, and resentful core.
  8. Nice Guy are often filled with anxiety because their self-worth depends on the approval of others and getting everyone to like them.
  9. They don’t feel they can go after their true desires, because they’re locked into doing what others say they shoulddo because “go with the flow” is their default approach to life.
  10. Nice Guy have little control over their lives and consequently feel helpless, shiftless, and stuck.
  11. They’re also typically resentful and vindictive because their unspoken needs aren’t being met and they feel like others are always taking advantage of them – even though they’re the ones who allow it to happen.
  12. Nice Guy will feel guilty even when expressing dissatisfaction with something they’re paying for!

Outcome:

In worst-case scenarios, the Nice Guy’s pent-up resentment from being pushed around will result in unexpected outbursts of anger and violence.

In order to regain some control over his life and quit being such a pushover? Nice Guys think the solution is to swing to the other extreme and go from being passive to aggressive. Instead of meekly submitting, they feel like they have to dominate in every situation and they seek to get their way in everything, no matter what. However aggressiveness isn’t a very productive communication or behaviour style. In fact, using a persistent, aggressive communication style can often backfire by creating resentment and passive-aggressive behaviour in the very people you’re trying to control. So, instead of passivity and aggressiveness, the best approach lies somewhere between the two. The sweet spot for communication and behaviour is called assertiveness.

Assertiveness is an interpersonal skill in which you demonstrate healthy confidence and able to stand up for yourself and your rights, while respecting the rights of others.

When you’re assertive you are direct and honest with people and not expecting people to read your mind about what you want and if something is bothering you, you speak up and if you want or need something, you ask. You do all this while maintaining a calm and civil demeanour because you understand that while you can make a request or state an opinion, others are well within their right to say no or disagree. You don’t get upset or angry when that happens. You understand that you might not get what you want but you will learn that it not only doesn’t hurt to ask, but actually helps to ask as well.

How to Be More Assertive

  1. Set boundaries. 

The first step in becoming less of a pushover is establishing boundaries. Boundaries are rules and limits that a man creates for himself that guide and direct others as to what is permissible behaviour around him. Passive men typically have no boundaries and allow others to walk all over them.

  1. Take responsibility for your own problems

Nice Guys wait around for someone else to fix their problems. An assertive man understands that his problems are his responsibility. If you see something that needs changing in your life, take action. If you’re not happy with something in your life, start taking steps — however small — to change things.

  1. Don’t expect people to read your mind

Nice Guys expect others to recognise what they need and want without having to say a word. If you want something, say it; If something bothers you, speak up. Never assume that people know your every need or want.

  1. Understand you’re not in charge of how others feel or behave. 

Both passive and aggressive men share a similar problem: they both think they’re in charge of how others feel or behave — they just go about it differently.

An aggressive man assumes responsibility of others’ behaviour and emotions by exerting his will through physical, mental, and emotional force. On the other hand, passive man assumes responsibility of others’ behaviour by constantly submitting his will to the will of others. Passive men feel it’s their job to make sure everyone is happy, even if that means they themselves are miserable. But an assertive man recognises that it’s not his job to control or worry about others’ behaviour and that he’s only responsible for how he behaves and feels.

You won’t believe how much less stress and anxiety you’ll feel once you understand this. You’ll no longer spend wasted hours wringing your hands worrying about whether someone will be happy with your choice or opinion.

This isn’t to say that you should be an inconsiderate jerk and shouldn’t take into account the feelings/situations of others. It just means you don’t need to go overboard and be so overly considerate that you don’t make any requests or stand up for your values lest you upset or offend someone. 

The Benefits of Assertiveness

  1. Your relationships will improve. 

In a marriage and other relationships, assertiveness is one of the key attributes that both partners need in order for a relationship to be strong and healthy. If one person feels they aren’t getting their needs met, resentment for their partner ensues even if it’s the person’s fault for not letting their needs to be known.

  1. When you are assertive, you’ll feel less stressed.

You say no to requests that would otherwise spread you too thin and lose the anxiety and worry that comes with being overly pre-occupied with what others will think of your choices, preferences, requests or opinions.

  1. When you’re assertive, you’ll gain confidence because

Your attitude and behaviour are governed by your own actions or decisions, not the actions and decisions of others and knowing that you can make changes to improve your own situation is a big-time confidence booster.

  1. You’ll become less resentful. 

As you become more assertive, your relationships will become more enjoyable because you’ll no longer have to swallow the bitter pill of resentment when you say yes to a request or decide to do a favour for someone. When you do something, you do it because you actually want to do it, or you’re okay with doing it as part of the natural give and take of relationships.

 

Become a Better Man – Pay Attention


We’ve all probably heard from a teacher or a parent statements like Attention please! “Whatever you focus on will develop” “Pay attention”.  And most of us probably castigate ourselves on a daily basis for our inability to concentrate on the task at hand. It seems in our distracted world of texts, tweets, and news feeds, more and more folks are bemoaning their scattered thinking and have a strong desire to improve their attention span and focus but we often come up short. When we do fail, the typical response is to redouble our efforts and ask; “What is going on here? Why is it so hard to bridle my attention?”

In answering this question, the two common culprits to point to are the increasing amount of distractions in our modern world and our lack of individual discipline. While these factors are certainly part of the problem, there is a more fundamental underlying issue at play: people want to master their attention, but they don’t know what attention actually is. Since you can’t change what you can’t understand, it is necessary to study the nature of attention – what it is, how it works, and why it’s so important.

What is Attention?

Attention is taking possession of the mind on one out of several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. It implies a withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others.

What we decide to pay attention to and what we decide to ignore shapes our existence and our reality. Since everyone pays attention to different things, everyone has different conceptions of reality and that is why three different eyewitnesses can have three different accounts of a crime and why couples get in fights about who is or isn’t pulling their weight around the house — everyone is training their focusing lens on different things and framing the “shots” of their reality in their own way. Attention involves a complex combination of different cognitive processes — like working memory and executive control — that work together in unison

So attention in a nutshell is the ability to focus on certain stimuli or thoughts while ignoring others, which in turn shapes how we perceive and experience the world around us.

 

Types of Attention

 

  1. Involuntary Attention

Involuntary attention isn’t consciously controlled by us, but rather by compelling stimuli in our environment. We experience involuntary attention when we hear a loud noise, see what we think is a snake slithering in the grass, or simply notice something new and novel. Stimuli that’s possibly dangerous typically grabs our involuntary attention more than stimuli that could lead to a reward; in primitive times, simply surviving was more important than getting ahead. In the modern age, our involuntary attention has been hijacked by the constant stream of stuff going on around us — urban noise, TV, smartphone pings, background music, etc. “Look, I see a bear!” has become, “Look a funny video on YouTube!

Basically, the sensitivity of our involuntary attention to the new and unusual is the reason why the internet is so distracting. While our involuntary attention can be overwhelmed by an onslaught of distractions, mild stimulation of it actually puts us in a state that quiets the mind and gives our voluntary attention a break. Getting out into nature puts us in this soft fascination state – there are different things to see whilst out walking in the woods, but the stream of incoming stimuli is so slow and mellow our mind feels simultaneously engaged and at rest.

 

  1. Voluntary Attention

Voluntary attention is a focusing process over which we have conscious control. Instead of our attention being at the whim of whatever stimuli grabs it, we deliberately decide what our mind attends to.

Voluntary attention requires effort, willpower, and intentional concentration. You exercise your voluntary attention when you decide which of the stimuli bombarding your involuntary attention you’ll attend to, and which you’ll ignore. We also call upon our voluntary attention when we try to shut out all competing stimuli in order to concentrate on a single task, like writing a memo, reading a book, meditating, or even playing a video game.

The more stimuli there are competing for our involuntary attention, the harder our voluntary attention has to work to stay engaged with the task at hand. If involuntary attention allowed our species to survive, voluntary attention is what has really helped us to thrive. It’s through voluntary attention that cities were built, wars were won, and masterpieces written. On an individual level, voluntary attention is what allows you to progress with your personal goals.

 

  1. Default Mode: Mind Wandering

When an outside stimulus isn’t engaging our involuntary attention or we’re not using our voluntary attention to attend to a specific task or thought, our mind shifts into a default mode called “mind wandering” – what we often refer to as daydreaming. On the one hand, mind wandering takes our voluntary attention away from whatever task we might be working on at the moment. It often happens while we’re engaged in low cognition activities like showering, walking, exercising, or even reading. On the other hand, when we engage in mind wandering, our brains actually use the same regions that are utilised when we are trying to exercise voluntary attention; even though we’re not paying attention to the task at hand, we are paying some attention to our distracting thoughts -like tonight’s dinner. Mind wandering is an important facet in our attention system because we spend about 50% of our time in this default. Spending time in this state has both benefits and drawbacks.

 

The Drawback of Mind Wandering

  1. Mind wandering keeps you from being present in what you’re doing
  2. When our minds wander, it normally drift towards negative thoughts and emotions such as unresolved problems, conflicts with co-workers, unfulfilled goals, bills to be paid, even an embarrassing moment from the past.
  3. These negative taught tend to pulls us deeper and deeper into a funk.

 

The Benefits of Mind Wandering

  1. Mind wandering directs our brain to the unused processing power towards solving unresolved problems. Mind wandering’s negativity bias is just trying to nudge us to work on the issues in our lives that need some untangling.
  2. During positive-constructive daydreaming, we engage in future planning, reminisce about positive emotional experiences, and engage in moral reasoning.
  3. Mind wandering can get our creative juices flowing. Mind wandering boosts creativity because it’s so unstructured. By allowing our mind to freely ramble over the hills and dales of our craniums, we’re able to make connections we otherwise wouldn’t if we were actively directing our attention to one single solution.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, daydreaming gives our voluntary and involuntary attention systems a break.

In summary, mind wandering can be good or bad, depending on how we manage and direct it. While research suggests that whether our mind wandering skews negative or positive depends largely in part on our genetic temperament, we do have the conscious ability to nudge our wandering mind into more constructive modes.