“Notice, and Do” | How I remain in peaceful forward motion

notice & do (3)


I’m not sure where I picked up this habit, but as a child, I couldn’t pass trash on the sidewalk without picking it up, and throwing it away. Crumpled up receipts, disposable cups, plastic water bottles, paper straw wrappers, basically anything that wasn’t wet, or sticky—it just wasn’t hard to bend over, pluck it up, and re-home it in the nearest garbage can. (Before you get the wrong idea, I was not this fastidious at home. Just in public. Weird, I know.) (Or typical?)

The habit that took root in me as a child persists to this day, but it’s grown and matured since then, and has spread out to cover all of the facets of my life. I have a vocabulary for it now. I call it “notice, and do.” It’s become an unofficial personal motto. It works like this:

  1. Notice what’s out of sorts
  2. Do something to put it right

Note: it’s not “notice and do everything.” Neither is it “notice and complain,” or “notice and criticize.” Just notice, and do. Something. Even a very small thing.

Some of us need to be liberated from the self-imposed burden to do everything—right all of the wrongs (I’m in this camp). Some of us need to be promoted from “noticing and complaining” to join the ranks of those who are “doing.” And many of us simply need eyes to see—to notice.

There are many potential barriers to noticing, but I’m only going to take a whack at the biggest one. The most common hinderance to our ability to notice the world around us is also the most challenging to overcome, because it’s totally ubiquitous: it’s our devices, and the cacophony of competing voices, narratives, and agendas that live inside them.

In exposing ourselves to the the noise and digital garbage of today’s world, we unintentionally place ourselves in a near-constant state of alarm, or outrage, leaving little energy to notice the quiet issues closer to home that are begging for attention. When our minds are cluttered, distracted or overwhelmed, we literally cannot see a great deal of what crosses our path, and it becomes impossible to discern where we should point our attention. (See: every car accident that involves someone on their cell phone.)

If we desire to become more attuned noticers (and more intentional doers), we must identify and weed out that which is cluttering our vision, and elect to point our attention at things we can personally do something about.

A good first step in training ourselves to notice? Take an agenda-free walk with your device deep down in your pocket or bag. Every time you think to reach for your device, look for a piece of trash on the ground, and throw it in the nearest garbage can.

If you’re trash-averse, then every time you think to reach for your phone, take a beat and notice how you’re feeling in that moment—name it. “I’m anxious. I just want to see if I have any new email.” “I’m frustrated. This exercise is stupid.” “I’m bored. I don’t even know what to think about.” The sooner we build a habit of checking in with ourselves, the sooner we’ll begin to naturally notice others around us, and the environment we’re walking through.

I’m sharing “notice and do” because it’s brought me great peace when so many things appear to be out of sorts, and it keeps me committed to continuing to play my small part in putting things right. As someone who can quickly feel overwhelmed with the enormity of everything that needs fixing, “notice, and do” has become a simple touchstone that I can return to season after season. It reminds me to train my attention on that which I can control or contribute to, and to continue to divest from the outrage-industrial complex.

A prayer for noticing:

Creator God, and my loving Father, attune my eyes to see that which you’ve placed in front of me. When I’m distracted by loud voices, remind me to turn my attention to you, and listen deep for your still small voice, which always points the way to truth, to grace, and to life. Move me to act in whatever way you’ve equipped me to, and when I do, may I do so in your power, and for your glory.

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1 Comment

  1. theabsentmindedsquirrel

     /  July 26, 2018

    Thank you for sharing this and your prayer was beautiful! Good lessons in here!


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