Are you paying attention?

Answer me this: what has been the most important event of your week so far? We struggle to answer this question with so much going on in our lives nowadays. Simply put: we don’t know what to pay attention to.

A few months ago I attended a neuroscience workshop. Held not in a sterile laboratory or a stuffy lecture theatre but in a progressive incubator in Shoreditch called The Cube. Co-founded by cognitive neuroscientist Araceli Camargo, the Cube is especially designed to create the optimal environment for start-up business leaders to explore their curiosity, creativity and intellect. Araceli and her Cube curators achieve this environment in the space they have created, in the décor, and in the neuroscience workshops and seminars that they offer to members (and lucky visiting students like me).

The workshop I signed up for was on Attention, one of the fastest changing parts of the brain because of the pace and volume of change that we are exposed to in the 21st Century. As we learned in our workshop led by Araceli herself, technology is moving faster than the human brain is able to evolve and this, combined with an ageing population, is the reason why mental health is fast-becoming the biggest challenge of our society and of our workplace. When we suffer from stress and anxiety we emotionally withdraw, and we don’t attend to as much. Over time, what you attend to is who you become. Attention affects memory. Which affects learning. Which affects education. Which affects future generations. So this problem isn’t going away and it could have an adverse effect on human evolution.

So what can we do about it? How can we train our brains to pay more attention? Well, we can learn more about how the human brain works. Neuroscience is still a very young and vastly unexplored subject. Even though the ancient Egyptians had a hieroglyphic for the word “brain” it was only in the twentieth century that neuroscience was ecognized as a distinct unified academic discipline (rather than studies of the nervous system being a factor of science belonging to a variety of disciplines).

There is still so much that we don’t know about the brain. But what we do know is now informing executive coaching and leadership development – or neuroleadership as it was coined by David Rock in 2006.

We know that we have to create calmer environments so that we quieten the mind, notice more, and so that we may pay more attention. We can create more workspaces like the Cube, where they change the art in the office to get people to pay attention to new things around them. We can encourage more team building – games and sport, for example, encourage attention. And we have to rest the brain – we have to sleep more (the brain needs a minimum of eight hours in twenty four – physiological fact.

Technology keeps us in a constant state of arousal, which makes it harder to calm the brain. So let’s put those devices down. Let’s take regular breaks from our screens. And let’s create more stimulating workplace environments and interactions. “Create curiosity. Hack yourself” as our teacher Araceli Camargo told the class.

For more information about the Cube and its neuroscience workshops, contact:

For more information on how coaching can help you to calm your mind and to pay better attention, contact me!

#attention #neuroscience #neuroleadership #mentalhealth #memory #payingattention

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