In June 2010 I wrote about persuasion and mentioned activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain. Shortly after in July I wrote about high touch coaching. In August I shared some information about research into the role of the brain’s prefrontal cortex in listening to stories.
These three posts reflect my growing interest in brain activity and coaching behaviour. This week I caught up with a post that added to my interest in focus. Clay Johnson observes that:
Paying attention, for long periods of time, is a form of endurance athleticism. Like running a marathon, it requires practice and training to get the most out of it. It is as much Twitter’s fault that you have a short attention span as it is your closet’s fault it doesn’t have any running shoes in it. If you want the ability to focus on things for a long period of time, you need attention fitness.
He suggests that:
Neuroplasticity is how your brain changes its organization over time to deal with new experiences. It involves physical changes inside of the brain based on the particular tasks the brain is asked to complete. It’s why the hippocampus of a seasoned taxi driver in London is larger than average, and how a meditating monk grows grey matter. Your brain isn’t a mythological deity but a physical part of your body that needs to be taken care of just like the rest of your body. And your body responds to two things really well — diet and exercise. Let’s presume your brain, being a part of the body, also does.
He advises that to develop attention fitness:
- Do slightly less than you think you’re capable of.
- Increase your capacity while staying under that bar.
- Start slow.
Clay and Francesco have insights and approaches that will be of interest to coaches. I like the discipline they bring to time management for personal productivity but can see the possibility of using their insights to transform training environments. I can see the possibility of using their approach (enriched by agility of thought) in ways to manage time within competition environments too. Most importantly it is one take on the desire to do simple things well.
As ever I am struck by the importance we must attach to personal differences in the ability to focus. Clay Johnson’s post has encouraged me to think carefully about the meta-learning that can take place in the building of coaching contexts. This approach invest a great deal of time in the process of learning rather than in the pursuit of content. It values the ability to deliver performance through focus not as an occasional fortuitous outcome but as a habit.