What is the connection between our most valued possessions and our selective attention?
Let me talk you through it!
We all have some item that we really care about; our most precious possession! For you it might be your car, your watch, or a piece of jewelry that you inherited from someone that was very close to you.
Do you care for your selective attention the same way you care for this possession? Probably not. It’s much more difficult to care about things you can’t see or feel. Nonetheless, your selective attention has a profound impact on the results you deliver, the results you manage to create through other people, and eventually the number of people you manage to send home safely.
If you want to improve your results you thus have to start viewing your selective attention as one of your most precious possessions and treat it accordingly. If you don’t it will have severe consequences for your work and your organisation's ability to stay safe.
Extensive research has demonstrated that difficulties in selective attention are associated with dysfunction in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex dACC. The dACC evaluates functions such as cognition and the self-monitoring of performance. It is part of a circuit where pyramidal cells in the dACC project to another part of the striatal complex near the base or ventral part, then to another area of the thalamus, and then back to the dACC. People lacking activation in this part of the brain or people who activate these brain areas inefficiently, will, when a task requires them to focus all of their attention, quickly become tired.
Selective attention, and the training of this, will therefore enable you to focus your attention better and keep your energy level stable for longer. Perhaps you are working on a complicated calculation, maybe you have to make a presentation, requiring you to gather your thoughts on a specific subject, or you might plan to execute a dangerous task. It is then extremely important for you to be able to maintain your focus in the process, despite irrelevant interruptions. Perhaps you are disturbed if a door is opened or if others are talking. Suddenly the task seems much more difficult and energy consuming and chances are that you might skip crucial details that can potentially result in people getting hurt and not returning home safely to their family and friends.
To avoid this, start off by valuing your selective attention and train it and your cognitive function to get in better shape just as you train your body.
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