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Pay Attention

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When attention breaks down, problem solving breaks down.

p.14, Johann Hari, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again

I considered this statement from Johann Hari in Stolen Focus where he analyses why we can’t pay attention. While we get flooded with more information today then ever before, we have less ability to focus on it. The result – we lose depth because depth takes time and reflection, i.e. attention.

Hari recommends more free play for children and flow states for adults. Exercise, get enough sleep, and eat nutritiously for a healthy brain. Read hardcover books. Find space to let your mind wander so you can make sense of your life.

I contrasted Hari’s view of attention with Julia Cameron’s. In The Artist’s Way, she explains attention increases our capacity for delight. Delight improves our quality of life. Paying attention heals us and is an “act of connection.” (p.53) Cameron sees paying attention as a way through psychic pain.

Both are right.

Paying attention heals us in many ways. It’s the opposite of numbing out. By focusing, we lace intention with reflection. Ultimately, paying attention moves us from problem to solution.

Image showing how attention laces intention with reflection.

Problem to Solution

Unfortunately, many of us stay stuck in “problem mode.” Individually, our saboteurs love to keep us here because they want homeostasis, not growth. Societally, we get rewarded for numbing out on social media, for example, with “likes” which can actively encourage our addictions and avoidance behaviours.

As Hari points out, the path forward to solutions relies on our attention to problems.

We find solutions by brainstorming, exchanging ideas, and creating plans and processes. Solutions arise when we reflect. Daydreaming is necessary, not a “waste of time.” And, as Jung taught us, (night) dreaming lets us make connections we might not otherwise.  

All of this takes time. So, let’s take a minute to examine our perceptions of time.

Linear Time

We see time as finite, limited. From this perspective, time is a resource easily used up. Accordingly, we must protect or “maximize” the time we have, to use business parlance. Our linear view of time informs how we pay attention. Because we see time as limited, our capacity to pay attention becomes limited too.

Cyclical Time

We can look at time another way. Indigenous peoples view time as cyclical. Like the seasons shifting from dormant to verdant and back again, imagine time as circular. When we see time as circular instead of linear, we don’t use it up. Instead, time shifts just like the seasons.

Through photosynthesis, trees take in sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and energy. They have spring and summer to gather what they need to stay alive and then go dormant during fall and winter. Trees don’t need to stay verdant all year to thrive. Neither do you.

You need times of dormancy in order to be verdant at other times. This cyclical process gives you “time” to reflect. Instead of seeing time as a precious resource, think of time as a shapeshifter. It morphs but never disappears.

The gift of paying attention

Paying attention is a gift we grant ourselves. Looking closely at that maple tree can fill us with delight. We slowly heal ourselves, safe in the knowledge that there’s always enough time. When we pay attention, solutions present themselves.

Header Photo by Thanhy Nguyen on Unsplash, Delight Photo by Sarah Wolfe on Unsplash, Maple Leaves Photo by Yoksel 🌿 Zok on Unsplash

Give yourself time today to really pay attention to what’s around you. Challenge yourself. I know you can do it!

You have to be open minded in order to grow. The coaching that Laura gave me opened my eyes to what and how I was doing things and allowed me to see the bigger picture. I am not done yet but I already see the changes in my everyday life.


I think coaching is a great way to help you clear your mind when you get stuck with overwhelming situations or when stepping into changes in your life.


Coaching is life changing. It pushes you outside your comfort zone and challenges your perspectives.  It is highly motivating and the exercises and techniques used are both fun and informative.  I think the main benefits of coaching are to see yourself, others and the world more clearly.  I think coaching is valuable to anyone regardless of where you are in your life or career.


I honestly never thought I’d need a coach. I thought coaching was for CEOs and industry VIPs. I didn’t think it was for the “little guys” (i.e. me). Now, I’m of the belief that everyone – yes, EVERYONE – needs a coach. Coaching has really benefitted me and I’m so grateful to have had that time with Laura. It’s changed my life!


Laura is very patient. She took the time to understand what was causing me to be stuck where I am today and help me build a better vision so I can continue to grow.


I think Laura’s coaching was what I had been waiting for. Laura was so approachable, kind, and open. Her willingness to help and support made a difference for me. I found in her coaching new strategies, ideas, and perspectives that I could incorporate into my goals and objectives that I didn’t see before.


Laura is an incredibly intuitive, positive and caring coach. Her techniques helped me recognize both my strengths and areas I might want to explore as I embark on the next chapter of my career. The exercises she employed were instrumental in providing self perspective and challenging my frames of reference.


Laura is a natural coach. Her probing and compassionate questions helped me learn about myself: my value system, interests, goals and strengths.


Coaching sessions with Laura gave me new perspectives on how to process specific feelings and situations in life.  She showed me how to sit with my emotions, acknowledge them, and then use visualization strategies to move through them.  I now feel more confident and in control of how I choose to walk through life.


From the beginning, Laura put me at ease, creating a safe, open space for me to talk and share freely without fear of judgement. I loved the variety of approaches she used depending on the topic we were working on and it was fun being able to try out things I wouldn’t have considered before! With Laura’s coaching, I substantially grew my confidence in the workplace, overcame fears, dealt with issues I’d been carrying around for many years and, most importantly, learned to value myself and define a path forward into the future.


Laura’s coaching was a breath of fresh air and EXACTLY what I needed at that point of my life. I didn’t realize how impactful coaching was going to be, but by the end of the sessions together, I left feeling refreshed, inspired and genuinely curious about what my future held for me. Because of Laura and her coaching, I believe I became a better person – someone who is more open-minded, someone with a clearer focus, and someone who is willing to explore opportunities and possibilities far more than I ever did before.


I engaged Laura for coaching as I took on an expanded role leading an asset management company in Canada. As a female, I knew I would be a role model and had high expectations of myself. I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

In our first few coaching sessions we worked through exercises that allowed me to reflect on my purpose, leadership style and what mattered most to me. I continue to be grounded by the clarity I achieve in my coaching sessions – allowing me to be resilient and confident when challenges came my way.