Focus Changes Your Brain

You might have heard the expression, “you get what you focus on.” But, have you heard that what you focus on actually reshapes your brain? The act of paying attention creates chemical and physical changes in your brain. David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz write about how focused attention can physically change the structure of your brain in their article, “The Neuroscience of Leadership”, in “strategy+business” magazine.

Reshaping the Patterns of Your Brain
Rock and Schwartz write the following”

“Concentrating attention on your mental experience, whether a thought, an insight, a picture in your mind’s eye, or a fear, maintains the brain state arising in association with that experience. Over time, paying enough attention to any specific brain connections keeps the relevant circuitry open and dynamically alive. These circuits can then eventually become not just chemical links but stable, physical changes in the brain’s structure.

Attention continually reshapes the patterns of the brain. Among the implications: People who practice a specialty every day literally think differently, through different sets of connections, than do people who don’t practice the specialty. In business, professionals in different functions – finance, operations, legal, research, and development, marketing, design and human resources – have physiological differences that prevent them from seeing the world the same way.”

Key Take Aways
I know I think differently based on the job I do everyday, if I compare how I solved problems in the past. Building prescriptive guidance forces me to be a continuous student of principles, patterns, and practices.

I never thought about whether my daily job created structural changes in my brain. However, now that I think about it, I remember that a colleague told me long ago that if you measure the brain activity between an expert and novice, that the expert would traverse way more connections, and it could actually take the expert longer to solve problems (more paths to check.)

The real question now is, am I missing out on any key thought patterns or capabilities because of the way my brain gets trained?