The Link Between Attention and ACTION

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Awareness is a factor of ATTENTION!

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Black and white drawing of a womans staring intently at something slightly to her right - eyes and eybrows onlyIn order to be able to take ACTION in response to information, a person must
retain an awareness of the information.

You can’t act on information you don’t recall – and you can’t possibly remember information about which you had no conscious awareness in the first place.

Nobody can ACT on information they don’t have.

Part 1 in the Intentional Attending™ Series –– a series of Posts from my upcoming
Intentional Attending™ eBook, one of twelve in The ADD Lens™ Series

The Memory Process

Understand that memory is a process, each step dependent on the other, beginning with awareness.

  • Events must be registered – stored in your memory banks – for you to be able to access the information later.
  • In addition, the information must be linked for retrieval – which means it must not only be stored in your memory banks, it must be linked in a manner that the information can be accessed when it is requested
  • Unless our brains determine that the content is relevant to our being, they never pass it along from short term memory buffers to the storage tanks.
  • In other words, your brain makes a decision to store or the item is no more a part of your memory than where you once parked your car on an uneventful trip to the grocery store where you usually shop.
  • Unless something causes us to focus on an event as it occurs, there is no neurological awareness that a decision to store needs to be made.

Which means that unless you were consciously aware that you saw it, heard it, felt it, tasted it, or consciously generated the information internally (as with a thought or an action), for YOU, the event didn’t “happen.”

In other words, you could never be expected to “remember” the event, because, as far as your conscious awareness is concerned, there is no evidence that it ever happened.

Of Falling Trees and Forests

If a tree falls in the forest, whether or not it made a sound, if you weren’t there to hear it, there was no sound FOR YOU.

Unless you perceive an event with one of your senses, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to remember that the event occurred because your brain never registered the incident in the first place.

If you happened to be in that tree’s general vicinity when it fell – just as a helicopter landed near where you were standing at the time – both sounds were there to be heard, but the sound made by the falling tree would have been masked by the sound of the helicopter.

  • Unless that tree fell close to where you were standing – or you were the woodsman who chopped it down – chances are good that your attention was riveted on the helicopter landing, unaware of the sound made by that tree as it crashed to the ground further off.
  • Your brain may have registered both sounds, but only one was stored in a such a way that you could recall it on the witness standthe one that captured your attention.

Reporting the News

If we were to question both you and the woodsman about that day, chances are good that the woodsman would be the only one who “remembered” the sound of the falling tree.

He probably wouldn’t be able to recall whether that helicopter ever landed, however, even if he remembered hearing the sound of a helicopter overhead.  He probably wouldn’t remember the landing part of the experience because it was not the one that captured his attention.

  • If he was intently focused on his chainsaw, he might not have even noticed the sound of the helicopter – so he certainly wouldn’t be able to recall hearing it.
  • If the woodsman’s focus were not so intense, the helicopter sound might have momentarily distracted him from what he was doing long enough for him to register the whirring sound overhead and look up.

Distractions can have deadly consequences for woodsmen felling trees, so chances are good that his attention would have snapped back to the task at hand the instant he realized that he was running a chainsaw while his attention was elsewhere!!

Chances are also good that his heart began to pump a bit faster the minute he realized that his attention had wandered accompanied by a flash of fantasy about what could have happened.

Chances are even better than good that the woodsman’s attention would subsequently remain rivited to what he was doing with that chainsaw – paying close attention to the eventual felling of the tree.

If YOU were that woodsman, which event do you think you would be most likely to recall?


Memories accompanied by strong emotion register strongly.

In this case, the fear of what “almost” happened makes it highly likely that the woodsman’s brain would have stored the sound of the helicopter overhead in a way that that the woodsman would “remember” he was momentarily distracted by it.

However, from the moment his attention snapped back to the chainsaw in his hand, the chances of his brain recording anything related to the distraction goes down – and so does the likelihood of conscious awareness of what happened next.

So our woodsman may not have been consciously aware of the fact that his ears also picked up the sound that helicopter made when it subsequently landed next to you.

  • No matter how important his corroborating testimony on some imaginary witness stand, our woodsman wouldn’t be able to swear that the helicopter landed OR that it did not.
  • He couldn’t remember because the event never registered in a way that it was linked for retrieval.

Remembering is an act of consciousness

In order to be able to swear you remember something, the event must have been

  1. Registered by your brain
  2. Stored in your brain’s “memory banks”
  3. Linked in such a way that it is
  4. Retrievable on demand

Stay with me here.  All of this memory stuff is to relates directly to your functional profile, and to how intentionally and effectively you are able to drive your very own brain.

Memory and Attention

Before I can explain what you need to DO to be intentional with your attention, I need to explain a little bit more about the relationship between memory and attention – and before I can do THAT, we need to come to an agreement about the meaning of this “Attention” term!

Click HERE  for the next post!

The above text, excerpted from Intentional Attending™
is the fourth part of The Optimal Functioning Series™
an upcoming eBook series that will examine each of
the Nine Challenges from my Challenges Inventory™, one at a time
©2000, 2006, 2011 Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, ALL rights reserved

The E-books in the Optimal Functioning Series™

For your convenience, the links below take you to a blogroll of the articles in each category – with just enough overlap that you will be able to find what you were looking for.  

Remember, once you click the link, to scroll down for other articles listed in the category.  

I’ve given you enough of the article to make a good guess about whether the content is what you were hoping to find.  At the bottom of each article preview is a link to “read more of this article.” Click it to read the entire article.

IMPORTANT: Since the newest article will always be listed first, and some articles are listed in several categories, don’t assume the lists are identical just because the first thing you see looks identical

1. The ADD Lens™
2. The Challenges Inventory™
3. Rewrite your Owners Manual™

NINE Individual Challenges Modules:

 Other Related articles

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

4 Responses to The Link Between Attention and ACTION

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  2. Pingback: Learning to Work Around “Spacing Out” | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: Beyond the Limitations of a Post-It Note™ Brain | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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