Attention deserves it

Why is Attention our #1 changemaker currency?

What happens if we don’t give our attention to what matters most?

What happens if we give most of our attention to our self? 

I’ve nearly finished preparing my ‘foundation’ document for Changemaker Currencies, the philosophical, political and practical guide I’m developing to help people answer the key question, “what matters most?” when they have to make a choice or decision.


Shortly, I’ll be sending out an invitation for people to join me for a conversation about “What matters most?” at LoveBusk, the low-fi, for-purpose online performance and ideas festival running on 20 March.

As Attention, the #1 changemaker currency, is getting so much attention, I thought I’d pull out the bullet points I’ve prepared and see how they resonate with people ahead of LoveBusk – if anyone’s giving me their attention, as I certainly don’t have the 20th century ways to grab and capture it!

Here’s my reading on why Attention is our #1 currency. Let me know what you think, and how you feel about the exchange rate you get when you use attention.

To be able to keep our brains healthy through life, and make the most of our potential throughout our life, usually requires we get the right sort of attention, from our parents or caregivers, or authority figures, from birth to adolescence.


Attention is both the founding and operational capital of healthy relationships because it’s precious to give, and priceless to receive. More of us know this and are developing mindfulness practices: learning how to be really present with others.


Unfortunately, more of us are also giving more of our attention to our relationship with our self. And not from a position of critical self-reflection. With reducing inhibition, we’re consumed with creating audiences for the conversations we have with our own personae. Enabled and empowered by digital technologies and cultural self-marketing arenas, narcissism is no longer a questionable status, it’s normal. Or is it an epidemic?


This partially explains why we’re finding it more challenging to be really present when we’re with other people. Why we’re increasingly in continuous partial (in) attention even when we are physically present. FOMO: fear of missing out is stopping us from being ‘in place’.


We have limited neural (brain) resources to give/pay attention to the increasing number of things demanding it, or distracting us, whether because of mobile digital or the pressures of


What we give our attention to, or allow it be captured by, really matters – now and in the future – because it affects what we remember, and reflects our conscious priorities, or unconscious lack of them.


What we give, or don’t give, our attention to, affects how we use – spend, invest, save, waste or give away – our energy, time and money. It reflects our values, what we consider important.


Neuroscience advances reveal the importance of attention to maintaining our cognitive reserve – keeping our wits about us as we age, crucial to living longer better.  We’re living longer and we wouldn’t want to not live better. Would we? If you’re a baby boomer, that will have got your attention!


As consumers, citizens, family, or friends, not knowing what to prioritise our attention on can put our energy, time and/or money currencies into overdraft.


However, if we give our attention to working out what matters most – our values – we can save attention, energy, time and money when making choices and decisions. Savings we then invest in what matters most, having given our attention, of course, to working that out!


Sometimes, no matter how much attention we give to a choice or decision, we won’t have enough energy, time or money to invest in the best choice or decision: we have to make trade-offs but we make better value trade-offs for what really matters within our range of possible choices.


Attention has become THE highest value currency of business as we’ve moved from a dollars & cents economy to a dollars & seconds one. If a business can’t get, and keep, someone’s attention it’s not going to be able to get someone’s money.


Business is busy developing ways, ranging from compelling to futile, to attract and keep our attention, and consume large amounts of our energy and time. One of these is the ‘if you can’t beat it, join it approach’ of encouraging and validating narcissism. #SelfiesUnite


Business models, which used to be based on grabbing and capturing our attention, or being able to make us pay attention, and being able to keep it, have been destroyed. Now our attention is ours to distribute as we live so much through mobile digital devices: we decide where our attention will go, mindfully or otherwise. Or do we? Does digital override our ability to control our executive function, and thus direct our attention purposefully?


Knowing where our attention goes, why and for how long, has become a new highly profitable industry, as our attention data is monetised and sold to others without us getting a cut of its true market value: or even knowing this is being done!


We also live in an era of mass and individual attention surveillance by governments and their agencies, which extract value from analysing where our attention goes, without needing our consent.


In letting smart cities, buildings, houses or devices use sensors and artificial intelligence to reduce the need for us to pay attention, or use our brains to make decisions and choices, we run the risk of reducing our intelligence in the long term: creating a cognitive deficit epidemic similar to the obesity and Type2 diabetes epidemic we face from having outsourced physically demanding or repetitive activities to mechanical technologies. A much more dangerous state than being swayed by sophisticated persuasive advertising.


Rather than smart (whatever), a better approach is to create conscious partnerships between AI and humans based on a thoughtful:together, approach, which will enable us to keep using our brains to good effect, and ensure AI serves humanity rather than enslaves us.  Or, we let it.


This way we will continue to retain sufficiently strong social, emotional and intellectual neural capacity to give our attention to what matters most. Creating sustainable life for the entire human race and flora and fauna on a planet where large clusters of humans, flora and fauna are in danger of being killed off – becoming extinct – through  anthropogenic induced climate change.
It’s not about saving the planet, because earth will adapt its complex systems, evolve, and survive.  It’s about saving our selves. And the best way to do that is to take fewer selfies and to give more selflessly. In this case, less is definitely more.

If you really want to stay in the picture, focus your lens on what matters most. It’s not you. It’s us because we’re all in this together. 


Thanks for your attention

  1. James Samuel 03/06/2016, 4:27 pm Reply

    Well you got my attention, and in a firm but gentle way pointed to a phenomenon that is pervasive and has consumed much of my attention over the past few years. Giving attention to what matters most, having taken the time to identify that first, seems like practical wisdom.

    If it’s online, I’d be very happy to receive an invitation to join you for a conversation about “What matters most?”

    • marianne 03/06/2016, 4:38 pm Reply

      Hi James, welcome and thank you. If you go onto you can register for the conversation on 20 March. And we can “talk” before then so I can give you some background stuff. Just email me at and we’ll start talking. Very excited to have you in the conversation. #spreadtheword #changeforgood I’m in the process of setting up the Changemaker Currencies facebook page so look forward to having something about OOOOby as my friend Huia Lambie was very excited by it in Christchurch.