How to Reclaim Focus in a Noisy World

3 Insights from Dr Gloria Mark

What does your daily commute entail? For many of us, as we step into our cars, we often dive into our Spotify playlists, scroll through radio stations, or tune into our favourite podcasts. This habit often extends to our routine chores like folding laundry, cooking dinner, or grocery shopping. Like you, we also love learning new things and making the most out of every moment but have you asked yourself how noise affects our focus?

While technology has undoubtedly brought us numerous benefits, smartphones, emails, and podcasts have also introduced a constant loop of distraction making focus very challenging.

So in this post we want to assist you in understanding and reshaping your perception of focus. We believe it’s crucial for your personal well-being. As psychologist and professor Gloria Mark suggests, our objective should be:

“to attain a healthy psychological balance, thereby replenishing your mental resources, which, as a natural outcome, will enhance your productivity.”

– Attention Span, 27.

With this perspective in mind, we’d like to share three insights from Gloria Mark’s book, Attention Span, to help you embark on the journey of regaining your focus.

Developing Meta-Awareness

We’ve all heard advice from friends or colleagues urging us to “just turn off your phone” to overcome distraction. However, the truth is, our digital addictions and habits don’t exist in isolation. Within the attention economy, various factors come into play, from algorithms to individual personality types.

The first habit Mark found helpful is called “meta-awareness.” 

Meta-awareness is about asking the right questions in terms of our relationship to our devices and external noise. For instance when you feel the drive to check your phone, open a new tab to watch youtube, ask yourself: “Why do I want to do this?” 

Perhaps you’ll find the subconscious connections leading to procrastination. Metawareness is concerned with integrating focus to cultivate concentration. 

Understanding Your Attention Rhythms 

Mark discovered that many knowledge-based workers are most focused between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., with the largest drop in concentration occurring after lunch, around 1 p.m.

Recognizing your attention rhythms consists of noting the times you feel at your creative best and get into times of deep work. Begin to note things like:

  • Where were you?
  • Were you caffeinated?
  • What did you eat for breakfast? 
  • Do you work best in large chunks of time or certain times of day?

It is also important to take note of times when you feel most distracted and least focused.

You can ask the same probing questions to better understand your attention rhythms.

Cultivating a Positive Relationship with Technology

Digital technologies have already shaped and will continue to influence humanity’s development. Mark’s holds an optimistic view of technology’s potential across various disciplines. She contends, and we agree, that the most promising path forward is to foster a constructive partnership with our technologies, aiming to enhance the betterment of humanity.

The Search for Significance

If you work in the marketplace, you have no doubt heard the term “quiet quitting.” Last year, a young engineer coined the term in a TikTok describing the concept as, “not outright quitting your job, but quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the mentality that work has to be your life.”

Various media personalities were quick to pass judgement on younger professionals, mainly Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012). Yet, as Cal Newport observes, that quiet quitting is not unique to a generation or this cultural moment. Quiet quitting is not unique to a generation or this cultural moment. Each generation faces the tension of figuring out how work fits into a well-lived life. Quiet quitting is the messy starting gun of a new generation embarking on this challenge,” writes Newport.

In other words, the quiet quitting phenomenon of 2022 had more to do with a lack of engagement, disillusionment, and assigned significance than with entitlement or slothfulness. Issues arise when businesses, companies, and leaders fail to connect well with their employees and people.

In Seth Godin’s latest book, The Song of Significance, the author and entrepreneur offer meaningful insights into work and life in the modern age. While at times abstract, Godin does provide struggling leaders and professionals with some great wisdom. In Song of Significance, Godin explores why many are disillusioned with work and how leaders can cast a greater vision for employees and teams. 

Finding Fulfilment

What if instead of money, power, and influence employees today desire something deeper? Drawing on researching from 10,000 workers over 90 countries, Godin observes three characteristics for employee fulfilment: agency, vision, and dignity.

  1. Vision: knowing that one’s work is contribution to something important
  2. Dignity: Being treated with mutual respect and humanity


Agency is about encouraging employee trust and creative licence. Instead of micromanaging, agency is earned trust and autonomy for employees that show initiative and creativity. A leader has the challenge and opportunity to create a workplace where employees are “creating a difference, being a part of something, and doing work they’re proud of.” 


Vision is achieved by casting a clear and hopeful vision of an organisation’s work and demonstrating how one’s work is vital to the greater whole. 


Since May 2 2023, writers, actors, and members of the Writers Guild of America have been on strike. While the reasons for the strike are a combination of “…minimum fees, royalties, staffing requirements, and even the use of artificial intelligence in script production” one of the throughlines is writers desiring to be compensated fairly and to be seen as collaborators and treated with dignity.

Godin argues that in the industrialism complex, leaders fail to provide the necessary care for employees which leads to insignificant work. Overall, employees desire to be respected and seen as people. More than machines or tasks rabbits, employee satisfaction is about being a leader that sees and listens well. 

Change can be scary but to bring about real transformation, the kind of transformation our world and workplaces need. After all, “the choice is simple: we can endure the hangover of industrial capitalism, keep treating people as disposable, and join in the AI-fueled race to the bottom. Or we come together to build a significant organisation that enrols, empowers, and trusts everyone to deliver their best work, no matter where they are.”  

Exploring the Potential of AI

In this blog, we discuss curiosity, collaboration, and human guidance and some thoughts on using Artificial intelligence in our work and lives.

AVENIR consists of various expertise in sectors of industry, from NFP to education and beyond, and we are seeing AI disrupt and bring confusion and angst to many of our former contemporaries. With university students using AI to write term papers and billions of dollars being invested in California’s Silicon Valley, AI is the talk of the town.

But what if instead of angst and uproar, we saw AI as a tool? As Adi Ignatius penned in his Editor’s note in the latest Harvard Business Review, ‘If we’re lucky, generative AI will – like calculators and the internet before it – help us discover entirely new ways to unlock value.’

We are excited and embracing the new possibilities this technology can bring to leadership, life, and what it means to be human in this new age.

Here are three insights, we think you can engage with AI in a thoughtful way:

Choose Curisoity

Humanity has a collective ability to underestimate or overestimate the effects of technology on civilization and society. 

For instance, in 1909, Scientific American published a full issue on the automobile. The issue reported that the automobile had reached its peak evolution and would simply become a blip in the story of human progress. One article notes, ‘The automobile has practically reached the limit of its development, as suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.’ Needless to say, automobiles quickly surpassed the use of horses and buggies. However, in the blockbuster film Back to the Future II, the erratic scientist Doc Brown creates a hover car and famously quips, ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’

We are experiencing a new phase in the technological revolution, and AI may follow a similar path to the automobile. As one columnist notes, 

“Anybody can say we will have flying cars or establish a lunar base, but it is much harder to invent flying cars or take us to the Moon. Anybody can hold forth about what AI will or will not do. Rarer are those with the intention and means to bring such possibilities to life. These people we ought to take more seriously.” 

Instead of falling to the fear mongering and op-eds that either present AI as a saviour or on the other end as a doomsday initiative. Perhaps a better lens is one of curiosity.

Tool not Substitute 

Earlier this year, some schools in Australia placed a ban on ChatGPT, one of the largest AI companies, as students had been using it to write or complete their assignments. However, some teachers have made comments that the ban is not sustainable and that AI should be seen as a tool to promote more engaging learning and exploring new possibilities for the next generation of students. 

While the ability to surface cross-disciplinary responses and answers may ‘reduce curiosity and independent skill development as sadly humans often take the path that is least resistant,’ yet, like its predecessor the word processor or the interview, AI does provide a few keys for efficiency and productivity.

For instance, according to ChatGPT, four ways to utilise its capacities are: ‘language and grammar support, creative brainstorming, and virtual assistance.’ Additionally, it prompted with the caution that ‘while I [ChatGPT] can perform various tasks, it’s important to use me as a tool alongside human expertise and judgement.'”

What this means is that we ought to explore the ways in which AI can enrich and aid our work not neglect or shirk back from new technology.

Now What? A Few Considerations

While AI offers numerous benefits and possibilities, it is crucial to be aware of the ethical implications. As AI becomes more integrated into our daily lives, we should prioritise human connection and innovation. In other words, AI cannot replace human capacities for imagination and collaboration, and perhaps this was never the aim.

Yet, like with many new technologies, the way forward is not to bury our heads in the sand, hoping things regress to ‘normal,’ nor is it to overly rely on AI’s capacities. Perhaps by choosing curiosity and harnessing AI’s computational power with human oversight, we can explore new possibilities to enhance productivity and bring about positive advancements in your work and life.

Moving From a Fixed to a Growth Mindset

man climbing a boulder in black and white

“…Failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you.

– Carol Dweck

Have you ever experienced that overwhelming sense of failure after attempting something new and falling short? Perhaps you made a silent promise to yourself never to feel that way again.

Over time, you may have noticed a reluctance to take on new challenges, and the voice in your head started whispering,

“This is just who I am,” or “I’ll never be able to change.”

In her influential book, Mindset, psychologist Carol Dweck explores this phenomenon and introduces the concepts of fixed and growth mindsets.

According to Dweck, a fixed mindset perceives talents and abilities as innate and unchangeable. On the other hand, a growth mindset is founded on the belief that our fundamental qualities can be cultivated through our efforts. Sure, innate talent exists, but the remarkable ability to change, improve, and learn new skills is a massive target worth pursuing.

Let’s delve into three key takeaways from Dweck’s work on shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset:

1 Failure does not define you

Dweck encourages us to see failures as invitations for growth. This doesn’t diminish the pain or disappointment that accompanies a failed business venture, marriage, or creative project. Instead, it changes the narrative from “I failed; therefore, I am a failure” to “that was tough, and it didn’t turn out as I hoped. But now I know better and can do better next time.”

In a fixed mindset, challenges are perceived as terrifying dragons to avoid or escape. While adopting a growth mindset allows us to view challenges, the process, and even failures as companions on the journey toward personal and professional development. By embracing failures as stepping stones, and seeing them as valuable learning experiences we are able to shift focus from the outcome to the process. 

2 Embrace the Process 

A fixed mindset buys into the fallacy that we must be perfect or proficient at everything from the very beginning. For example, you sit down to try your hand at creative writing and become astounded and anxious because you can’t produce a novel like Marilynne Robinson on your first attempt.

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell highlights our society’s obsession with “effortless” success stories, neglecting to acknowledge the countless hours of work and dedication invested by superstar athletes, tech billionaires, and exceptional artists.

A fixed mindset convinces us that talents and skills are unattainable, while a growth mindset recognises the value of effort and welcomes the challenge of discipline and honing our craft. By embracing the process we begin to see that effort over time becomes a catalyst to growth.

3 Suspend Judgement,
Choose Curiosity

In reality, we all struggle with the trappings of a fixed mindset. Instead of shaming yourself, suspend judgement and approach life with curiosity.

Dweck outlines five helpful steps to transition from a fixed to a growth mindset:

  • Understand that fixed and growth mindsets exist on a continuum.
  • Identify when the fixed mindset persona or voice is strongest (during times of stress, procrastination, new work opportunities, or relationship challenges).
  • Recognize the language and characteristics of the fixed mindset persona.
  • Educate this persona and extend a compassionate invitation to growth.
  • Enlist the support of others on this transformative journey.

Shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset is a transformative journey that requires time, effort, and patience.

Remember, our abilities are not set in stone. With dedication and continuous effort, we can learn, improve, and thrive.

Ask yourself, what step can you take today to nurture your growth mindset? Let curiosity guide you!

Embracing Meaningful Work

black and white photo of 2 people working in office

Jobs, Careers, and Vocation

Some say, “if you love what you do, then you never work a day in your life.” But let’s be honest, how many of us actually experience this cliché?

Perhaps a better saying would be, “The reward for good work is more work.” At Avenir, we have found a way to love what we do: coaching, leading, conversing, and teaching organizations and individuals how to lead better and healthier lives.

But our journey has been one of hard work, diligence, and constant growth. In this blog, we will explore three stages of work and how a perspective shift can help us cultivate a more meaningful outlook on work.

Jobs: Stepping Stones Towards Something Bigger

Throughout history, many people had limited options for earning a living. Factors such as birth, gender, social status, and geographic location played a significant role in determining their jobs. A job may serve as a stepping stone toward building or finding a fulfilling career. It is an opportunity to gain experience, develop skills, and pave the way for future growth.

Careers: Climbing the Ladder of Knowledge and Opportunity

A career is often associated with a specific profession and its body of knowledge. It requires a combination of studying and real-world experience. For example, studying law leads to becoming a lawyer, while the pursuit of medicine demands grueling hours and social sacrifices to become a doctor. Careers offer a sense of progression, with each rung on the ladder bringing new possibilities. However, some careers may eventually lose their appeal, leaving individuals yearning for new challenges and opportunities.

Vocation: Unleashing the Full Potential of Your Life

Vocation, historically associated with lifelong service in religious or priestly roles, has now taken on broader implications. It encompasses all aspects of life—eating, drinking, sleeping, and working. Vocation focuses less on financial gain and more on creating flourishing in the world and those around us. It asks the question: “What would you do if you got paid nothing?” Regardless of our occupation, whether it involves cleaning latrines, packing shelves, or removing cancerous tumours, vocation is about finding purpose and meeting the world’s deepest needs. It is where personal longings and societal needs intersect.

Embracing Meaningful Work: Shifting Perspectives

Work, in any form, has the power to be transformative. It can create a sense of community, nurture young minds, or connect people with enriching experiences. By shifting our perspective, we can view our jobs, tasks, and careers as more than just means to an end or a mere paycheck. Instead, they become invitations to embrace the entirety of our lives as deeply meaningful. As the late spiritual writer Frederick Buechner observed that vocation is “the place your deepest happiness meets the world’s deep needs”.

By embracing a more meaningful understanding of work we are able to better serve our teams, leaders, and ultimately the world.