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Chapter 3. “How can I Learn the Skill of... > Exercise: Learning the Skill of Conc...

Exercise: Learning the Skill of Concentration

  1. Isolate yourself and remove all distractions. Wait until the end of the day so you are finished with (and not distracted by) the day’s obligations. Retire to a quiet room. Make sure you have privacy. Turn off the radio and TV. Sit in a not too comfortable chair in an upright and relaxed position.

  2. Select a simple assignment. An assignment that has proven successful for hundreds of people is to either read, write, or say aloud for five minutes the four word phrase, “I’m gooood at concentration.” Emphasizing “gooood” may not be grammatically correct, but it lends itself to being said with fervor, which is the point of this exercise. Repeating this phrase over and over has double value because it also works as an affirmation. An affirmation is a short, positive statement about ourselves that is phrased in the present tense. Your subconscious adopts affirmations as reality so positive self-talk can shape and improve your self image. By repeating “I’m gooood at concentration,” you’ll be learning how to concentrate and you’ll be developing a belief that you are talented at this skill.

    People have preferred sensory styles. Some people love to read and can spend hours happily engaged in a good book. Other people can express themselves best when they put their thoughts down on paper. Some are verbal and enjoy talking with others. What is your preferred sensory style? If it is reading, then your assignment is to first write the words “I’m gooood at concentration” in large letters, and simply read them over and over again. If you like writing, then write the four word phrase over and over. If you enjoy speaking, then close your eyes (so you are not visually distracted), and repeat out loud with intensity “I’m gooood at concentration. I’m gooood at concentration.”

  3. Set an alarm clock to go off in five minutes. (You don’t want to distract yourself by worrying about how much time has gone by.) Give your mind its assignment, “I’m going to read, write, or say “I’m gooood at concentration” and think about only that for five minutes. Begin!


    Don’t “try” to concentrate. “Trying” to do something (e.g., picking up a pencil) doesn’t get the job done. You either pick up the pencil or you don’t. Likewise, scrunching up your face, furrowing your brow, clenching your jaw, tensing up your neck and shoulders, and telling yourself to concentrate will not produce concentration! Simply start doing your assignment with all your attention and you will be concentrating.

  4. If you think of anything else, practice THOUGHT STOPPAGE and return to your original task with greater intensity. This is a particularly important point. Who controls what is on your mind at any given time? You do! Yet isn’t it true people say things like, “I just can’t stop thinking about…” or “I can’t get my mind off…” Recognize once and for all that you have the power to control what you think about. Thought stoppage can be learned. As soon as you become aware that you are thinking of something other than your chosen project, simply break off in mid-thought, say “NO!” and return to your original project with greater intensity. Read with exaggerated head movements, press down harder as you write, or speak more forcibly so your mind is fully occupied and less likely to wander.

    Be patient and persistent. Getting upset, or scolding yourself for becoming distracted, is in itself a distraction. Telling yourself not to think about something means you’re dwelling on the very thought you don’t want to be thinking about! For example, if you say to yourself, “This sure is a silly exercise,” then get flustered “Oh no, I’m not supposed to think about anything else,” you are straying further from your chosen project. Instead, as soon as you become aware of the intruding thought, simply, say “NO!” and replace it with your original assignment (e.g., “I wonder how much time has gone by…“NO!”…“I’m gooood at concentration, I’m gooood at concentration”).

    Repeat this exercise every night. When you are able to maintain attention on your original task of reading, writing, or saying “I’m gooood at concentration” for five minutes without becoming distracted (this takes most people two to three weeks), then start introducing distractions. Turn on the radio; open your eyes if you are speaking out loud; sit in a room where there are other people. Repeat the exercise with distractions every night until you are able to concentrate for five minutes despite having things compete for your attention. This takes most people another two to three weeks (the length of time required to change an old habit or acquire a new habit). Once you are able to give your mind an order and have it obey despite distractions, you are ready to transfer these skills to the real world.

  5. Practice this exercise with everyday projects. Instead of repeating “I’m gooood at concentration,” rehearse a report you are going to have to give at a staff meeting, or mentally prepare a list of things that need to be done the next day. The key point is to give your mind a specific order with a time deadline, and then to hold your mind to that assignment without allowing yourself to become distracted. A sample assignment might be, “I am going to prepare for tomorrow’s job interview by anticipating what questions might be asked, and by composing answers that will help me win the job. I will think of that only for the next five minutes. “One reason why I am a good candidate for the job is because I’m a self starter. The ad mentioned you were looking for someone who doesn’t need a lot of supervision (Oh no,what if Les is applying for the same job? He has more experience than I do…“NO!”… “One reason is because I’m a self starter. This reference letter from my previous supervisor refers to a project I initiated and produced…).”

    Jim said, “I can’t keep my mind ‘on my mind’ for this long.” EXACTLY! Can you imagine what it would be like not to have the full use of your hands or your legs? Imagine how difficult it would be to function if you didn’t have control of your body. Many people don’t have the full use or control of their minds! Are you the master in your own “house” or are you a slave to your thoughts? Practicing this exercise for the next few weeks is one of the best investments you could ever make for yourself. It can put an end to “mind mutiny” and put you back in charge, where you belong!

    Don’t expect immediate results. There is no magic pill or formula that will give you instant concentration. Learning any skill takes time, and requires persevering through three levels of skill acquisition. Complete this next exercise to gain an insight into the three-stage process you go through to master a new skill.



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