Concentration is the ability of an individual to direct his entire attention to a particular task or object, without being affected by the numerous external forces trying to divert his attention. There is a belief that concentration isn't as much about paying attention to one thing, as it is about choosing to ignore everything else. It is more about the ability to give your undivided attention to a particular thing.
Our mind processes an approximate of 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day. That's near about 69.44 thoughts a minute. So when we talk about concentrating, we're not talking some silly number! We're actually talking about a good 70 thoughts a minute. Our mind actually processes and then picks one out of those thoughts and we deem it important enough to pay attention to, while ignoring the other 68 or 69 thoughts!
Exhausting, in my opinion. But for the brain, it's all in a day's work!
Where does concentration begin?
• As far as the brain is concerned, concentration is thought to begin in the frontal lobe of the brain. This process begins from infancy and continues till the day we die.
• Unlike focus, which involves being aware of something in general, concentration is all about isolating a particular task or situation or object and paying attention only towards it.
• Concentration involves paying attention, recognising the object of attention and understanding the object of attention as well. You don't simply look or think. It is a combined process of various cognitive functions coming together and in a way, dissecting the task or object at hand.
Concentration can be developed and paid at different levels. So there is scope for growth in the level of concentration. It's like peeling away the layers, to reach the core of something. It takes a little bit more concentration to peel away each additional layer, till we finally get to the very crux.
Let us now understand why there is a need to concentrate on something and what all other benefits it yields. In the end we shall take a look at some methods to build better concentration.
Need to Concentrate
• To get things done. To complete tasks.
• To stay on track with our work.
• To be able to understand every aspect of our work.
• To complete our work to the best of our abilities
When we concentrate, we put our entire mental prowess into understanding something, which in turn helps us analyse and solve problems in a better way. That is why when we try to solve mathematical problems, we need a little more concentration than usual. Our mind has to work that little bit harder to analyse and solve the problem at hand.
We all have the ability to concentrate some of the time. But at other times our thoughts are scattered, and our minds race from one thing to another. To deal with such times, we need to learn and practice concentration skills and strategies.
To concentrate, we have to learn a skill, and as with any skill this means practice repeated day after day until we achieve enough improvement to feel that we can concentrate when we need to. If you remember, I once spoke of the mind and the thoughts. Explaining the mind as a rock and the thoughts as flowing water. The more the thoughts hit the mind, the deeper the lines that fall. With concentration, we are doing something like that. We are constantly hitting the mind with a single thought or a single stream of thoughts, which ultimately have a lasting impact.
When we concentrate, the brain tends to get exhausted and very soon, it is too tired to stay on track any more. At such times, we realise the importance of expanding our horizons and concentrating more.
Let us now look at some techniques to concentrate better.
1. Pause and Notice
Every time you try to concentrate on something, you inevitably find your mind wandering to various related aspects. This is not really productive. At that juncture you need to pause and take note. What did you start with? Are you still on the same subject? If you have swayed even a little bit, then come back to the real thing.
2. Set aside some worry time
When we concentrate, one of the chief problems we face is worry. We tend to worry. The worry may be random. It may have absolutely no relation to the point. But that will not stop your mind from worrying.
So, rip the issue out from the root. Just simply set aside a fixed amount of time for worrying. So if you are working 12 hours, keep an hour in between to take a break and plainly worry. Worry your heart out!
And then stop worrying.
3. Have a fixed position of seating
As weird as this sounds, concentration has a whole lot to do with physical movement too. You keep moving around; you won't be able to concentrate. You will feel tired or sometimes your mind will begin wandering.
So you need to stop wandering and sit down when you are doing something.
4. Find a silent place
When the work is important, the place where you work becomes even more important. Find a place with the least amount of distractions. Ensure you don't have too many people around you who can snatch your attention away.
Libraries, empty rooms, classrooms, corner offices (we all want one!), work best for this.
5. Take a break
You need a break from concentrating too. The mind tires out and what happens after that is not concentration. It's a waste of time and energy. Whatever happens, don't try to force your mind to keep concentrating. Give it some break. Sleep a little or even just divert your attention for a while.
Concentrating is more about a choice. If you've committed to do it, just do it. So, first commit and you will find it happening.