It’s the mid 1980’s and it’s the NBA final, and one simple action can make all the difference. Put the ball through the hoop. The legendary Larry Bird steps up to the line, and shoots…
It’s the middle of the night, October 22nd 1879. Weird light can be seen coming from a dark room, and strange smells fill the air. Thomas Edison is hard at work. He has just remembered fishing with a bamboo pole, years back, and the fibers he remembers examining have just perfected his latest invention – a light bulb that lasts 1,200 hours. Eureka!
These two examples illustrate one thing: The power of concentration.
One of the key differences between highly successful versus unsuccessful people is how they think, their ability to summon the power to focus at will, even after a grueling match, or fourteen hours of hard work. Peak performance might happen for the average people from time to time, if they are lucky, but why do peak performers seem to have unlimited reserves of concentration?
The short answer is: They had the right training, and they have the right thinking.
A good way to illustrate the power of concentration, or focus, is to think of the way the eye works. Ciliary muscles are connected in a ring around the lens of the eye. When these fine muscles contract, the lens changes shape, allowing light to focus sharply on receptor nerves at the back of the eyeball. If something goes wrong with this system, we can’t focus properly, and everything looks blurred and fuzzy.
It’s the same with mental focus. Often our concentration is interrupted, slack, or pulled in conflicting directions (multitasking), and we’re unable to perform at our peak levels. The mind typically wants to delete, distort, and generalize information. The mind wanders, or the focus is split, and the outcome is poor performance, fuzzy thinking, or missing the target.
Our ability to focus our minds can be improved, though, no matter how much we indulge the tendency to day dream or let the mind wander. In this way, the mind is very much like the fine muscles of the eye, and with practice, coaching and guidance, the mind can be trained to operate at peak levels for longer.
The benefits of better concentration include:
- Better studying ability and enhanced memory retention
- Increased creativity levels, and access to subconscious resources
- Improved critical thinking ability
- Increased physical ability and hand-eye coordination
- Better mood management
Here are a few strategies peak performers practice daily to boost concentration:
Start a mental exercise program. Just like physical exercise, weak mental muscles will need to be built up gradually and consistently. Start small, work hard, play smart, and gain strength. Remember, repetition is the mother of skill!
Become more aware (mindful) of distractions. Keep a journal, notebook, use an app such as Evernote, or make a mental note every time you notice that you’ve lost the thread of what you were intending to do or think about.
Memorize lists. This is a great way to enhance focus. Memorize grocery lists, action items you are committed to, phone numbers, or pieces of writing that inspire you. Choose something useful and fun instead of pointless and boring.
Meditate. Another good way to strengthen and balance the mind is to be intentional, set aside 20 minutes a day to focus, practice breathing exercises, or meditation. Benefits include emotional mastery, clarity of mind and purpose, better focus and healthier states of mind.
Get a peak performance coach. Just like any training, concentration can be greatly strengthened by choosing a competent and knowledgeable coach to help guide and motivate you. A coach guides you to close the gap from where you are to the outcomes and dreams you set for abundant living and peak performance. Check out the resources on this website.
An interesting article on multitasking from the New York Times.
A Harvard Medical study on how exercise improves concentration.
Dr. Mario Garcia Feb 2015
Peak Performance Strategist & Coach
Certified Mental Game Coaching Professional