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18749506 How to Concentrate

18749506 How to Concentrate

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Match: any search words all searchwordsHome-Antiques Digest
How To Concentrate
( Originally Published 1930 )
"Concentration is the Most Important Intellectual Habit of Man."Not one person in ten thousand can really concentrate. Somerealize that they do not know how—others drift along the line of least resistance and let their minds vegetate, apparently neversuspecting their weakness or realizing that they are an utterfailure at concentration. To Cori-centre—bringing all your mentalforce and faculties to bear steadily on a given center with-outdeviation from that exact point—whipping into line all wanderingfancies—stray ideas or thoughts that go off on a tangent—to holdsteadily all your power on the central thing under considerationwithout an instant of wavering—that is Concentration.This ONE THING I DoA difficult thing to do, and very few minds can do it. St. Paul givesus the shortest definition of concentration on record when he says," This one thing I do," short, but tremendously significant. AnotherBible definition is excellent: " Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,do it with thy might." Some men work that way, intense fellows--brilliant professional men—big business men—executives—leadersin the world of finance—science—invention—literature—education—it matters notwhat kind of work, the point is that when these men pitch hay,they pitch hay —when they write a book, they write a book—whenthey manage a sales campaign, they man-age a sales campaign.That one thing they do at that one time, and nothing else, andevery ounce they have goes into the doing. But back of all this hasbeen a lot of mental discipline, a lot of habit-forming, a lot of brain-building. Let us consider some of the steps by which theyhave climbed. To the ambitious student, I offer five practical aidsto concentration, planned to meet the needs of one who wishes tobuild from the ground up. We must assume as prerequisites,interest and attention, which have already been discussed.AIDS TO CONCENTRATIONThese aids will do more than help you to follow a memory course;they deal with your daily work. Concentration applies to all theactivities of life. It should be established as a life habit. To all whothink, I bring this message, Think it with thy might. Make abusiness of doing one thing at a time with all your soul.Chesterfield was right when he said, " There is time enough foreverything in the course of a day if we do but one thing at a time,
 
but there is not time enough in a year if we try to do two things ata time."PERIODICAL RELAXATIONIt may seem paradoxical that the first aid to better concentrationrefers to relaxation. But I have observed that some of the mostintense intellects fail in their concentration because they neverrelax. Failure to let go between efforts is their chief stumblingblock. They keep them-selves tense, nervous, " keyed-up " all thetime, even when there is no need for it, thereby wasting nervousenergy. They find it very difficult to " let go "—to relieve the high-tension by a little natural, wholesome relaxation. Possibly they feellike the Irishman who was trapped on the fourth floor of a burningbuilding. He fought his way to the window but was afraid to jump.The flames drove him on until he was hanging to the window ledgewith his hands. His friends, in the street below, seeing the wallswere about to fall, kept shouting at him to " let go." Finally, hegrowled back at them between set teeth—" How kin I let go whenit's all I can do to hang on? " But we must learn to let go—to relaxcompletely—before each period of in-tense concentration. Here isthe working principle: Relaxation precedes perfect concentration. Adelightful illustration of this point is given by Elizabeth Towne.Six puppies were playing in the barn. The barn door was closedand with the world shut out, they were giving themselves upcompletely to the; spirit of play. Two of them were staging a mockbattle over a feather, while the others were rolling over and overin the loose straw on the barn floor in utter enjoyment.Suddenly the barn door softly creaked. 'Instantly every puppycame to attention; heads up —tails up—bodies rigid—bright eyesfixed in intense concentration on that door, as it slowly swungopen. A moment before they had been in a state of completerelaxation. Now, they offered a perfect example of concentrationas they stood at attention, waiting and watching for the unknowndanger that Might be coming from the other. Side of the barndoor.All great mental achievement has been preceded by periods of absolute rest or relaxtion! During.this time fatigue disappears thenervous forces. recuperate and the minds-stores up fresh energyaxed establishes a reserve to draw upon during" the hours of intense concentration demanded by the. big task high lies mustahead.Very often this preparation period of relaxation determines. thesuccess or failure of the uder taking.-Herbert -Spencer, oncemade, a speech on.," The Gospel "of Relaxation will, which hepointed ,out that continual tress and strain high tension withoutperiods relaxation were responsible for much chronic fatigue andmany a nervous breakdown. is far better to indulge. It in anvoluntary let down than: to Offer an involuntary breakdown,Different .people take their relaxation best in different ways, but,whether in complete rest, of play or wholesome laughter, it mustcome before any sustained effort of concentration. Nature itself requires cycles of growth and rest. Take your breathing spellbefore the battle.
 
MENTAL FREEDOMThe next step is to free the mind. Nothing is of greater aid toconcentration. In fact, unless you are able to do this,concentration is impossible. When. harassed by the three devils,hurry, worry, and f ear, the mind never has a fair chance to centeron anything. " Worry generates a poison at the roots of memory."But in your period of relaxation, you have an excellent opportunityto free the mind—now is your chance to eliminate all mentalhandicaps and get ready for the race. Not only hurry, worry, andfear must be thrown overboard, but anything and everything thattroubles you and disturbs your serenity and your peace of mind.Out they go ! You should not indulge in day-dreaming, either, ormental drifting. Clear the mental horizon; give yourself a cleanslate to write upon when your hour of concentration comes. Andwhen it comes, if you have availed yourself of these first two aids Ihave given, you will be, possessed of that rare thing, mental poise.THE PROPER ENVIRONMENTIn order to keep it, utilize the third aid: right conditions. Now, it istrue that a trained mind can concentrate under any conditions—inthe roar and din of .crowded cities or the busy hum of traffic—inthe midst of telephone calls or a thousand and one otherinterruptions. Some men can concentrate on a mental problemwhile walking down a Chicago street and never hear the roar of the elevated or see the hurrying throngs. I have seen men writeon a crowded street car perfectly oblivious to the people aboutthem, not even hearing their own stations when called. But thesemen were already masters of concentration, and I am addressingmy remarks to those who have not yet learned how toconcentrate. Therefore, it is only a matter of common-sense tomake conditions as favorable as possible. Give your mind a fairchance. Concentration is difficult enough, even under the bestconditions. I would suggest that you seek a quiet place free fromall distractions (and noise is a terrible distractor), a place free fromall interruptions which may break your train of thought (and atelephone is a terrible interruptor), a place where you can bealone, free from all outside influences (and a friend who " mustdrops in " is a terrible outside influence), and a place of pleasingenvironment, beautiful or otherwise, where the atmosphere isright for you. I mean atmosphere in its fuller sense, although anabundance of sweet, fresh air is necessary. A well-poised mind cancreate its own atmosphere which inspires the individual, puts himat his best, is strongly conducive to good mental work, and hasmuch to do with his success in concentrating. Not alone for thebeginner, but I may safely say for the majority, is this true. Infact, some of our greatest creative thinkers absolutely insist onright conditions and the right kind of a place in which to producetheir master-pieces. True, good books have been written inmail—great poems written in the trenches—masterly speechesconceived on an express train. But in every case there was adegree of concentration strong enough to rise triumphant abovethe environment.

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