Those teachers — the ones you hated, the ones you loved. What they all had in common was that they knew something you didn’t. Who knew?
And what you could have learned could change your life.
Here’s 11 concepts your old teachers all wanted you to learn:
1. A clear environment creates space for the mind.
Give your mind a quiet place.
Remember your teacher telling you to make sure you had a quiet place to do your homework, and to do your work there every day? This is the magic of repetition and place. Over time, with practice, you will start to shift your mind into focus just by walking into or thinking about your concentration spot.
2. Linking pleasure with work creates results.
Create a daily ritual
It could be to make yourself a tea, get a glass of water, or milk and cookies. Play a particular soundtrack, organize your books. By doing the same thing every day before you set about concentrating, you are hacking your body-brain connection and training your mind to associate the ritual with concentration.
3. You can’t focus when your attention is going off in different directions.
Put your phone away, stop going down the internet rabbit hole, checking social media, watching Netflix, or thinking about your ex. If you want to sustain focused attention, you have to eliminate the triggers that fracture it.
4. It’s better with a buddy.
If at first you can’t control distractions, get help
Habit guru James Clear has his assistant lock him out of his social media accounts Monday to Friday by changing his password. He gets the password for the weekend, then BOOM — the assistant resets it on Monday again. If you were allowed to have your phone in class, your teacher probably threatened to take it away. Your parents likely did the same thing with computers, TV or gaming. Call a friend. Make a pact. Hold yourselves accountable. It works!
5. Learning involves all of the senses.
Use sound as a way in
Music connects to emotion and brain waves. Use hemi-sync music, classical baroque, or alpha wave concentration music to set your brain on thought mode. The music will not only help your mind get into the concentration mode, but it will also serve as a trigger to signal it’s time to work.
6. If you want to create, you have to quiet your mind.
Don’t use music with lyrics
If your focused attention involves writing, song lyrics compete for attention in your language processing centres, causing a disturbance in the force. Even when you think you aren’t listening.
7. Attention has a natural cycle — follow it.
Set a time limit
Learning to focus takes time. Sometimes you have to start small, and grow your focus incrementally. This is why most of your lessons were timed for fifteen minutes.
8. If you want to grow, you have to practice.
The key to learning any new skill or habit is sustained, intentional repetition. Daily practice teaches your brain that this level of attention is something you DO.
9. The body fuels the brain.
Eat a good breakfast, get enough sleep, look after your body
Eating well, drinking water are simply feeding your body what it needs to work optimally. If you’re pumped full of sugar, salt, and caffeine, your chances of concentrating go down (for most people). Healthy body, healthy mind.
10. Learning is easier when you laugh and take breaks.
The brain needs rest as much as it needs focus. If you want to make great gains, make sure you include time to laugh, play outside, be with your friends, and imaginary play. And that, my friend, is why we all need recess.
11. Everyone can learn.
There are no limits to what you can learn.
Attention is something you can learn. It’s not a gift or a deficit. It’s a skill that you grow over time, with patience, kindness, and gentle practice, starting from where you are right now.
How to do it:
- Start small. The secret is to set target goals just at the edge of your current ability — not so far beyond that you fail, but not so far in your comfort zone that you don’t grow
- Notice what takes you off. Just notice. You’ll start to see patterns, and slowly you can build systems to protect you from them.
- Make your growth small and steady. Can only concentrate for five minutes? Great. Then set your timer for five minutes, and when you’ve mastered that, set your goal and your timer for six minutes.
- Protect your time fiercely. If you’ve set aside 30 minutes for deep concentrated work, you MUST honour that time. Make sure everyone around you knows what you’re doing, and respects that. If you can’t get a safe quiet space in your house, go to a library. This is all about you.
- Know the you are building neural connections will strengthen over time. In the same way, practicing fractured attention will do the same. Over time, the more you practice concentration and avoid distraction, the stronger your power becomes.
And that’s a beautiful thing.