Thursday, 6 March 2014

Concentration is a key Mind Skill

It's King of the mind skills !

Make no mistake. You ain't nothing without it ! You couldn't even understand this text or sentence. Concentration is fundamental to all explicit learning (implicit or unconscious learning I will talk about on another day).

Concentration is a skill. Good news ! Skills can be improved. You can improve your powers of concentration. You would surprise yourself by how much ! Over time with training and practice you can strengthen and expand those brain circuits involved with attention and focus.

Information capture starts with your focusing

All external information enters your brain via the senses (in the form of energy - light, sound, heat, vibration etc.). This information must be captured if any learning and understanding is to happen.

So .. to capture this information you must pay attention. You must carefully focus on your watching, listening, reading or performing. You must focus on keeping your thoughts free of distractions. Personal thoughts and worries kept in abeyance - to be  addressed at a later time. Give yourself the best chance to fully understand and master. Try to connect the new material with existing knowledge. (later I will talk about working memory and cognitive capacity)

The learning and performance process

Before any learning takes place the concentration effort must be engaged - so that the new information is first captured. As you absorb the new material it becomes connected or associated with existing knowledge that is immediately and directly relevant to the topic. Later, these associations further connect to your understandings of other similar areas. Sometimes the general ideas from you specific knowledge can be used in a completely different area (enhancing your problem solving ability and creativity)

Knowledge and experience build wisdom

The more your enrich your knowledge database the better you will be able to find solutions to problems, become innovative and creative. Over time generalized circuits form in the brain which allow for intellectual intuition and wisdom. Know immediately what to do without thinking. Get that "gut feeling" that all is not right. Making the best decisions when you have nothing to base you decision on. None of this is possible unless your concentration was first applied !

Focusing needs energy

A clear and fresh mind is important if your concentration effort is to function effectively. If you are tired then you learning is less efficient.

A noisy study or learning situation means the brain has to use some energy to shut out or suppress the distractions. This leaves less energy available for the learning process. Learn in a quiet environment ! That means no music or smartphones or whatever.

Brain training

I usually spent two entire day when I ran my Concentration course. But today I only touched on a small number of factors that I hope will help you. (even though we cannot be face to face for the day !)

Here are two sample exercises taken from my brain training program. The Naughts and Crosses work well in class.

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