The Power Of Concentration
Throughout the ages, great people have invariably had great concentration. In art and science, business and warfare, literature, politics and philosophy, the real achievements of the race have been due to this power.
Concentration arises chiefly from being deeply interested, and is very closely related to persistency and definiteness of purpose. Concentration is an enemy to self-consciousness and vacillation. It enables a man to do the best that is in him. It is one of the characteristic marks of genius itself.
A timid person is erratic in their habits. They shift constantly from one thing to another, accomplishing nothing worth anything. Is it a book they’re reading?
Soon they turn the pages impatiently, skim lightly over the most important parts, hasten to learn the conclusion, and cast the book aside. Is it a new business venture? They enter upon it enthusiastically, but at the first sign of difficulty lose heart and give up. Every change they make causes a loss of time and energy, so that they are always going but never arriving.
People make their own world. To cultivate concentration they must think and do only one thing at a time. Concentration is the art of continuous and intense application to a task. It is not an abstraction; therefore it cannot be offered as an excuse for carelessness.
Here’s an example: A young man who worked in a bank was assigned to collect a note for $75,000. He received the customer’s check for the amount, had it certified, and returned to the bank.
Upon arriving at the bank, he immediately engaged a fellow worker in conversation, and then was sent out again for another errand. He loitered on the way, and when he returned, the bank had closed and everyone had gone home. That night the young man told his father how he came to have the check still in his pocket.
His father made him call the president of the bank at home, and early next morning the young man handed in the check. The president called him into his office and said: “We don’t require your services any longer.”
Thoroughness is one of the marks of a self-confident person. They do everything they undertake just as well as they can.
If it is a business matter to be discussed, they first inform themselves so completely that they are able to talk with accuracy and intelligence.
If it is a public speech to be delivered, they don’t wait until the day before and then put together a few hastily considered thoughts, but all is carefully and thoroughly prepared long in advance. Such a person speaks little of what they are going to do, but first does it and lets their work speak for itself.
Every person should get an idea of values in their life. There can be no true success where time and talent are squandered. “Every moment lost,” said Napoleon, himself a wonderful example of concentration, “gives an opportunity for misfortune.” The building of a self-confident person requires effort, self-sacrifice, and singleness of purpose.
It is not quantity but quality of work that differentiates one man from another. One thing well and thoroughly done is better than any amount of careless work. The person who is completely absorbed in the present duty has no time for discontent and discouragement. Time does not hang heavily on their hands, for the clock is not their master.
No one can become deeply interested in work that is distasteful to them. Thousands of people struggle up-stream all their lives because they are in a job that doesn’t fit them. An anonymous writer said: “It is a sad parody on life to see a man earning his living by a vocation which has never received his approval.
It is pitiable to see a youth, with the image of power and destiny stamped upon him, trying to support himself in a mean, contemptible occupation, which dwarfs his nature, and makes him despise himself; an occupation which is constantly condemning him, ostracizing him from all that is best and truest in life.
Dig trenches, shovel coal, carry a rod; do anything rather than sacrifice your self-respect, blunt your sense of right and wrong, and shut yourself off forever from the true joy of living, which comes only from the consciousness of doing one’s best.”
In order to cultivate concentration a person must bring their will to bear strongly upon their work and their life. They should realize that every difficulty yields to this power, and that uninterrupted application to one thing will achieve the seemingly impossible. Mental shiftlessness is powerless in the face of difficulty, but a person of strong will and concentration uses obstacles as stepping-stones to higher things.
You need to begin to develop your concentration today in little things. Cultivate the most intense earnestness in whatever you may be doing. Say to yourself: “This one thing I do and I do it to the very best of my ability. My purpose is sure and steady. My aim is accurate and certain. I hold my thought severely and positively to the work in hand. My endeavor is to do better at each succeeding effort. I don’t think about tomorrow, for today demands the best that’s in me.”
“I move quietly but persistently toward a definite goal. I shall be immensely successful through constant, earnest and sincere application to my work and duty. I grow daily in my power of concentrated effort. I am absorbed in all I do.”
A person should concentrate not only in matters of business, but in their reading and recreation. This great power brings with it many other valuable elements, such as order, punctuality, thoroughness, self-respect, and self-reliance. Through concentration a person may aspire to the highest achievements. By its aid there is practically no limit to ambition.
Buskin said that “men’s proper business in this world falls mainly into three divisions: First, to know themselves. Secondly, to be happy in themselves. Thirdly, to mend themselves as far as either are marred or mend able.”
We hear people constantly deploring the fact that they lack concentration, memory, definiteness, and other qualities of excellence, but those same people don’t make the slightest effort to cultivate them. Few persons are born with really great gifts; most of the truly great have achieved greatness.
Napoleon ascribed his greatest victories to his ability to concentrate his forces on a single point in the enemy. Gladstone was remarkable for this same power. When the great statesman died, Lord Eosebery said: “My lords, there are two features of Mr. Gladstone’s intellect which I can not help noting on this occasion, for they were so signal, so salient, and distinguished him so much from all other minds that I have come in contact with, that it would be wanting to this occasion if they were not noted. The first was his enormous power of concentration!”
“There never was a man, I feel, in this world, who, at any given moment, on any given subject, could so devote every resource and power of his intellect, without the restriction of a single nerve within him, to the immediate purpose of that subject.”
The story is told of an English statesman whose powers of concentration were so great that after a great debate in Parliament, they hurried from the House bareheaded, passed his coach at the door, and walked all the way home in a pouring rain. In the highest form of public speaking men become so absorbed in their subject that they lose for the time being all consideration and thought of everything else.
This power is really indispensable to the highest form of extempore address. The great pulpit orators of the world possessed this faculty in preeminent degree. Whitefield, Mirabeau, Wilberforce, Parker, Spurgeon, Beecher, Phillips Brooks, all were men of tremendous earnestness and concentration.
John Bright was so completely absorbed in the subject of a forthcoming speech that they brooded over it day and night, talked it over with his friends, and when no one else was available discussed it with his gardener.
But along with a person’s concentration there must be actual performance. Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler says that “Indefinite absorption without production is fatal both to character and to the highest intellectual power. Do something and be able to do it well; express what you know in some helpful and substantial form; produce, and do not everlastingly feel only and revel in feelings–these are counsels which make for a real education and against that sham form of it which is easily recognized as well-informed incapacity.”
The power of concentration is to be developed so as to enable a person to do better work, to produce the best of which they is capable. It does not mean brooding and meditating, with no thought of action and production. It is to encourage work, not restrain it.
It’s a mistake to think that concentration means a straining of the mind. On the contrary, it is power in repose. It’s not a nervous habit of doing your work under pressure, but the ease of self-control. Every person should have one great ideal in life toward which they direct their best powers.
By constantly keeping that aim before you, by bending your energies to it, you can hope eventually to attain to your highest goals. When a successful financier was asked the secret of his great success, he said that as a young man they made a strong mental picture of what some day he would become.
Day and night he concentrated his powers upon that one goal. There was no feverish haste, no nervous overreaching, and no squandering of mental and physical power, but a strong, reposeful, never-wavering determination to make that picture of his youth a living reality. Such is the power of concentration; such is the secret of success.