How to Improve Concentration with CIT (And get everything you ever wanted)
The giants of the race have been men and women of concentration, who have struck sledge-hammer blows in one place until they have accomplished their purpose. The successful men and women of today are of one overmastering idea, one unwavering aim, men of single and intense purpose. — Orison Swett Marden
For most of my life, I struggled with concentration. Somehow no matter how hard I tried I got distracted. Getting my dream body, my dream life, and my dream career seemed impossible.
Then I discovered why I had such a hard time concentrating. Each time I would concentrate on something, I would get impulses and distractions that would shift my attention to something else and make me fail. See if you can identify with any of these things:
- I wanted to be lean — and eat fast food and be sedentary
- I wanted to be successful — and play video games all day
- I wanted to be great at guitar—and not practice a lot
It's completely normal for us to have opposite impulses, everyone does. The problem I had was I couldn't choose which impulse to respond to. I was constantly being thrown back and forth between opposing drives and not being able to concentrate at anything.
Has this been happening to you?
- Do you find yourself starting to study and somehow end up on facebook?
- Do you start working on a project only to forget about it shortly after?
- Do you eat really clean for a few days and then undo all your efforts?
- Do you exercise for a few days then decide to skip the gym because you don't feel like it?
What has allowed me to finally put both hands on the steering wheel and go in the direction I wanted was Concentration Improvement Training (CIT)
What is Concentration Improvement Training?
If you have competing drives within you, then the key to success is choosing the drive that gets you where you want.
Imagine if you only acted on the drive to eat healthy, exercise, study, and work hard. Your life would be transformed within weeks.
The best and surest way to achieve this is by strengthening your concentration muscles. This is your ability to focus and choose what to respond to, when, and how.
Practice is key
This is a technique that I learned from Be Excellent at Anything by Tony Schwartz and reminded by it in this interview on Impulse Control with Sebastian Marshall. These principles are used by almost all the top performers in every field.
A Typical Practice Session (Explanation after)
- Sit in a comfortable chair
- Place a pen and paper within arms reach
- Clock in into your spreadsheet tracker - or use your own timer (explained below)
- Close your eyes and focus completely on actively and deliberately breathing
- Count each inhale and exhale (Inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3.. etc) until you reach 20 and then reset back to 1
- Important part - As thoughts come into your mind (Distractions) acknowledge them, accept them, and write them down.
- Then go back to counting your breaths
For your first concentration improvement training session aim to do 1 minute. If you feel like doing more, you can keep going. The critical thing is to start.
Concentration Improvement Spreadsheet
In creating new habits for myself and others I have found it an absolute must to track your progress. Tracking each session will take an extra 15 seconds of work but will increase your probability of becoming awesome at concentration by 1000%.
I've created a Concentration Improvement template for you to use. I'll walk you through a session which I strongly urge you to do right now.
- Go to a new row under Date
- Press CMD + ; (CTRL + ; windows)
- This will insert today's date
- Go to the cell next to it (Start Time)
- Press CMD + SHIFT + ;
- This will insert the current time
- Close your eyes and start counting your breaths. Do at least 3x20 cycles.
- Write down any distractions you get, then go back to breathing
- When you're finished go to the cell (End Time)
- Press CMD + SHIFT + ;
You've just finished your first Concentration Improvement Training Session and are on your way to becoming a concentration champion!
The Final Step
Go back to your spreadsheet and fill in the "I will practice everyday at..." time. This is critical to transform this into a lifelong habit and transform yourself in the process.
What are your favorite distractions and excuses for not concentrating?
Let's keep the conversation going in the comments below.