Thursday, 11 August 2011

Don't try harder, try differently

If at first you don't succeed try, try and try again, goes the old adage - but doing the same old thing often yields the same old results and what is really needed is to try differently.

The same goes for concentration. Can you improve concentration by trying harder, or is trying differently what you need to do?

Often what we have to do doesn't really interest us; we find it boring and when we're bored our minds wander and we lack concentration. So on those occasions, what can we do differently? The answer lies in finding a way to create interest by sticking with it long enough to create context and points of reference that relates to something that will tweak our imagination and stimulate us to take the next step.

What we also know is that trying differently can create a change in the way the brain functions, and this could actually make it easier to concentrate. Even allowing for all the variables - personality, temperament, intelligence, age, etc. - you can change your brain's function by the way you behave, and your behaviour by the way your brain functions. "That's what learning is," says Professor Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory of Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Anything that changes behaviour changes the brain."

The suggestion here is that if you want to improve your concentration, try differently: change what you do and how you do it. Think about taking a different approach, one that allows your brain to engage, respond and make connections in a different way - the difference could just be turning off external distractions, focusing for five minutes longer than you usually give yourself, or not multi-tasking - but whatever the difference, see what a difference it could make to your ability to concentrate.

So don't try harder, try differently.