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    Difficulty of Concentration: Types, Causes and Remedies

    Who I am
    Robert Maurer
    @robertmaurer
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    If I had to make a ranking of the problems that make you poor from a physical and mental point of view, the difficulty of concentration it would probably be at the top.

    In fact, if you are constantly distracted, how can you understand in depth what you do, see, read or have in front of you?

    If you think about something else, how can you put all your energy into something?

    And so there difficulty concentrating it makes you waste a lot of time and makes you half do things, that it is even worse than not doing them at all.



    Yes, because deciding NOT to do something to spend time on social media, Netflix or thinking about your own business, it can also be.

    At least you have fun or rest!

    But trying to do it while constantly checking your email or messages on the phone, looking around or getting up every two by three to do something else, is not only highly unproductive, but also stressful.

    The ideal would therefore be alternate moments of total concentration with moments of leisure / rest equally complete.

    Most people, on the other hand, pass the time in a gray area, in which she is never really fully dedicated and present with respect to what she is doing at that moment.

    And so their mind is never completely free, as if a background noise never leaves it alone.

    Before we see how to get rid of this background noise to really focus on what matters, let's take a small step back.

    Causes of difficulty in concentrating

    The difficulty in concentrating should not be underestimated, because sometimes it hides causes of clinical relevance and it is therefore necessary to consult a specialist: hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, mental and neurological diseases, ADHD (it is the attention deficit / activity disorder; contrary to many think, it can also affect adults).



    Many times it depends instead on unpleasant internal experiences or wrong habits:

    • Stress
    • fatigue
    • Subclinical Forms of Anxiety / Depression
    • Lack of motivation
    • Lack of sleep
    • multitasking
    • Lack of clear priorities

    Still others, it can depend on external causes, more or less combined with internal ones:

    • Noise
    • Interruptions
    • Disorder
    • Dependence on technology

    I am convinced that if you have trouble concentrating, you recognize yourself in more than one of the causes I have just listed.

    But there is a further distinction that I would like you to make, much simpler and in my opinion much more relevant, which brings us back to the gray area I told you about at the beginning.

    Difficulty in existential or situational concentration?

    I remember a movie from the 90's about American football, The Program, in which one of the guys on the team, Alvin Mack, is a real war machine when it comes to remembering game patterns and analyzing matches.

    At school, however, Alvin can't stay more than two minutes focused on anything.

    It's the same thing that many students who follow the GetPersonalGrowth blog tell me: they can't pay attention in class, they get distracted when studying at home, they suddenly lose focus on exams.

    These are problems that can be linked to various reasons, such as:


    • The way the professor explains
    • Their motivation and their interest in what they study
    • The exam anxiety that sometimes causes real cognitive blocks

    However, there is one thing that unites these situations: they are classic cases of difficulty in situational concentration.


    That is, outside of these cases, these guys have no particular problems concentrating.

    But I also have many readers, students and non-students, who talk to me about deeper and more pervasive problems: that is, they not only have difficulty concentrating on some specific aspect of their life, but practically every aspect of it.

    Whether it's work, school, play, relationships, sports, friendships, it doesn't matter: they feel continuously restless, distracted, worried about something else, irritable, mentally absent almost.

    As if they can never be totally attentive and involved in what they do.

    This second type of difficulty in concentrating, which I call existential, can be really frightening and annoying, arriving to damage the entire quality of life and relationships of those who suffer from it.

    The question you have to ask yourself, then, if you are having a hard time concentrating is:

    “When, exactly, am I unable to concentrate? Do I have a problem related to specific situations or is it more a general problem? "

    How to overcome the difficulty of concentration 

    As for how to find concentration in specific situations, go to this article where you can find many ideas and solutions.


    From doing operations with the mind to counting words, from listening to your heartbeat to aiming at objects around you as if they were targets.

    These are tricks and rituals that will not revolutionize your psyche but they will certainly help you to give you an extra bit of focus when you need it.

    Here instead I want to focus on how address the lack of existential focus.

    Not only does it, as we have seen, pervade the whole day, but it happens completely against our will: that is, we would like to concentrate and be mentally present, but we just can't do it.


    Which inevitably causes us to feel guilty and frustrated.

    At that point a perfect storm breaks loose: the cognitive problem (difficulty concentrating) adds to that emotional (guilt and frustration) and the two feed each other back.

    So your results worsen, your stress increases, you find it even harder to concentrate, you feel even more guilty and frustrated, and so on, in a vicious circle that gives anxiety just to read it.

    To break it I propose three strategies:

    # 1 Go Minimalist

    Many may not like it, especially those in love with the cliché genius and recklessness.

    Ma order, cleanliness, essentiality, are essential to regain your attention.

    All that is superfluous, from whatever point of view, it causes in our lives a background noise which eventually grows to be intolerable.

    It starts then from place where you work or study:

    • Keep your desk neatly tidy, with only the essentials on it
    • Make the environment quiet
    • Use adequate lighting
    • Fix everything every time you finish work

    Use the tech, but don't make it an obsession, filler, or thought-squasher:

    • Keep your phone off or silent as much as possible
    • Check your mail only at set times
    • Avoid social media as much as you can
    • Disconnect from your computer whenever it's not really necessary
    • Read my article on digital minimalism

    Extend minimalism to other key aspects of life:

    • Focus on the things you enjoy doing
    • Cut out toxic or facade relationships
    • Spend and buy less

    In this way, from the background noise, only the most important things will emerge slowly and it will be easier for you to focus on them.

    # 2 Learn to dialogue with your mind

    When you have little clarity about your goals and lack motivation, difficulty concentrating is just one of the many problems you have to face.

    Sadness, irritability, boredom, depression, hit hard all those who have not yet found what the Japanese call "Ikigai": the reason for getting up in the morning.

    In my article on the desire to study I suggest an exercise that helps you to make the necessary clarity in your thoughts and which basically consists in sitting down to really converse with yourself.

    You see, when you are unmotivated and lack clear goals, in the long run your brain goes into total confusion: it fills with doubts, ruminates continuously, thoughts follow the mood of the day and the moment branching off into a thousand dead ends.

    To stop this mental work and clarify you must, periodically (every 6 months in my opinion is excellent), take a pen and paper and think in writing about your life and your choices. 

    Once you've written everything, absolutely everything, analyze things from a time perspective, asking yourself:

    • The original reasons why you made your choices (PAST)
    • How do you find yourself now that you are living them (HERE I'M)
    • Where will they take you and what alternatives do you have (FUTURE)

    Spesso we live with automatic pilot on, even for years and years: it is comfortable, but it may be that the path it is taking us is no longer what we wanted.

    When you talk to your mind, it is as if you take the commands back in your hand, to decide whether to change course or not.

    There are people who, after analyzing things in this way, they give up university or work and start doing something else, because the exercise has made them realize that they are now on the wrong path.

    And others that, instead, they continue in what they are doing because they exercise he reaffirmed their choices.

    In both cases, the newfound clarity allows you to rediscover focus and serenity.

    # 3 Meditation and mindfulness

    Meditation lowers blood pressure, improves brain plasticity, stimulates the immune system, reduces stress and anxiety, and of course, fights the difficulty of concentration.

    There is indeed a particular type of meditation, la mindfulness, which seems almost created specifically for this problem.

    In fact, it focuses on bringing the attention of those who practice it towards the present moment, here and now.

    This does not mean that to be concentrated you must always be in a meditative state, on the contrary, meditation excludes focusing on specific problems / thoughts.

    However, training your mind to the experience of meditation and / or mindfulness allows you to better manage your emotions and your attention. in all your daily activities.

    To have results, there is no need to meditate for hours a day or to do so in the context of some specific doctrinal system.

    Look for the path that best suits you, perhaps starting from the list of books recommended by this psychologist. 

    Finally, one last piece of advice.

    Sometimes, as we have seen, the difficulty of concentration it takes really annoying forms: intrusive thoughts, agitation, inconclusiveness, cerebral rumination.

    In this case, do not underestimate it, fight it and find your focus and your serenity.

    Other times it is positive: when you daydream, when you follow the thread of new and surprising thoughts, when you explore the divergent side of your mind.

    In these cases, do not be afraid and indeed, embrace it with all your strength.

    Letting thoughts wander is one of the privileges of the human species, why deny it completely?

    Greetings and see you soon, Anthony.

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