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Notoriously forgetful goldfish have an attention span of about 9 seconds. That´s not surprising right? How big could their brains be? Amazingly though, a recent study by Microsoft Corp. now shows that the human race´s attention span is even worse than that of a goldfish, performing at around 8 seconds. This is down from a previous measure of 12 seconds which means our attention spans are getting collectively shorter, mainly due to our increasingly digitalized lifestyle in the mobile age. On the bright side, our multitasking capabilities continue to improve.

Our society is constantly reinforcing this fast-paced low attention-span lifestyle with new and improved ways to entice us. TV ads now change shots every three seconds to keep you engaged. Clothing stores like Zara update their collections not twice a season but twice a WEEK! This gives us a sense of urgency and the expectation of the immediacy in everything we do. We tell ourselves: You should buy that shirt now, it won´t be there when you come back.

We also have social media feeds with new posts happening every second which are just moving farther and farther down the activity stream as the clock ticks on. We tell ourselves: If you don´t check in every so often, you might miss out on something important.

This may perhaps be contributor to our growing level of impatience, our ¨need for speed¨, and ¨Get-rich-quick¨ mentality. Our modern age seems to provoke an endless search for the magic formula which gets us the most of what we want for the least amount of effort, instilling a quick fix mindset.

It´s incredible how much our mindset, the way we view things and our outlook on life, affects not only the quality of our interactions and our relationships but also our ability to learn and retain information and, in the end, our general level of happiness.

In Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D´s book Mindset she describes two types of mindsets:

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting (or proving) their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

She also says that the key to instilling a growth mindset in children is teaching them that their brains are like muscles that can be strengthened through hard work and persistence.

Which mindset are you? https://mindsetonline.com/testyourmindset/step1.php

 

Similarly, in a recent article in Forbes, Nate Kornell (associate professor of cognitive psychology at Williams College), finds it strange that most people understand that exercise is “no-pain no-gain” but when it comes to learning something new people tend to look for the easy way out. The secret to learning, he says, is actually making it harder. The more you have to think about something, make guesses, the more you study and test yourself, the more effort you put in, the better and more quickly you learn.

Julia Cameron, renowned author of The Artist´s Way, also explores how perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and how it blocks our opportunities for learning. She explains how perfectionism is the ego telling us that we must have instantaneous success and how, many times, a perfectionist will opt not even to attempt something if they are not certain they will do it well.

Sustained Effort + Over Time = Success

  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. Colin Powell
  • If you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning, and if you aren’t learning, you aren’t improving. Janelle Maiocco
  • You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. Richard Branson

Movements have been popping up everywhere to counteract this fast-paced, impatient, no-effort-for-immediate-results mentality, such as Slow Living, Mindfulness or practicing gratitude.

Slow Living is about taking a step back and enjoying life at a relaxed or leisurely pace being conscious of the information you receive form your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch). Our addiction to speed, spokesperson Carl Honoré warns, is undermining our personal relationships, our societal civility, our individual fulfillment, and physical health. It’s about living one’s values and giving out time and attention accordingly. It can mean everything from seeking out complementary and alternative therapies to working and living on less (money or resources), to having time away from technology, cooking with care and truly savoring your meals.

 

Mindfulness is the psychological process of focusing on the internal and external experiences happening at the present moment. This can be achieved through mediation or other training. Mindfulness helps you to learn how to respond to a situation instead of just reacting. Reacting is sporadic and emotional whereas responding is more thoughtful and contains more reasoning.

Meditating is defined as engaging in reflection (taking the time to think) or engaging in mental exercise (such as just sitting and breathing) and there are many scientific studies which document the positive effects this has on the actual structure of the brain.

According to a recent Harvard Study, meditation has a powerful impact upon regions of the brain associated with stress, empathy and sense of self. In just 8 weeks, they observed a thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration.

They also observed increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.

 

People who practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.

 

 

In short, there are no magic formulas to get you ahead, talent is nothing without effort and your happiness depends on your ability to slow down, appreciate the world around you and take the time to really get know yourself in order to learn, grow and enjoy quality relationships and experiences.

You must be humble to learn. You must be open to being a beginner and willing to laugh at yourself. You have to be willing to put in all the necessary time and effort and be unafraid of making mistakes or failing altogether. And above all, you must learn how to enjoy the process instead of running impatiently towards the end result.

 

Vocabulary

Attention Span (noun) the length of time during which someone is able to think about or remain interested in something

On the bright side (expression) used to refer to the good part of something that is mostly bad

Entice (verb) to attract (someone) especially by offering or showing something that is appealing, interesting, etc.

Engaged (verb) To be busy with some activity, interested or connected.

Social Media Feeds A list of updates (news, content etc.) on social media sites like Facebook,Twitter, Instagram etc.

Activity Stream (noun) a list of recent activities performed by an individual, typically on a single website. For example, Facebook’s News Feed is an activity stream.

Get-rich-quick (adjective)designed or concerned with making a lot of money fast.

To instill (verb) to gradually cause someone to have (an attitude, feeling, etc.)

Quick Fix (noun) an easy remedy or solution, especially a temporary one which fails to address underlying problems.

Mindset (noun) an attitude, disposition, or mood.

No pain, no gain (expression) suffering is necessary in order to achieve something.

The easy way out (expression) To look for what is easiest in a difficult situation

To pop up (verb) To appear in usually a sudden or unexpected way

To Meditate (verb) To engage in contemplation or reflection or engage in mental exercise

Spokesperson (noun) a man or woman who speaks for or represents someone or something

To get ahead to become more successful

Humble (adjective)not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people

Altogether (adverb) completely; totally.

 

Resources:

http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/

http://fortune.com/2016/10/12/to-learn-more-get-uncomfortable/

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-zara-is-changing-fashion-forever-2012-11

https://qz.com/587811/stanford-professor-who-pioneered-praising-effort-sees-false-praise-everywhere/

http://juliacameronlive.com/2016/04/23/perfectionism-is-the-egos-wicked-demand/

https://lithe.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/sustained-effort-over-time/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#e39446b14658

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/powerful-habits-truly-happy-people-dr-travis-bradberry