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This Single Habit That Will Keep You Successful in the 21st Century

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I am always curious what separates the successful vs. everyone else. My thought was if I could learn from how they think, model their behaviors, adopt their habits, I would eventually produce the same results they produced.

Because after all, they are no different than me, right? They may have an amazing network and a lot of money, but we all have the same mind. So, I figured studying them would help alter my thinking for the results I wanted in my life.

As I continued to study successful people that I know personally, people who have lived in the past, and others that I am sure you’ve seen on TV, I quickly realized the separation between those who accomplish their goal vs. those who don’t. Two words: controlled attention. Some people may also call this focus or concentration. To some, this may seem like an elusive attribute to create an abundant amount of success in life, but I’ve found that nearly every successful person has this unique quality.

Andrew Carnegie, the American industrialist, considered one of the wealthiest Americans in history, attributes his success to this very attribute. As the son of a migrant, he worked many odd jobs and eventually built one of the most successful business empires of all time.

In fact, it’s been said that government officials thought something was fishy because of how quickly he accumulated his wealth. So the US Senate commissioned Andrew Carnegie for questioning. As officials questioned him, Carnegie revealed his simple secret. Carnegie said, “I can keep my mind focused on something for five minutes at a stretch.” Carnegie had mastered the ability to keep his mind focused and attentive to start and complete a task in its entirety without distraction.

This simple but profound answer makes sense. I mean, after all, if you can’t focus your thoughts on a desired outcome, then nothing can progress in life – whether it be in your health, productivity, or wealth.

In an article published on the Napoleon Hill Foundation website, Dr. Angel L. Rivera writes that controlled attention is defined as “the act of coordinating all the faculties of the mind and directing their combined power to a definite end; an act that can only be achieved by the strictest form of self-discipline.” In addition, he writes that effective concentration “requires that the attention be focused, fully controlled and directed toward a definite end.”

Whether it be starting and finishing a task, giving your undivided attention to another person while in conversation, or even something as simple as sticking with one idea until completion – this is a quality that all successful people have adopted.

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs

Now you may be asking yourself how I can develop my attention, focus, and concentration? With all the pings, social media wormholes, and demands in life, it almost seems like focus is the last thing our current society fosters. Not to mention our mind wanders nearly 50% of our day, according to a recent Harvard study! So the odds are definitely stacked up against us.

If you don’t feel like you have this attribute now, or you feel like you need more of it to get your goals and tasks completed, stick with me! New science concludes that focus and concentration are skills that can be learned!

In Dr. Amishi Jha’s book titled, Peak Mind, she discusses that by investing just 12 minutes a day, five days a week, you can increase your attention and working memory through a simple mindfulness exercise. So, for a small investment of your time, you can reap an enormous award in just about every area of your life. Now, if you are looking for a few other tricks to keep your focus, here are some:

1. Eliminate Distractions

Before starting any task, you have to set up your environment for success to lessen the likelihood of distractions. This could be putting all your devices on Do Not Disturb, putting your phone in another room, or waking up early before anyone else is up to get a task done. Personally, I have to put my phone in another room sometimes because I will unconsciously pick it up and start scrolling on social media, which ultimately distracts me from the task at hand. Clearing your space to free up distractions is a great way to pave your path to success!

2. Take Short Breaks

Working for an extended period of time can deter our concentration. An excellent way to alleviate this problem is by taking short breaks. I typically work for about 30 minutes with no distractions and then take a short break for 5 min. Whether it be getting a snack or looking outside the window – this gives my brain time to recuperate. After the break is over and I get back to work, I’m refreshed relaxed, and my focus seems to increase.

3. Exercise

Many of us attribute the benefits of exercise to our physical bodies. However, there’s a ton of research on how regular exercise can actually improve our overall mental health – which includes our focus and productivity. Whenever I have a challenging task that requires my full undivided attention, I typically always schedule my task right after my exercise routine! This simple trick has accelerated the productivity of all my tasks and goals.

Chazz Scott is a mindset & resilience expert. He trains leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals to "unlock their inner wealth" to achieve their potential professionally and personally. Chazz is also the Executive Director & Chief Creative Optimist of Positively Caviar, Inc., a grassroots 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on building mental resilience through positive thinking and optimism to combat mental health stigmas in youth. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area. For more info, check out his weekly blog at www.chazzscott.com or download his latest free workbook to learn how to set better goals and build effective habits: download here.

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