Performance File: Focusing on Concentration - Concentration Skills and
Author: Dr. Jacques Dallaire
Info: This Performance File is a condensed snapshot of information that Dr. Jacques has distilled from his 40+ years of high-performance research, which is now available in full in his new book: Performance Thinking. Details below!
Performance Thinking addresses two basic but profoundly important questions:
• How do I mentally sabotage my own performance?
• How can I learn not to?
This interactive book provides a simple but powerful framework of
mental “Rules” that you can use to understand clearly how the way that
you think - directly and indirectly - influences how you perform. The A.C.T.
Model© process that Dr. Dallaire helps you to create for yourself is a proven
methodology that has helped many individuals to achieve - and even exceed - their performance goals.
Focusing on Concentration - Concentration Skills and Improving Techniques
Dr. Jacques Dallaire
"How can I focus more effectively, and when I lose focus how can I get it back quickly?" This is one of two key requests made
by high-performance clients who have tapped into our programs over the years.
It’s what I refer to as one of the Holy Grails of the performance equation!
What most competitors don’t realize is that the ability to mentally
focus is a skill and because it is a skill, it can be developed through
quality practice. The first step to begin to gain control over your “focus
of attention” is to clearly understand what components make up
the skill of concentration and how to manage ‘concentration energy’,
based on the demands of the situation. The second step involves actually
training the skill of concentration using cognitive tasks that challenge
your mind to focus and process mental information in specific ways.
The Four Components of Concentration
The four interrelated components that define concentration include:
Width, Direction, Intensity, and Duration.
The width of attention can vary from a broad perspective, where you
process a large amount of information coming from various sources to
a narrow one, where only a limited amount of information is allowed
to capture your attention. There are instances where a broad focus
of attention is appropriate while at other times, you need to shift
your focus of attention to only a few thoughts… When you’ve
mastered the ability to shift from broad to narrow concentration and
back again, and the capacity to maintain the correct focus based on
the demands of the activity, you’ll be able to avoid irrelevant
thoughts since they can negatively affect both your decision-making
and your reactions.
The second component has to do with the direction of your focus. There
are occasions when an internal focus of attention is necessary... you
selectively filter external events. At other times, an external focus
of concentration may be more appropriate since you must continue to
focus on the changing events that are occurring around you in real
Concentration can also vary in terms of its intensity - from being
weak to being intense. Finally, concentration can vary in terms of
its duration. Here, concentration varies from brief to sustained periods
of time. It’s important to understand that these components of
concentration are mutually exclusive in that it’s not possible
to concentrate both broadly and narrowly at the same time, nor can
you concentrate internally and externally at the same time. Likewise,
the more intense your concentration is, the shorter will be the length
of time you can maintain focus at that intensity before mental fatigue
Under relaxed conditions we possess greater mental flexibility – we
are better at shifting amongst these four different components of attention.
But under conditions of pressure or when we allow emotional stress
to increase, we tend to rely on our own particular concentration bias.
This may become a disadvantage if your bias is inappropriate for the
particular demands of the situation at that time.
Techniques for Improving Concentration and Focus
A practical technique you can use to control your focus of attention
is to think of concentration as an adjustable flashlight shining from
your forehead, where YOU control this ‘beam of concentration’.
You can choose a broad focus, directed to a lot of events in your environment
(like a floodlight would reveal) or a narrow focus, directed to a specific
object or idea (like a spotlight). This beam of concentration can also
be turned inward toward your mind to target specific thoughts, images
and feelings. When your beam of concentration is broad (whether internally
or externally directed) it takes in a lot of information but when it
is directed narrowly, it intensifies as it’s directed to the
object of your focus. It’s like spinning the head on your adjustable
flashlight! When directed in this narrow way, everything on the periphery
of the object of your focused concentration fades to black. Using this
imagery technique, you can begin to consciously control the direction
and intensity of your ‘beam of concentration’.
Even though mental skills are acknowledged as being important to effective
driving performance ‘on the limit’, competitors haven’t
had an effective ‘tool’ to develop their ability to focus,
to control that focus, and to develop other important mental skills
like visual scanning ability and mental processing speed and accuracy.
For more information about mental focus, improving concentration skills and concentration techniques, see: