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By James Allen

Concentration, or the bringing of the mind to a center and keeping it there, is vitally necessary to the accomplishment of any task. It is the father of thoroughness and the mother or excellence.

Every successful man, in whatever direction his success may lie, practices concentration, though he may know nothing about it as a subject of study: every time one becomes absorbed in a book or task, or is rapt in devotion or assiduous in duty, concentration, in a greater or lesser degree, is brought into play.

Concentration is an aid to the doing of something; it is not the doing of something in itself. A ladder has no value in and of itself, but only insofar as it enables us to reach something which we could not otherwise reach. In like manner, concentration is that which enables the mind to accomplish with ease that which it would be otherwise impossible to accomplish; but of itself it is a dead thing, and not a living accomplishment.

Concentration is the bringing of a well-controlled mind to the doing of that which has to be done. The great enemy of concentration – and therefore of all skill and power – is a wavering, wandering, undisciplined mind; and it is in overcoming this that concentration is acquired. A scattered and undisciplined army would be useless. To make it effective in action and swift in victory it must be solidly concentrated and masterfully directed. Scattered and diffused thoughts are weak and worthless. Thoughts marshaled, commanded, and directed upon a given point, are invincible; confusion, doubt and difficulty give way before their masterly approach. Concentrated thought enters largely into all successes, and informs all victories.

There is no more secret about its acquirement than about any other acquisition, for it is governed by the underlying principle of all development, namely practice. To be able to do a thing, you must begin to do it and keep on doing it until the thing is mastered.

The beginning of concentration, then, is to go to your daily task and put your mind on it, brining all your intelligence and mental energy to a focus upon that which has to be done; and every time the thoughts are found wandering aimlessly away, they should be brought promptly back to the thing in hand. Thus the “center” upon which you are to bring your mind to a point, is but the work which you are doing every day; and your object in thus concentrating is to be able to do your work with smooth rapidity and consummate skill; for until you can thus do your work, you have not gained any degree of control over your mind; you have not gained the power of concentration.

This powerful focusing of one’s thought and energy and will upon the doing of things is difficult – but daily effort, strenuously made and patiently followed up, will soon lead to such a measure of self-control as will enable one to bring a strong and penetrating mind to bear upon any work undertaken; a mind that will quickly comprehend all the details of the work, and dispose of them with accuracy and dispatch.

The mind thus centered in profound thought reaches a state in which the maximum of work is accomplished with the minimum of friction- this is activity in repose.

A marriage of work with the mind takes place, there is a fusion, a union, and the two become one; then there is a superior efficiency with less labor and friction.

In the early stages, the mind is easily drawn from its center by external sights and sounds; but when the mind has attained perfection in abstraction, the subjective method of working is accomplished, as distinguished from the objective. The thinker is then oblivious to the outside world, but is vividly alive in his mental operations.

If spoken to, he will not hear, and if plied with more vigorous appeals, he will bring back his mind to outside things as one coming out of a dream; indeed, this abstraction is a kind of waking dream, but its similarity to a dream ends with the subjective state; it does not prevail in the mental operations of that state, in which, instead of the confusion of dreaming, there is a perfect order, penetrating insight, and a wide range of comprehension.

Whoever attains to perfection in abstraction will manifest genius in the particular work upon which is mind is centered. Inventors, artists, poets, scientists, philosophers, and all men of genius, are men of abstraction. They accomplish subjectively, and with ease, that which the objective workers- men who have not yet attained beyond the second state of concentration – cannot accomplish with the most strenuous labor.

When the fourth stage – that of activity in repose- is attained, then concentration in perfection is acquired. I am unable to find a single word which will fully express this dual condition of intense activity combined with steadiness, or rest, and have therefore employed the term ‘activity in repose”

The term appears contradictory, but simple illustration of a spinning top will serve to explain this paradox. When a top spins at the maximum velocity, the friction is reduced to the minimum, and the top assumes that condition of perfect repose which is a sight so beautiful to the eye, and so captivating to the mind, of the schoolboy, who then says his top is “asleep.” The top is apparently motionless, but it is the rest, not the inertia, of intense and deceptively balanced activity.

So the mind that has acquired perfect concentration is, when engaged in that intense activity of thought which results in productive work of the highest kind, in a state of quiet poise and calm repose. Externally, there is no apparent activity, no disturbance, and the face of a man who has acquired this power will assume a more or less radiant calmness, and the face will be more sublimely calm when the mind is most intensity engaged in active thought.

About The Author

James Allen was an early 20th century inspirational writer and the author of the timeless classic, As a Man Thinketh. This is a short book that belongs on the shelf of every success-seeking man and women and should be read over and over and over again. Available in paperback at

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