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Concentration





How to Study.--You learn sooner or later from experience that the
quickest and best way to learn anything new is to give it your undivided
attention at the moment; to perceive one thing at a time and to perceive
it as something that is definite, or as some quality that is unblurred.
One of you will spend three hours on an anatomy lesson, another two
hours, while a third nurse may give it a half-hour of concentrated study
and know it better than either of you, if you have been day-dreaming, or
talking, or rebelling at the "luck" which keeps you indoors learning
about bones, when the tennis-court is so inviting. True, some minds have
better natural equipment and some have better previous training than
others. But the average mind could learn a lesson well in much less time
than is spent upon learning it poorly. Few people hold their attention
strictly to the task at hand if something more interesting beckons, or
if they feel tired, or "blue." But you can learn to do it.

Put aside a certain amount of time today for study; hold your undivided
attention on your lesson, regardless of how many pleasanter things
appeal. When your eyes or your thoughts wander from your note-book,
bring them back forcibly, if need be. Your first task is to keep your
eyes there, instead of letting them follow your roommate's movements, or
resting them by watching the street below. But it is easier to do this
than to make your mind grasp the meaning of the things you see. You may
read two or three pages, and not receive one idea, not even be able to
recall any words from the context. Your eyes are obeying your will and
seeing the words, but your mind is "wool-gathering." Now take yourself
in hand firmly. If you are really a bit fagged, try some deep-breathing
exercises before the open window, bathe your face in cold water. Then
read a paragraph, close your book, and write, if you are not alone, or
repeat to yourself aloud, if your roommate is out, what that paragraph
says--its meaning. If you cannot do it, read it again with that end in
view. Repeat the process, and hold yourself to it day after day, if
necessary, until finally will has won the battle, or, better still,
your will to learn has been reinforced by an interest in the very
competition with yourself, if not yet in the contest. Then, as you learn
some facts from your notes, use your imagination to apply them in real
life.

The triceps muscle. What is it for? Your notes inform you, and then it
is really interesting to see how it performs its function. What origins
and attachments must the triceps have to make it extend the arm? Your
notes say that a muscle tends to draw the part to which it is attached
toward its origin. This triceps muscle straightens the arm. In that case
it must oppose the flexion at the elbow. How is that likely to be done?
The triceps must start somewhere above the elbow, and quite far above,
too, to be able to make a straight angle of an acute one; it must start
toward the back in order to draw back the forearm; and be attached to
the back of the bone below. Also it must be quite a long muscle. So much
reason tells you. Now let me see how it is done, in fact. And you find
that the triceps has three origins high above its one attachment as a
tendon, to give it a good strong pull. These are in the outside of the
humerus and in the scapula. That is logical, and you will remember it.

Now how does the arm bend? What pulls against the triceps? And you are
interested before you know it.

There is nothing, good, bad, or indifferent, but has some points of
interest if the mind turns its entire attention to it. But our tendency
is to grow tired of calling back our wandering thoughts again and again
to the thing that is hard, dry, or stupid. And we need more incentive
than just the doing of the duty because it is to be done. We need a
compelling interest in the goal to encourage our wills to concentration
on the less interesting. Let us first think out the why of knowing
anatomy if we are to be nurses. And if the profession of nursing is the
goal, let anatomy become just the next stretch of the road that leads to
it.

Concentration can be acquired. It may require three hours at first to
learn your lesson; but later on you will do it in two, then in one, and
perhaps in less. And when you can sit down with your notes and learn
them with voices about you--perhaps; with some one else in the room;
with a party an hour ahead; when you can disregard all but the work at
hand, then you can concentrate, and the big battle of your life as a
student is won. Study is no longer drudgery. Lessons occupy much less of
your time and leave you more free hours. Because you give them your
whole mind you learn them in a fraction of the hours hitherto wasted
upon them, when you studied with divided attention. When you are doing
clear thinking on the thing at hand, satisfactory results are assured.





Next: Self-training In Memory

Previous: Association Of Ideas



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