We live in a world of instant gratification. It is uncommon to find people interested in doing something that takes hours, weeks or even years to complete. It is way more common to see people giving up on things that take too long to achieve. Success usually begins with good intentions. Ironically, failure starts in the same place. We all want to get to the end of the story, but many of us fail because we aren’t willing to put in the effort to get through the whole story.
There has been a lot of talk in the professional world about attention span. The common understanding of attention span is that it is the ability to focus and sustain attention on a task. Quite regularly, the definition also includes statements like “it is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals”. Sadly, researchers say that our human attention span is decreasing. In fact, market research declares that human attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds to 8.25 seconds in the last 15 years. Does this seem way too short to be true? How much time will you wait if a website is not loading? I find myself giving no more than 10 seconds before I move on. I was shocked to see some internet statistics that declared that the average internet page visit is less than 20 seconds. It seems that people won’t wait. I believe that our internet habits contribute to our decreasing attention span. Way too often, the internet is more of an entertainment center and we mindlessly surf, looking for photos and videos that will entertain us. Way less often, the internet is used for actual research or actual learning. We are conditioned to look for quick visual gratification. Business researchers have declared that on average, an office worker checks emails 30 times per hour. We just keep looking and looking and looking – aimlessly looking; but only on the surface.
When I was young, I remember being told about a strategy for helping me to reach my goals. I was told to make a small poster with my stated goal and put it in a very visible place – a place that I would walk by many times each day. For me, this was the fridge. Several times a day, I would see my poster and was supposed to ask myself: “what have you done today to help you reach your goal?”. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you obviously need to commit to the goal and do regular exercise over a long period of time. You can’t do hard work once a week. Asking yourself everyday if you did something to help reach your goal helps you to be purposeful in your actions. If your goal is to get an A in a school subject, you need to commit to putting forth a consistent effort over a long period of time. If your goal is to become a professional athlete, it won’t happen overnight – it will take years of development to get there. Our students need to learn that success does not come overnight. Instead, it comes from effort with purpose. We have to rebuke the short attention span syndrome and learn to sharpen our focus on what we want our lives to be. We need to be intentional to patiently do all the small things that will move us closer and closer to successfully reaching our goals. In fact, it might be wise to say that the secret to success is constancy of purpose.