Chapter 8

The foundation of all capacity:
Concen­tration and memory

In more and more profes­sions, the ability to concen­trate is becoming a decisive perfor­mance criterion. But in private life, too, the highest level of attention is incre­a­singly necessary in order not to get lost in the complexity of life’s environment.

This is the only way to control risks and achieve goals. The ability to remember must be added. Not to be able to act as a memory acrobat, but to be able to act.

The impacts of poor concen­tration are parti­cu­larly obvious in the immediate effects of certain types of sports. Just a tiny lapse in concen­tration is all it takes to lose the split seconds that are decisive for winning or losing. The chance to score is missed or a fall means the end of a game – or a career.

Increase your awareness!

Fully focus your thoughts, senses, feelings, movements on something and forget every bit of the rest of the world around you. If you are unable to do this, you will make more mistakes that someone who can. This is reason enough to improve your concen­tration and your memory.

Read the text below out loud, really loudly, as though you were reading to an audience:

“The most important skill for benefiting from the knowledge, insights and experi­ences of other people is the ability to read! The wisdom of humankind is laid down in writing. We do not have to experience everything first hand. We do not have to reinvent the wheel or repeat the mistakes of our ancestors from generation to generation. Instead we can “get smart” through reading.”

No slip of the tongue? Read through in one go? Without stuttering? Did you succeed in reading aloud as if you were the announcer — let’s say — for the “Tages­schau”? No? Then read aloud until you have managed it without mistakes and in one flow! Get a friend to record the whole thing so that you can listen to your “reading” self-criti­­cally after­wards. Ask your friend for feedback! Find more texts that you can use to practice reading aloud further. Increase the length of the texts.

Active reading

Take an essay or newspaper article of about two pages DINA4 and written with the font Georgia in the size 14 pt, whose content interests you. And also a pencil. Work through this article/essay as follows:

Mark the substance of the text with the pencil by under­lining or circling; in the margin, weight the impor­tance of the marked state­ments with one or more strokes or excla­mation points. Be ‘disre­spectful’ to the text: intervene ‘ruthlessly’ with the pencil, no matter who the author is!

Take a notepad and write down your comments, questions, insights, and experi­ences about the markers as they come to mind.

When I was in college, I started by writing down what I had read in an abstract after I had marked it, and then adding anything that came to mind.

Then I made notes of what questions I wanted to pursue further in connection with the topic, what I wanted to keep in mind as a conclusion, and what, if anything, I wanted to do about it.

Aktives Lesen — Die Essenz herausfiltern

Concen­trating while you read
means taking a close look!

In the text below, which describes the process of active reading in more detail, some of the punctuation is missing or appears in the wrong place. Find the mistakes!

“The words or passages, that make up the substance of the text can be marked in a more or less diffe­ren­tiated way, if one proceeds less diffe­ren­tiated, then one under­lines only the words and text passages, which seem important to one.

If you want to work up a text in Detail, you have to distin­guish between

- between state­ments of fact and state­ments of opinion,

- between passages that he agrees with from his own insight and experience, And those that are new to him or with which he disagrees,

- between passages that raise questions and doubts and those that are immediately convincing,

- between passages that concern him directly and those that are far from him,

- between passages for which he can immediately think of examples and those which he cannot place in his horizon of experience.

The markings must be corre­spon­dingly differentiated:

- Under­lining with colored pencils,

- framing as ellipses and rectangles,

- numerical codes

- however, it must be clear and consistent. all associa­tions that come to mind are written in the margin. These are experi­ences, additional facts, examples, own opinions, hints, questions, further keywords, Names and and and”.

Text passages in which a punctuation mark is missing or incor­rectly placed can be noticed if the sentence construction is clearly understood: subject, predicate, object, main clause, subor­dinate clause, lists, etc. Both punctuation marks and capita­liz­ation are used to help under­stand a text. Under­standing texts as well as writing texts require the correct use of language. If one has doubts, one should consist­ently always consult reference books.

Everyone should create their own “fitness program” to improve their concen­tration. It makes sense to choose exercises that are useful in terms of content. Then one has double profit: impro­vement of the concen­tration and increase of his knowledge.

The wealth of our knowledge and our experiences

We do not learn through reading and writing alone. But if you only learn through the spoken word or primarily restrict your learning to your own experi­ences, to obser­vation and imitation, you will not be able to become part of the complex societies of our time.

Inade­quate reading and writing skills force people into the margins of our society. When young adults realize that they have langu­age­re­lated deficits, they need to close these gaps. Otherwise, they will quickly end up in the margins of society.

Texts are a means of trans­porting infor­mation and opinions. We surf the internet, we read newspapers and watch and listen to television news in order to experience new things, in order to find out what is going on in the world and in order to learn about other people’s attitudes about the events and processes of current affairs.

Since we have a certain amount of prior knowledge and also have our own opinion, we file the content we have absorbed into the knowledge and opinion areas already estab­lished in us. For the most part, we absorb what interests us and what corre­sponds to our preju­dices. Our interests and our opinion control our attention, our concen­tration and our memory.

A good memory requires alert senses. For this reason, we train our concen­tration on a regular basis, and we have to invest the same amount of effort to keep our memory fit. Our memory keeps the components of our knowledge and experience at hand that we need for coping with our current tasks in a focused manner.

Most people’s memories are geared toward images. We distin­guish between short-term memory and long-term memory. Brain research conducted in recent years has shed a great deal of light on the prere­qui­sites and mode of operation of the organic equipment for human thinking. This helps to recognize the given potential and to use it with a metho­dology adapted to the parti­cular need.

Our memory allows us to be capable of taking action

People with one or more impaired senses or who are missing one or more of their senses and have to compensate for the loss with the other senses have demons­trated the extra­or­dinary perceptual perfor­mance that can be developed by the individual senses. Good perceptual abilities corre­spond to a good memory. Our percep­tions are processed in the brain. Stored in our memory, they provide orien­tation and are the prere­quisite for taking action.

Whatever knowledge and skills are not immediately available through ongoing use and are not retrievable for the case at hand must be quickly refreshed or acquired. We have to be able to address new tasks based on our existing store of knowledge and experience from the highest possible level. We can only establish and maintain this high level through ongoing training.

Take foreign languages, for example. Languages related to our native language are relatively easy to learn because so much is similar. The better your command of your native language, the more quickly you will be able to pick up a new language.

Things are more difficult when the foreign language is only distantly related to your native language. But even when you learn this type of language, you never start from scratch. This is because no matter what the language family, they all share the same basic phenomena of human existence, such as eating and drinking.

The better we have familia­rized ourselves with the circum­s­tances of our civiliz­ation and culture, the more easily we can negotiate the territory in which a foreign language is spoken.

No matter what you do to develop and expand your scope of action, the key principle involves acquiring basic skills and keeping them up. For artists and elite athletes, it goes without saying that they have certain exercises that they have to perform every day. In fact, this is true for everyone.

As with pianists and singers as well as with gymnasts and figure skaters, you start with the compulsory exercises and only then do the freestyle.

Can you rely on your memory?

I’d like to share a little story:

“The romantic atmos­phere of winter. The glow of the fire emits a cozy warmth. At the entrance to the cave, icicles glitter in the sun. In the homey cozy down comforters, two lovers move apart. Sunlight beckons them to come outdoors.

Out of the bedclothes, out into the glistening light. They stretch their arms toward the sun. They throw themselves into the snow, which flies about like dust. At the beavers’ lodge, they take a sunbath. Then they traipse through the mottled light of the forest, visit the bear and banter with the moose.

Back in their winter cave, they stoke the warming fire. They close up the entrance with ice blocks. The hill of ice and snow has a yellowish red shimmer in the night. Soft singing conveys love and happiness. Snow begins to fall and covers the traces of the day.

A lone wolf senses the winter happiness and howls in the night.”

Now cover the text or move it to where you cannot see it. Write down all the words that you are able to remember. Now put the words into the order in which they appeared in the story.

Answer the following questions:

  • What feelings did the story trigger in you?
  • What images do you have in mind?
  • And which passages of words in the story?
  • What words do you connect to what images?

Write down the story in your own words. Compare your version with the original text.

Now copy the text and format it with your computer. Select a font type and size that appeals to you and fits the story. Other ways to embellish the text: using different colors for the text, paragra­phing, bolding, itali­cizing, etc.

Once you have edit and formatted the text, memorize the text! Sentence by sentence. Before you move to a new sentence, repeat the sentences you have already learned. Resonate in the feelings that the story evokes in you. Bask in the images that you see in connection with the words.

Mark the words that you have trouble remem­bering. Work your way through the text at least up to the words “flies about like dust”. Make it easy, laid back but with stamina. How was it? It’s possible!

How to raise the level of difficulty

Adver­tising texts are prepared using everything that graphic design has to offer so that we can remember them without any great effort. Why shouldn’t we use the same tools to train our memories? This can make memoriz­ation fun.

Look for texts that you want to prepare and then learn by heart. In addition to longer texts that you would like to have at your disposal in your memory, make a list of proverbs and quota­tions. Do this as a weekly training program for your memory.

From time to time, you also have to repeat what you have learned. Otherwise it will fade. To this end, you need to find out how long a text you have learned will remain present in your memory. Then you will know when it is time to polish it up.

There are different levels of diffi­culty for memoriz­ation. “Inter­na­lizing” poems that rhyme and have a certain meter by reading them out loud passage by passage and repeating it is the easiest exercise. Memorizing without reading out loud is a bit more difficult. It is very difficult when you do not learn the poem from a printed medium but rather from an audio source. Here too, however, you can repeat what you have heard either out loud or silently.

Other ways to raise the level of diffi­culty for practicing memoriz­ation include the following: learning prose texts by heart – no meter, no rhyme – silently, only reading with your eyes; learning song lyrics from an audio source only by listening; memorizing compli­cated audiobook texts.

As soon as you have learned the text, keep repeat what you have learned silently, without the book or audio source. Once it has really sunken in, recite the text like an actor, using gestures and facial expres­sions, along with dramatic effects. Then make up a situation to go with it: in front of the mirror, experi­encing it yourself, or in front of friends.

Have a closer look at visual media!

But not only language is important for our commu­ni­cation, but now more than ever the visual media, often combined with language. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures have the appearance of a direct reference to reality, are consi­dered authentic — and yet can be manipu­lated like words.

It serves to improve concen­tration and memory as well as a better under­standing of the content of audio­visual media such as films and television programs if one extends his training to such means of conveying infor­mation and opinions.

Start by analyzing videos that you download from the Internet.


  • Which motifs are used?
  • How are the subjects set into the picture? What detail is used? What angle? What movements of the subject are used? What camera moves?
  • How is the image sequence edited and cut?
  • What commentary is used for the images?
  • For which images is no infor­mation provided?
  • What sounds can you hear? What background music is used? What moods are created by the music and the sounds?

And another very important point: What do you not get to see and hear?

In terms of content, you can only find out what has been omitted if you know your way around the topic. But how often is that the case?

This means that you have to be able to recognize the places that raise the suspicion that something might be missing:

  • questions that are thrown out but answered onlyin part;
  • hints that are not followed up;
  • facts that trigger doubts;
  • claimsthat are not substantiated;
  • contra­dic­tionsin the argumentation;
  • one-sided argumen­tation.

The design of the audio­visual media also offers starting points:

  • Do the picture and the sound fit together?
  • Is the opinion expressed obvious as such, or is it commu­ni­cated as if facts are being presented?
  • What feelings are deliber­ately evoked with the images and the under­lying music?

The analysis should be followed by an evaluation in which, among other things, the credi­bility is checked, open questions are collected and the conclu­si­veness of the images that are shown is determined.


Speci­fi­cally training your concen­tration and memory may feel unfamiliar at first, and you may have to overcome some resis­tance. This is no different from practicing piano etudes or doing warm-up exercises and stret­ching when you run. But if you are undeterred, after a while you will notice that you have boosted your mental fitness, and then the training will actually be fun.

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