A reader wrote:

So my parents and friends insist I work harder to be more successful. But I can’t concentrate for another hour. I just zone out. Do you have any advice?

Two things jump out at me: first, you may be letting others set your goals. You say your friends and family are telling you how to be successful. Whose definition of success are they using? If they’re talking about their definition of success, be thoughtful. Decide what success means for you, and pursue that in the way you find best. Often, what we want for a happy, fulfilling life is not what others want us to have. At some point, we need to shift from following their dreams to following our own (for many people, this shift takes decades if it ever happens at all).

Even if you agree on the definition of success, however, they may not know the best way for you to get there. Not everyone can simply push themselves harder. For many of us, overwork doesn’t work. The book “The Power of Full Engagement” presents research showing that people aren’t more productive simply by working harder. We need time to rest, recharge, and build our capacity. We work best by alternating hard work and recharge time. If you’re at your work limit, go rest. Then you’ll be able to work harder again later.

One last thing, however. If you can’t concentrate at all, you may have a short attention span or even attention deficit disorder. For short attention spans, I’ve heard that meditation and concentration exercises can help you develop the ability to focus for longer periods. When it comes to ADD, I’m not qualified to discuss it with any authority, but you can contact the Attention Deficit Disorder Association for more information.

Does hard work bring success?

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