3 Reasons We Must Destroy The Human Goldfish Attention Span Myth

attention span magnetic memory methodDon’t you hate it when people spew nonsense about YOUR attention span?

I sure do. Especially when it comes to games of comparison that don’t hold water.

Like the terrible story people keep repeating about your attention span being shorter than that of a goldfish.


Oh, Is It Now…


Who on earth comes up with these ideas?

Certainly not people with short attention spans.

In fact, it must have taken a good deal of consideration to come up with the attention span calculation of this long suffering species of fish.

In fact, the Great Gold Fish Attention Span Myth has quite a long history.

And what, dear Memorizer, should we suppose goldfish have in life so worthy of attention?

After all…


Goldfish Float Around In Glass Bowls!
Of Course They Have A Short Attention Span!


You, on the other, live in a world filled with all kinds of vibrating and exciting things to which you can direct your attention.

Extend your attention span with the Magnetic Memory Method

And you do.

  • Novels…
  • Movies…
  • Books…
  • Video games…
  • Singing a song…
  • Concerts…
  • Sports…
  • Looking at your pay stubs…
  • Gazing into someone’s eyes…
  • Pillow fights…
  • Making coffee…
  • Talking about yourself…
  • Eating chocolate…

My point?

When you’re interested in something…


You Have An Abundance Of Attention!


Not only that, but when you’re interested and motivated or the stakes are high, your attention span is tremendously elastic.

The trouble is…

People are gullible.

They hear that their attention span is shrinking and start repeating it.

To themselves.

To others.

In fact, so many of us are willing to spread nonsense as far and wide as possible that…

The B.S. Quickly Becomes A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy


Well, I’m here to tell you that this false story needs correcting.

And I’m not alone. As this article on the goldfish attention span with demonstrates, there’s simply no good reason to believe this myth.

And since it’s B.S. that harms the human race, we need to correct and eliminate the myth.


Here are three reasons why:

1. Your Attention Span Is Defined
By One Person And One Person Only




It’s your brain.

Your eyes.

Your lips.

Your lungs.

Your tongue.

And you can train your brain to focus and concentrate on having the most profound and bulletproof attention span on the planet.

All you have to do is train it. Stop giving in to Digital Amnesia (check out that link and start practicing Digital Fasting today).

Own it.

Cultivate it.

Craft the attention span that you want to have.

If you can’t practice with your own sunrise, try mine:

No matter how you practice extending your attention span…

Here’s the truth of the matter:

You’re the only one who can do it.

And if at the start, you find that you can’t focus or concentrate…

A simple meditation practice with a bit of memory training will help.

Don’t take my word for it.

All the science supporting meditation is here on my post about How to Improve Concentration and Memory Buddha Style.

2. Unlike A Goldfish…
You Can Observe Your Attention Span


Okay, to be fair, we really don’t know if goldfish are capable of self-observation or not.

But chances are the last thing they’re doing while floating around their little bowls has anything to do with self-reflection.

As a human, you’re unique.

You can observe yourself.

You can measure your assets.

What you can measure, you can improve.


Let’s say that you’re in lecture and struggling to pay attention. In addition to learning the Magnetic Memory Method approach to note taking

You can also keep an Attention Span Journal.

You can journal about lectures you’ve attended, or books you’ve read. Like how about one of these?

As you fill out your Attention Span Journal, think about what’s triggering the problem.

Is it your REALLY your attention span?

Or is it the fact that your smart phone is on and you’re either being interrupted by notifications…

Or on the alert for notifications?


Be Honest About It


You’ll probably find that there’s nothing wrong with your attention span.

Quite the opposite. Your attention span is fine, but it’s primed to pay attention to the wrong things.


3. You Have A Trillion Interesting
And Exciting Things To Learn


Yes, we sometimes have to learn topics that bore us. But there are strategies for coping with the boredom. Here are five ways to deal with boring topics you might have to study.

Even better than the self-hypnosis I teach for dealing with boring information:

You can feed your brain with topics that DO interest you.

If you’re so bored with the information you’re consuming that it can’t hold your attention for longer than six seconds…

Simply switch it off and study something else instead!

The cold, hard truth is that many people seek careers that will never fulfill them.

They’re after financial security.

They’re trying to please their families.

They’re Playing Not To Lose Instead Of Playing To Win


That’s no good.

It goes against your normal and natural human impulse to do the things you really want to do.

And here, right now, in the 21st century, you can create systems that will let you live the life you want to lead.

Yes, you have to play to win.

And that means taking on some risk.

But what would you rather have at the end of the day?

The attention span of a goldfish because you’re bored senseless by the life you’ve chosen to lead…

Or A Razor-Sharp Attention Span
That Cuts Through All The Clutter?


I hope you’re ready to choose yourself and the path to personal power.


Because when it comes to the Magnetic Memory Method, oh sure… memory techniques will help you.

It’s actually impossible for them not to help you, even if you’re a skeptic of memory techniques.

But the reality is this:

They’ll help you even better if you align them with authentic goals. That dream life whispering or screaming at you from deep inside.

Many people have silenced that voice…

Others can’t shut it up, and suffer deeply as a result…

Yet others have channeled that beautiful energy into amazing careers.

You Too Can Fulfill All Your Dreams
Using The Simple Power Of Your Memory


Here’s a simple exercise demonstrated live:

Start exercising your autobiographical memory.

As I go through my early memories, I’m unpacking so much creativity, so much energy, so much joy.

In your past, you’ll discover so much about yourself.

You’ll discover so many people you’ve known. So many places you’ve been.

Even better, you’ll realize that you always have all the assets you need to accomplish any goal or need.

Right now.

But if you don’t mine your past for the gold…


You’ll Be Stuck Swimming With The Fishes
Of Your Own Invention


Frankly, I find that outcome unacceptable.

It goes completely against all ethics, morality and the Paradise of Multiple Intelligences we learned about from Tony Buzan brimming inside each and every person in the world.

What must you have to do to unpack your glorious multiple intelligences?

The answer is easy:

Use them!




The Number One Reason People
Stay In The Goldfish Bowl


You know the answer, don’t you?

It’s confidence.

People lack confidence for a number of reasons.

Maybe they had poor childhood experiences…

Maybe some disease crippled their bodies…

Maybe they have a speech impediment…


None of those issues have stopped the best of the best from succeeding.

And yet when you accept a limiting story about your attention span, you’re the most crippled person on the planet.


How To Gain Confidence In Anything
Faster Than The Speed Of Light


Two steps:

1. Understand D.O.C.

D.O.C. is an acronym.

It stands for:

Doing is the Origin of Confidence

It really is that simple.

If you want to gain confidence in an activity, all you have to do is get started.

Most of us are spooked by unfamiliar territory.

Me too, quite frankly.

But if there’s one thing that distinguishes those who playing to win from those playing not to lose is this:

They enter the darkness.

And simply being in the darkness sheds more light on the unknown than you’ll ever need.

Then comes the next trick I’ve got for you:


2. Don’t Give Up At The First Sign Of Trouble


You know why it’s so lonely at the top?

Because 99.9% of people who enter a field of mastery give up at the first sign of trouble.

Why? Barbara Oakley cites evidence in Mindshift that it has a lot to do with the insular cortex.

That scientific fact creates one illuminating and elucidating power:

The pain you feel when something feels hard or doesn’t go right the first time?

Completely Normal!


And all you have to do to get accustomed to it is simply try again.

What you’re looking for is something quite simple.

It’s called a “quick victory.”

Sometimes you get them straight up. Other times, the quick victory doesn’t come so quick.

To be fair, there may be times when the quick victory isn’t coming at all.


When To Cut Your Losses Without
The Shame Of Giving Up



I’m not preaching that you should bang your head against the wall.

There’s no use in doing that. Ever.

But as you give things several good tries and observe yourself in the process, you’ll know that it’s time to back out based on one simple metric:


The Magnetic Memory Method P.I.
(No, Not ‘Private Investigator’)


Basically, you have to learn a bit more about what gives you pleasure, and the different kinds of pleasure available to you and your brain.

For example, there is the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

Or there is the feeling of being in “the zone.”

It could also be the feeling of progressing towards a goal by knocking off milestones, one at a time.

And as you knock off those milestones, you’re documenting the process like an artist in a sketchbook so you can see your progress.

(One reason I highly recommend The Freedom Journal.)

Whatever you do, you need to create a Pleasure Index. Know what turns you on. What rattles your cage. Discover the signs and symptoms of growth and celebrate each and every one.


This Is How Attention Span Grows And Grows


Nietzsche pointed out that the human species will always need myths.

But we don’t need to blindly accept them.

Rather, we can choose the myths we use to guide our progress through life.

In place of the goldfish attention span myth, why not pick something more empowering?

Be like an arrow flying toward a goal.

Or be like the hawk, observant of every movement in the field, hunting only those objects that sustain self and family.

Otherwise, we all risk living a disempowered life.

And the moments that filter past while we’re spinning circles in the fishbowl?

They’re never coming back.

I’d rather be up in the sky, soaring over the world and basking in the fullest possible attention span the human brain can achieve.

It’s so quiet up here where the better myths of human psychology fly free.

Join us.

4 Responses to " 3 Reasons We Must Destroy The Human Goldfish Attention Span Myth "

  1. Great post.

    It’s the same with distractions.

    Supposedly, when you’re in a flow state and get distracted, it takes 25 minutes for you to focus again. Or, that’s what the science says.

    While you should try to work or study with the least amount of possible distractions, you shouldn’t take the science too literally.

    If you take the study results for absolute facts, you’ll start to see every little distraction as a huge burden. Distractions become a bigger problem than they actually are. (Distractions can help with creativity, says another study.)

    Science constantly contradicts itself, so it’s important to take its “conclusions” with a grain of salt.

    • I think this is very true, Noel – and always great to correspond with you!

      (Everybody, check out Noel’s Smart Language Learner Site – he has cool summaries of the best language learning resources around the web along with many other cool articles.)

      I think the flow state stuff is relevant in terms of getting back into focus, but it’s all relative to the person and the task.

      The reality is that most people aren’t doing things they really want to do. When we’re radically honest about that, we don’t even need a science of focus.

      Or better said, in today’s day and age, many of us have the complete opportunity to be the scientist of our own focus. So many people can absolutely find their passions and direct their focus if they wish.

      Though in this case, getting out of the fishbowl might involve thinking inside the box for a change. 😉

  2. Thanks for the link mention! I appreciate it.

    Yes, it’s relevant. But if you take it for absolute truth, you’ll have your excuse ready for when you can’t work/study in a distraction free environment.

    It’s better to do certain tasks without distractions, but you can still get work done even when distractions are present. And in some cases, they can even be beneficial.

    “The reality is that most people aren’t doing things they really want to do.” This is an important truth. I recently stopped doing certain things I don’t like to do, and it’s made a difference.

    If you don’t like to do something, you’re not going to do it often enough to begin with, and the lack of motivation will shine through in the quality of your work. It will probably suck. 😉

    “In today’s day and age, many of us have the complete opportunity to be the scientist of our own focus. So many people can absolutely find their passions and direct their focus if they wish.”

    Yes, but a huge problem is the cancer of instant gratification (as you call it, excellent post as well, btw). That stuff is breeding zombies, and I fear for the next generation.

    On the other hand, it does give folks who don’t fall in that trap much more opportunities. 🙂 🙂

    • Thanks for mentioning the 3 Powerful Ways To Destroy The Cancer Of Instant Gratification post. I should have linked to that here.

      I fear for the next generation too, but with a strong ear to the past, we see that all these fears were loud in Plato’s mind too in The Republic and other dialogs. The population numbers may have increased, but I’m not sure about the percentages.

      I think there’s a lot to be said about the role of chance too, which you’ve highlighted. I’d like to draw that point out a bit more because some people just don’t have the fortune to be touched by particular interests at just the right time.

      This is where I think the Internet and the problems we’re seeing have a huge chance to raise the entire civilization because there are just as many positive nets as there are negative traps (maybe even more). And the percentages of people who accomplish little or nothing may indeed be changing. More people are bumping into more things that deeply interest them and the Internet is exploding with so many things as more and more people find they can explore their passions and even make a living at them.

      Whether or not that number of “doers” will outweigh the zombies or not, I’m not sure. But I do think we must take history into account and know that these concerns are not particularly new and the solutions are pretty much the same: More Philosopher Kings and Queens demonstrating good behavior that people want to copy. 🙂

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