We’ve all heard how exercise and diet are key components of maintaining good physical health as we age. You’ll certainly get no argument from me about this! However, I do think there’s more than just our physical health that we should consider as part of a healthy lifestyle. We should also keep our minds healthy as well.
Two of the best ways I can think of to develop a healthy mind is to use it, and to be aware of what you’re putting into it.
This is just my opinion, but I think our minds were created to be used. Just like a car is meant to be driven, and a piano is meant to be played, so too our minds were meant to be used rather than to sit idle. By “using our minds”, I mean we should continuously be sharpening them by:
Exposing them to new and interesting (to us) content
Learning new skills
Listening to new, and even opposing ideas
Talking to people who are different from us
Connecting with others
In addition to using them, we should also be aware of the content we’re allowing into our minds. If you put gas in your car that is full of debris, it won’t run well. Filling our minds with negative content will have the same effect over time. The content we put into our minds is how we train our think, respond, and form our worldview. I want to put content in my mind that will yield positive thinking, not only now, but well into the future.
So the next time you’re taking a walk, exercising, or doing any other activity that benefits your physical health, take a moment to make sure that you’re also developing a healthy mind as well. Because if you’re like me, you want to age with a heathy body AND mind.
Consider all the things that influence the way you think. The number of inputs is more than we might think, and includes everything from social media, to the books we read, the people we hang out with, the TV shows and movies we watch and books we read. Now consider that each one of these things has influence on how our thinking is formed.
How does that make you feel? Do you like the forming effect these inputs are having on you? If you answered, “Yes”, great! Keep availing yourself to the same kinds of inputs you’ve been receiving.
If you answered, “No”, there’s good news! You can change your inputs, and thereby change how you’re thinking is being formed. What a blessing, and a responsibility. A blessing, because we can decide how were being formed, and a responsibility, because we should take action to ensure that we’re being formed in a way that leads to a positive, abundant life.
The question isn’t whether our thinking be formed, but rather how it will be formed. Let’s decide how we want our thinking to be formed and ensure that we’re consuming the right inputs to get us there.
September and October are my favorite months of the year. While the cooler temperatures are always nice, it’s the beautiful natural scenery that always captures my attention. The way the morning and evening light colors the surroundings is worth stopping to notice.
It’s easy to be distracted, rushing through life and not noticing our surroundings. For this reason, I think it’s so important to not only be on the lookout for the beauty around us, but to stop and take it in when we see it.
I’ve found that what I’m actively looking for, I usually see more of.
Last week my wife and I were at the Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park. This park is filled with striking natural beauty, from alpine vistas and glaciers, to rain forests, to remote beaches. However, what captured my attention (and respect) most in the park were the returning runs Coho salmon.
We happened to be in the park when these magnificent fish were making their way upstream to reach their home waters to spawn. There is a section on the Sol Duc called “Salmon Cascades” where you could watch the salmon move from the deep pool below and being ascending this swift current between them and their destination. It was a mesmerizing site to see. On one stop, we spent 90 minutes watching, yet it only felt like we were there for just a few moments.
What impressed me most about these salmon was their determination in the face of such a formidable challenge (a swift rapid in this case). They’d make an attempt at ascending a rapid and either bounce off a rock or not quite make it, yet you never saw a salmon give up and head back down stream to the calmer water. Instead, they’d reposition and try again, and again, and again, as often as was necessary.
For the salmon, I think that determination is hard-wired into them. (I’m not a fish biologist, so I’m not certain, but I have a feeling that’ show God made them.) However, for us, when we face significant challenges, we can set our minds to be determined to reach our goals, or we can just to figuratively drift back downstream.
I’m blown away of the power of our brains and all the good use we can put them to. What’s even more impressive (aside from the fact that each one of us owns one of these wonderful things free and clear!) is how our brains are constantly running. I liken our brains to a race horse that wants to run. Similarly, our brains need to be trained to run where we want them to run, versus just letting them run wild in any they’d like.
Can you imagine the owner of a highly valued thoroughbred race horse allowing the magnificent creature to run through any rocky pasture, hillside, or street it wanted? That would be a horrific use of such a valuable investment. Instead, such a horse’s diet, training, facilities, and environment are all conducive top performance, because that is how you treat a thoroughbred.
I think our brains should also be treated as the thoroughbreds that they are, or that they can become. We should give them the proper care and training that they are worthy of, in order for them to perform for us at the high level they are capable of.
So, how do we train our minds so they perform like thoroughbreds? The following items are good places to start:
Monitor the content we’re allowing into our minds to ensure its productive and positive.
Take our negative thoughts (toward ourselves or others) and quickly redirect them toward a more productive line of thinking.
Expose our brains to new ideas through books, classes, podcasts, computer-based training, or conversations with others.
Continue to apply our brains toward learning new skills we’d like to acquire.
Use them to solve problems and come up with solutions and idea.
Engage your brain daily.
What a blessing to be in possession of such a creation! May we treat them (and train them) like the valuable thoroughbreds that they are.
“How you do anything is how you do everything.” ~Unknown
This saying causes me to pause and think about how I do things. Specifically, how do I handle the small day to day things in my life. Do I give my best effort or am I half-hearted in my efforts?
Now I’m not saying that we have to give 100% focused, top of our game effort on every little thing we do. That would be not only exhausting, but also unnecessary! The bigger question here, is what is our dominant mindset when we do things? Do we regularly mail it in, or are we in the regular habit of giving our best effort? Do we offer the minimum effort to get by, or do we regularly give a little beyond what’s needed?
It’s a good question to ask, and one we can pretty easily answer when we look at the results we’re getting in life.
I’ve been working on learning to play the electric bass part of the song Far Cry from the band Rush recently. It’s a quick tempo song with some cool rhythmic elements that I think sound really cool. One thing that became painfully obvious when I started learning to play the song was that I would have to slow the tempo way down, if I have any hopes of mastering it.
When I stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense. I can’t look at a challenging song and play it perfectly at the same tempo on my first attempt. There are note progressions, fingering, and rhythms that all need to be discerned and practiced at a slower pace in order to gain an understanding of how they all fit together within the song. Once those elements are understood individually, I can then integrate them together as I begin to play parts of the song. Albeit still at a slower tempo.
This slowness feels clunky and awkward. What I really want to do is pick up the bass and play the tune like a pro on the first or second attempt. However, that’s not the way mastery of a topic works. Mastery requires that we start out slow as we begin the work of obtaining knowledge and understanding. From there we can begin to apply this knowledge and steadily increase our pace.
Here is where I think most people give up pursing a goal. They see the talent in a musician, athlete, or some other person that has slowed down and put in the time to achieve mastery and think that this person must have been “born with it” or is “gifted”. In fact, what they are seeing is this person’s reward for having slowed down and spent the time in that slow and clunky stage.
What’s lost on many of us is that we too can be considered “talented” or “gifted” if we’re willing to put in the required time in the slow and clunky stage.
We just finished a 6 week house renovation project this week that included some painting, carpeting, and hardwood floors. Our house is 23 years old, so it was time to spruce everything up and give it a fresh new look. I think it’s important to keep my house in a good working order and condition, not only because it’s such a big investment, but because it’s more enjoyable for me to live in when it’s in this state.
I also think it’s important to maintain the other big things in our lives that are important to us like our:
Spiritual well being
Intellect and thinking
Maintenance, whether it be for a friendship, a home, or our health, involves a commitment of our time and resources, because things that are neglected usually aren’t maintained well.
Spend some time thinking about the things that are important to you and determine whether they could use a little maintenance from you. If so, take action to get them the attention they need. You’ll enjoy what you have even more when it’s properly maintained.
In a recent team meeting at work, we were discussing an initiative our organization is undertaking to create an even stronger culture of inclusion, diversity, equity, and learning. During the discussion someone asked the question, “What does action look like?”
I thought this was a good question because without specific actions to take to get where we want to go, as an organization or as individuals, all we really have are ideals or lofty aspirations. It’s the intentional actions we take that will move us toward our aspirations becoming our reality. Without action our aspirations remain just that… aspirations.
I was pleased to learn that our organization is currently in the process of defining what those specific actions look like. With regard to our own personal goals and aspirations, we should all be asking ourselves what action looks like.