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.
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 was once again inspired in the presence nature.
In last week’s post, I mentioned someone we know who had lost 70 pounds over the last 8 months. While most people are inspired by the results, I am inspired by the discipline required to achieve such a feat.
Everyone wants the positive results of a significant accomplishment. However, it seems that the discipline required to achieve the accomplishment is often a price that many people are unwilling to pay. And without the discipline, the results will never show up.
That’s what inspires me about disciplined people. They decide that they’re going to make the tough choices and necessary sacrifices (which is what discipline actually is) that will put them on a collision course with the results they desire.
Their discipline inspires me to be disciplined in areas in my life where I’m seeking positive change.
My wife recently told me about a Facebook post someone we know made where they talked about how they lost 70lbs since January of this year. That’s amazing to me! I’m always impressed by people who decide how they want their life to look, and then take the steps to cause it to happen. Their behavior says a lot about what they think they’re capable of, and their results confirm that their thinking is accurate.
What we think about ourselves is important, because it drives our behavior. If you think you are unable to do something, and continually tell yourself that you can’t, it’s unlikely that you’ll behave in a way that will cause you to be successful. And why would you be successful? You’re thinking has determined that success is not in the cards for you. And you know what? You’re right!
Consider these common thoughts:
- “I’m too old”
- “I could never achieve that goal”
- “I’m not smart enough”
- “People like me don’t have that kind of success”
- “I’m not technical enough”
- “I don’t deserve…”
- “I’ll never be…”
If these thoughts represent the way you think about yourself, then the response to each of these statements about yourself would be, “You’re right!”
Now consider of the implications that kind of thinking will have on your life over months, years, and decades. Think of all the opportunities, growth, potential, and joy that you’ll sideline yourself from, simply because you’re thinking is keeping you from them.
It’s time to examine our thinking, and make adjustments when we find that it is keeping us from where we are and where we want to be. An abundant life awaits! The first step is thinking that we can achieve it.
I’m sure you’re familiar with this routine. As you’re getting ready in the morning you look at yourself in the mirror and compare that image with the image you have in your mind of what you should look like before your start your day. You see disheveled hair, so you fix it. You see toothpaste on your face, so you wipe it off. You take one last look on your way out the door to make sure the image of how you’d like to look and how you actually look align. The mirror does an excellent job of telling us when our appearance is falling short what we expect for ourselves. It’s great feedback!
While it’s important to have mirrors to ensure we look presentable before we leave the house, I think it’s even more important to have mirrors that reflect back to us how well we’re living up to the standard we’ve set for ourselves.
As a Christian, I’ve decided that the standard I’ve chosen to live by are the teachings of Jesus, as found in the Bible. So, in order to know whether my life is a reflection of what Jesus teaches, I need compare how I’m living my life to Jesus’s teaching in the Bible and see if my reflection matches. If my life aligns with Jesus’s teaching, then I’m on track. If not, I’ve got work to do. Either way, the mirror of the Bible when compared to my life gives me feedback and informs me where I can make changes.
So what standard are you trying to live your life in accordance with? What mirror do you need to check your reflection against? Whatever it is, just be sure to check your reflection regularly, receive the feedback it’s giving you, and make corrections as needed.
Done over a long period of time, this habit will move your life in the direction you want it to go.
I saw a job posting for a similar position to what I currently hold. No, I’m not looking for a change! I love what I do and where I do it, so I’m staying put. However, the required skills section of the posting did capture my attention.
As I looked at the requirements, I noticed there were a couple of topics that I would benefit from learning more about. In addition, I got a glimpse into what skills other organizations deem valuable in my chosen career field. It also caused me to add a couple more items to add to my “skills to learn” list.
I think it’s good to sharpen our knowledge of the techniques and technologies in our chosen careers…
so that our skills don’t become stale or dated …
so that we can skillfully apply our skills to the work that we do…
so that we can help our organizations fulfill their missions.
Staying sharp in our careers isn’t just good for us, it’s also good for those we serve. Plus, it’s more rewarding when we’ve got an intellectual toolbox full of well-sharpened skills that we can draw from in order to solve the problems we encounter.
Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.
I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me. That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think. That’s simply not true.
Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.
I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.
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.
I love journaling. When I journal, I feel more observant, reflective, grateful, and focused. Yet with all the positive benefits, I’ve had a hard time getting into the consistent regular habit of journaling.
There will be seasons where I journal a lot, but then I’ll stop and go for long stretches without an entry. What makes this even more frustrating is that I have done a good job of forming other positive habits that I do daily. However, regular journaling remains elusive.
That said, I still work to create the habit. I haven’t totally thrown in the towel, because I think it is a habit worthy of pursuing. Just because that habit isn’t forming right away, doesn’t mean I should give up on it. It it’s important to me, which it is, I should continue to strive to form that habit.
Striving is progress, and that progress ceases the moment we stop striving.