Refresh Your Brain to Restore High-Level Thinking

How to Immediately Refresh Your Brain to Restore High-Level Thinking

Photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash

Mental clarity can escape anyone.

Surely even Einstein and Shakespeare had their moments. It happens.

It’s your ability to recover that matters.

You can impact your brain function and cognitive abilities by making simple tweaks here and there to your daily routine.

If you are looking to improve your concentration to perform better at work, or simply to make everyday life easier, you will find these ideas useful.

It only takes a few minutes to completely clear your head and restore higher-level thinking.

Recognise and name your state of mind

At our best, we feel calm, confident, focused, enthusiastic, and optimistic.That’s when we’re most productive and get along best with others.

At our worst, we typically experience self-doubt, impatience, irritability, defensiveness, and pessimism and we tend to lose focus.

Most of us move along the spectrum between our best and our worst all day long, depending on what’s going on around us.

To maximise your output and make the most of your brain energy, it’s important to recognize your state of mind at any point in time.

Naming your emotions tends to lessen the burden of being at your worst.

The physician ans psychiatrist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name itto tame it.”

David Rock argues that when you are experiencing significant internal tension and anxiety, you can reduce stress by up to 50 percent by noticing and naming your state.

In “Your Brain at Work, David Rock says, “Without this ability to stand outside your experience, without self-awareness, you would have little ability to moderate and direct your behavior moment to moment.”

He writes, “You need this capacity to free yourself from the automatic flow of experience and to choose where to direct your attention. Without a director, you are a mere automaton, driven by greed, fear, or habit.”

Schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking

Our brains have two modes. When you are doing creative work, learning something new, or working on your most important tasks, you are in the “focused” mode.

Your brain assumes “diffuse” mode when you are relaxed, taking a walk, or day dreaming. Studies have shown that activity in many regions of the brain increases when your minds wander. Your brain solves its difficult problems while you daydream.

Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman argues that “mind wandering serves multiple adaptive functions, such as future planning, sorting out current concerns, cycling through different information streams, distributed learning (versus cramming), and creativity.”

According to engineering professor Barbara Oakley, author of “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra),” inaddition to this “focused mode” — which relies on your brain’s prefrontal cortex — we also learn through a “diffuse mode,” rooted in the operations of a variety of different brain regions.

In fact, the brain switches back and forth between these modes regularly.

Barbara explains “When you’re focusing, you’re actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.”

Schedule purposeful breaks

According to research, the brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. You lose your focus and your performance on the task declines.

Studies have shown that workers are most focused and productive when following the rhythm of a work/rest ratio.

When faced with a long creative problem, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task and improve your idea generation approach. A structured downtime can help you do your best work.

We tend to generate redundant ideas when we don’t take regular breaks. If you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression. Your brain needs downtime to remain industrious and generate better ideas.

Your brain needs downtime to remain creative and generate its most innovative ideas.

A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves creativity and that skipping breaks can lead to stress, exhaustion, and creative block.

Idleness is not a vice, it is indispensable for making those unexpected connections in the brain you crave and necessary to getting creative work done.

If you are struggling to solve complicated problems might be better off switching to “diffuse” mode and letting their mind wander.

Take proper breaks, often. Sometimes you just need a break — a chance to reboot the system.

Take a walk. A few minutes stroll can increase blood flow to the brain, which can boost creative thought. Charles Darwin took long walks around London.

Dickens wrote his novels between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. After that, he would go out for a long walk. He once said, “If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.”

Find time to doodle. Let your mind wander as you embrace pen and paper, again. Research shows that doodling can stimulate new ideas and help us stay focused. Make time to exercise. Exercise can give you more energy and help you gain focus. Try this 7-minute workout.

Embrace meditation. Meditation lowers stress levels and improves overall health as well as creativity. Take a nap. A number of studies have established that naps sharpen concentration and improve the performance.

Completely clear your mind and begin again. Your next big idea depends on it.

How To Achieve Your 10-Year Plan In The Next 6 Months

 
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“How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?” — Peter Thiel

How much time does something really take to accomplish?

Before answering that question, a better question is: How much time do you actually have?

Once you’ve answered that question, you’ll then be able to ask: Where is all of your time going?

Only then can you determine how long something really needs to take.

How Much Time Do You Have?

The average month has 720 hours (30 days X 24 hours).

  • If you slept 8 hours per day (8 hours X 30 days = 240 hours), you’d have 480 hours left.
  • If you worked 40 hours per week (40 hours X 4 weeks = 160 hours), you’d have 320 hours left. However, as will be shown, working 40 hours per week is optional, but certainly not optimal. And definitely not necessary. In fact, in the knowledge-working world we live in, your best work will generally happen while you’re away from work. As research has shown, only 16% of creative ideas happen while you’re sitting at work. Most will happen while you’re relaxing, commuting, traveling, spending time present with loved ones, etc.
  • If you spend 2 hours eating per day (2 hours X 30 days = 60 hours), you’d have 280 hours left.

So, the question is, what are you doing with those 280 hours?

If you spend those 280 hours listening to audiobooks, you could listen to approximately 45 books! (average book being 6 hours).

280 hours X 12 months = 3,360 hours… what are you doing with those 3,360 hours?!

If you spend those 3,360 hours listening to audiobooks, you could listen to approximately 560 books! (average book being 6 hours).

Of course, listening to 560 audiobooks would probably not be the best use of your time. Listening to 100, though, would probably be life-altering.

Of course, there are far more powerful ways of learning than simply reading books. If you get stuck with one method of learning, you will certainly stunt your growth.

Reading books should stimulate new ways of thinking and ACTING in the world. If you’re not acting differently, you’re not actually learning, and thus not changing. Your behavior is what shapes circumstance, confidence, personality, and relationships.

You read for instructions and inspiration. You then immediately apply what you learn and adjust accordingly. If you’re willing to fail fast, break things, and deal with problems (mostly people problems!), you can then learn what’s immediately relevant at that time.

For most people, learning has become an escape from doing. Filling your head with useless information is the opposite of hard-won wisdom and understanding, which can only happen via the application of knowledge and re-application based on experience in the real world.

What Do You Do With Your 280 Hours?

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” — Peter Drucker

If you don’t know you have a problem, it probably won’t change.

If you don’t believe you have a problem, it probably won’t change.

If you can’t admit you have a problem, you’re living in denial. We all have problems. In today’s society, we’re all addicted to something (probably many things!)

You can’t purposefully change what you’re unaware of. Hence, the need for education, experience, and accountability (to both self and others). If you track and are required to report something, you’ll become heavily conscious. If there are immediate consequences to not performing, performance will raise even more.

The moment of awakening happens when you:

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you have a problem
  • Openly admit you have a problem
  • Begin seeking out information and help
  • Get accountability
  • Create an environment that facilitates your desire to change
  • Begin investing in more healthy alternatives and solutions

With that said, let’s take a look at your current use of time. WHERE IS IT ALL GOING???

To be completely honest, you have no idea where it’s going. That’s because you’re unconscious of where it’s going. The only way to become conscious is to begin tracking your use of time. Which for most people isn’t fun. It’s hard. It’s a chore.

So you give up after 1–3 days.

For example, research has found that most people look at their smartphones around 100 times per day (I’m sure it’s at least double that). Yet, most people BELIEVE they look at their phone only about 30–40. So, at least half of those times looking are mindless and unconscious.

The difficulty with today’s environment is that it’s heavily trigger-laden. We are so used to being on technology and being distracted that it’s hard for us to imagine being fully AWAKE and present for long periods of time.

That’s got to change if you want to start achieving your 10-year plans in the next 6 months.

The idea of achieving such big goals in such a short time might seem totally crazy and unrealistic to you. However, if you stick with me through this post, you’ll realize that it’s actually VERY doable.

It’s not doable though, if you continue operating with the same mindsets and approaches you’ve been accustomed to.

You absolutely cannot achieve things 10X or 20X faster if you’re distracted on social media even one hour per day.

Why?

Because that’s a very low-level use of time. Recovering and resting and playing for several hours per day is GREAT! It’s stimulating and fulfilling and leads to growth and deepening of self and relationships.

Yet, on the statistics, the average person spends between 3–8 hours on the internet every day.

How much of that time is deliberate, purposeful, and goal-oriented?

When was the last time you got on the internet for a specific purpose, and then got off when that purpose was complete?

The internet is more distracting and hard to evade than a Las Vegas casino.

When was the last time you had a full day where you ate exactly what you wanted, without impulsively grabbing something like sugar, carbs, or caffeine out of habit?

These examples are only to show how unconsciously we generally live.

If you can’t say what exactly you ate yesterday, and where you spent every moment of you’re time, you’re probably less healthy and less productive than you think.

So:

  • How regularly do you sleep 8 hours per night?
  • Do you go to bed and rise the same time each night?
  • Do you unplug for technology and screen-time 60–90 minutes before bed?
  • When are your most optimal hours for mental and creative work? Do you do your most important work during those optimal hours? (by the way, for most people, it’s during the first 3 hours of their day, and just before bed).
  • How much time do you spend with your family and friends without having your smartphone on your person?
  • What are the most meaningful activities you do with your friends and family?
  • How regularly do you do those activities?
  • When was the last time you did those activities?
  • What are your current goals for 2018?
  • What are your current goals for Quarter 2 of 2018?
  • What are your current goals for May of 2018?
  • What are your current goals for THIS week?
  • Are those goals stretching you?
  • What if you only had 3 months left to live? Could you accomplish your 2018 goals during those 3 months? My guess is, that you probably could. Of course, if you only had 3 months left to live, you might re-assess those goals. You’d probably realize that many of those goals are brainwashed into you by cultural norms.
  • If you only had 3 months left to live, what would your goals be?
  • Who would you reach out to?
  • What EXPERIENCES would you seek to have?
  • What “unfinished business” would you get done?

What If You Only Had 6 Months Left To Live?

“Nothing will fill your heart with a greater sense of regret than lying on your deathbed knowing that you did not live your life and do your dreams.” — Robin Sharma

Is it possible to actually live with a “deathbed mentality?”

Of course it is.

But the stakes need to be high enough for you.

You need to actually VALUE your time, and to appreciate the brevity of your time on this planet.

In order to properly value your time, you need:

  • A belief system about the purpose of your existence (“If you have more than 3 priorities, you have none” — Jim Collins). You can’t have priorities if you don’t have a value-system.
  • A belief about how should you be using your time
  • A desire to live and learn
  • A disregard for how (most) people perceive you. As Allen Carr said in his extremely important book, THE EASY WAY TO CONTROL ALCOHOL: “I would define cowardice as: failure to act as my conscience dictates, because of fear of physical injury or ridicule.”
  • A willingness to continue learning
  • A goal you’re striving to accomplish (a “mission” or “purpose” that gives you something to dedicate yourself to)

If you have a true goal, something that is extremely valuable to you, and that you believe to be very important, ONLY THEN can you begin to properly value and use your time.

If you don’t have a guiding purpose, you’ll be aimless with your time. As Ryan Holiday has said, “This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.”

Very few people can optimize their time because very few people are clear on:

  • What they believe
  • And what they should do because of that belief
  • And how to most effectively accomplish that belief

Once you know what you believe you should do, then your next task is to:

  • Get really, really good at learning and filtering through information
  • Give yourself a very short time-line
  • Use your most important time, every single day, for moving toward your goals
  • Remove everything from your life that hinders you from achieving your goals. From a holistic perspective, taking lots of time OFF is actually key to productivity. Your best ideas will happen while you’re away from work. Your motivation to succeed will be heightened if you have deep and meaningful relationships with friends and family. Your thinking and creativity will be better if you exercise daily. From an essential-perspective, you want to have lots of stimulating, stretching, entertaining, and beautiful areas of your life.

However, none of the areas of your life will be optimized if you don’t focus. Most people are distracted while they are at work and distracted while they’re home.

Most people don’t see a reason to eat healthy.

Most people don’t see a reason to evaluate the quality of everything they put in their mouth and in their heads.

But when you know your time is limited, you begin to ask much harder questions. You begin to be a lot more honest with yourself and with others.

Those things which were invisible to you now become very apparent.

If you had 6 months to live, how much of that time would you spend on Facebook?

If you had 6 months left to live, would it be difficult to wake up at 5AM?

What’s the difference?

Why would it be easy to wake up at 5AM and stay off Facebook if you only had 6 months left to live?

Honesty.

Brutal honesty.

That’s the difference.

You’d be far more honest with yourself about what’s important to you.

Would it be hard to give up a bad habit if you only had 6 months left to live? Probably not.

Would it be hard to drop everything you don’t love and focus exclusively on what matters?

Would it be hard to “find your voice” or market your ideas? Not at all. If you believed you were doing something very important, you’d shout from the rooftops. You wouldn’t hold back and restrain for fear of what others think.

You’d get to work.

Short-Term Experiments Can Help

Tim Ferriss doesn’t set long-term goals (at least, that’s what he claims). Instead, he pursues short-term “experiments.” The reason he pursues short-term experiments is because he doesn’t seek “happiness,” but instead, “excitement.”

I think another reason Ferriss pursues experiments is because he understands the value of time. He’s learned how to optimize his time. He knows how to set goals and achieve them quickly. He knows how to surround himself with a “tribe of mentors.” He’s set his life up to live on his own terms.

Therefore, he’s willing to take risks.

He’s willing to experiment, to try new things, and to fail.

He’s willing to pursue things that excite him. He’s willing to do something even if he doesn’t know where it’s taking him.

Importantly, Ferriss isn’t living this way BECAUSE he has freedom of time and money. Rather, he has freedom of time and money BECAUSE he operates this way.

When you have a short timeline, and something meaningful you’re pursuing with vigor — you learn a lot. You adapt. You face problems in real-time and deal with those problems in real time. You learn only what you MUST learn.

You BRUTE-FORCE learn in a hostile and immersive environment.

Pulling It All Together

“How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?” — Peter Thiel

How do you achieve stuff 10X or 100X faster than “normal?”

  • You must have something that drives you
  • You must operate with a “deathbed mentality” and not undervalue your time
  • You must be willing to experiment and fail continually
  • You can’t be a coward, which means you go against your intuition because you fear what others think (the scientific definition of courage means you deliberately confront risks to achieve a “noble goal”)
  • You need to be an intense and wise learner, which means you get the best information from the best resources and apply immediately what you learn

Even if you have a full-time job and 3 kids, you can achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months.

You just need to start FINDING time to match toward your dreams. If you have less time, you actually need to be more bold. You need to learn faster. You need to reach out to the right people quicker. You need to put your work out there and face an audience immediately.

If you start doing all of these things, you’ll get feedback. And that’s all failure is. Failure is feedback.

Without feedback, you won’t know what to do. Once you get feedback, the next move becomes glaringly obvious.

Get feedback. The harsher and more honest and more direct the feedback, the better.

Use that feedback.

Adjust.

Get better information.

It is an absolutely amazing feeling to be living your life as if you only had 6 months left to live.

You absolutely can start living this way now. Once you do, you’ll stop putting up with petty stuff. You’ll start treating people differently. You’ll actually look them in the eyes. You’ll actually listen. You’ll express love and interest. You’ll lift those around you.

And you’ll stop dealing with stuff that no longer makes sense. You’ll act with far more purpose, persistence, and boldness.

You’ll put first things first.

You will act on instinct and intuition, not impulse and addiction.

When you start acting in accordance with your intuition, you develop confidence. Conversely, acting against your intuition can often produce short-term dopamine, and a long-term lack of confidence.

If you want more confidence, start striving toward the life you want. Even if you fail, you’ll be proud of yourself. And if you’re committed, you’ll begin to succeed. You’ll eventually get so much momentum that it becomes your new normal to operate at optimal levels.

Why?

Because you’re congruent.

When your internal and external worlds are congruent with your values and vision, you can be highly productive WHILE living with ease. It’s easy because you’re not trying to force yourself to do it. Instead, it’s hard NOT to do what you want to do.

A POSITIVE THOUGHT – How To Ride The Wave Of A Positive Thought

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

You Are Not Your Thoughts

“Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not remain so if you only perceive an ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.” — James Allen

What were you thinking a moment ago?

Was it positive, uplifting or disempowering?

Notice the feelings generated by the thoughts.

Are they pleasant, neutral or disagreeable?

If you’re able to move your attention to your emotions, congratulations, you know how to ride the wave of a positive thought.

What do I mean by that?

If you observe a surfer on a wave, you’ll notice it will turn into a large swell at one point. With enough momentum it surges into a larger wave, carrying the surfer to the shoreline.

Thoughts come and go from the landscape of your mind like ocean waves. New thoughts enter your stream of consciousness every one second. This means thoughts don’t last, unless you direct your attention towards specific ones.

You live in the feelings of your thoughts, not the outside circumstances that influence them. External conditions do not impose upon your thinking, however it can produce an emotional response if the stimuli is strong enough.

“Truth is: Getting stopped by a thought, negative or positive, lays the groundwork for any disconcerting experience. It’s never what we think, but that we think that gets us into hot water,” affirms sports psychologist Garret Kramer in, The Path of No Resistance: Why Overcoming is Simpler than You Think.

Some days a thought produces a negative emotion while other days it’s insignificant.

Why?

What has changed apart from the day?

You react to your surroundings on those occasions for unknown reasons, i.e. tired, moody, hungry, etc. At that time you’re ruled by your thinking more so.

Your mind doesn’t differentiate between a positive or negative thought. It doesn’t register them in this manner — but you do, as the observer. When you label thoughts, you assign them importance over others, so they occupy space in your mind.

I want to be clear: You are not your thoughts.

You are not your thoughts, because they appear and dissolve from your mind and none are permanent. They may be repeated often, but they are never permanent. To imply you are what you think is misleading, to the degree you might experience a positive thought one moment and a negative one the next. If you are defined by that distinction, who are you according to this narrative?

If you live in the feelings of your thoughts and experience an anxious thought, it doesn’t imply you’re an anxious person. It means you experienced a thought which produced anxiety in your body. You may have an illuminating thought the next moment which cancels the earlier one. There are exceptions of course, governed by a clinical diagnosis by a trained mental health professional.

Photo by Lili Kovac on Unsplash

Choose More Balanced Thoughts

“Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.” — James Allen

So the question arises, who are you then?

Garret Kramer affirms once more, “All you really need to do is leave your thoughts alone. Why? Because when left alone, as we’ve seen, all thoughts are impotent. You’re free to excel no matter when or where a negative, or even a positive, thought invades your brain.”

The key to overcome unwelcomed thoughts is not to eject them from your mind, but to be mindful of them. Approximately 50,000–70,000 thoughts pass through your mind every day. Thoughts flood into your consciousness on a moment-to-moment basis, like a TV show streamed online.

If thoughts flow into your consciousness, how can you reduce the impact of the negative ones?

By being mindful of disempowering thoughts, you bring them to the forefront of your mind and become conscious, rather than unconscious of them.

Unconscious thoughts are part of the landscape of your mind. Similar to streaming a TV show on a computer, you can be distracted by a pop-up window selling you a product or service. Your intention is to view the show, yet the distraction pulls you away from it. Unconscious thoughts have the same effect. They emerge from nowhere and can lead you to dark places if you’re unaware.

“The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgement. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind,” states author Eckhart Tolle.

The key is to recognise your conscious thoughts without invoking negative feelings or adding a narrative. You do so by witnessing them through the eyes of equanimity, instead of reacting with negative emotions or actions.

To ride the wave of positive thought, first note the feelings produced in your body. Note your emotional response without becoming invested in them.

Eckhart Tolle states, “Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind — or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body.”

Empowering thoughts have an enriching quality, demonstrating they are in harmony and balance. Thoughts that produce an uncomfortable sensation, is your body’s way of showing you they are out of alignment.

In this setting, the body is a feedback instrument informing you of your thinking.

You needn’t be attentive to every thought. Yet, if you’re aware how those thoughts generate positive or negative emotions, it’s possible to choose more balanced thoughts.

When an inspiring thought emerges, move into your body and notice your emotional response.

Is it in your chest, stomach or elsewhere?

How does it feel?

Is it a tingling sensation that radiates or does it move to other regions?

Meditation is useful when sitting with your thoughts in a quiet setting. Even as little as five minutes in silence helps you become acquainted with your thoughts, instead of passing through your mind without conscious awareness.

To ride the wave of a positive thought, note the feelings they produce while shifting your awareness to them.

As you witness your thoughts, your awareness observes them thus diminishing their intensity.

In time, you create longer streams of positive thoughts, having become familiar with their ebb and flow.