How To Maintain Your Edge – The Art Of Keeping Your Mind Sharp
If your mind is dull, you are dull. Our mind is a great asset. The more we use it, the greater the return on our investment. However, if we don’t use it, we’ll lose it. Keeping your mind sharp should be a daily activity. The best thinkers have the sharpest minds.
I have an axe in our shed out back of the house. I’ve not used it for a while so now it’s rusty and lost its edge. With winter upon us I’m hoping to chop some wood for the fire place. To do that, I need to sharpen my axe. As a dull axe won’t chop down a tree, neither will a dull mind learn and grow. Our success depends on using our mind daily and using it well. When we keep our mind sharp, we think better. Since what we think about we bring about, that can only be a good thing.
Recently, someone asked me how they could sharpen their mind. They were seeking a recipe. Ask anyone who is successful – be it an athlete, a parent, a businessman etc – how they achieved their success, they will share their recipe. Whatever their chosen field, a common denominator will be having a clear and focused mind. I know for me, when I’m focused and have a clear goal or sense of direction, my progress and success grows. When I’m not; they don’t. This worked at university for me to become a veterinarian. It’s working right now as I work toward a fitness goal to lean down and get fitter to make 2014 my year of re-entering competitive sport. For me to maintain my edge, I know I must discipline my thinking first. When I think clearly, my actions are more effective. The results come quicker. As any successful person will tell you, “the game” is won or lost in the mind first.
How do you keep your mind sharp?
It takes discipline.
This is as much about art as about science. Your mind works creatively and logically. You have to take a balanced approach. There is no one sure fire answer. Consider your favorite food dish. It will be made up of certain ingredients that, when combined in the right way, will consistently deliver the results you desire. The key is to find the recipe that works for you. Then use it. Every day. Be disciplined.
My dad taught me a lot about discipline. His approach to a disciplined mind was through a disciplined body. Hence, he drilled into me the need to keep fit physically. He tied that to my academic performance. He said I could keep swimming (and doing various sports like hockey etc) so long as I maintained my grades. If they slipped, sport stopped. Well…I was not going to let that happened. I became a straight A student because of my swimming addiction. Or was it the other way around? Either way, such focus and commitment required discipline. Sleep. Study. Swim. Diet. Every spare moment I studied. I regimented everything as best I could. I knew what I wanted to achieve and I knew what it would take.
Where your mind goes, your life follows.
Keeping your mind sharp does not need to be complicated. Actually, if it seems complicated, then something is wrong. A confused mind says “No!” Daily self-discipline applied to a few core mental practices will keep your mind sharp.
Here are a few things that work for me:
1. Keep a learning journal. I think a lot. My mind can get cluttered or blocked. A journal helps clear my busy mind. I capture my thoughts, ideas, and questions etc. No thought really gets lost. It’s there when I need it.
2. Pray. I do this first and last thing in my day and, as inspired, throughout the day. I voice my thinking, challenges etc to God. Doing so opens me up to new considerations that God reveals.
3. Be still. Sometimes stopping thinking is the best way for me to make progress. When I’m still, I’m more receptive to my better thinking. I admit, this is a tough one for me.
4. Meditate. I think on that which is good, worthy and noble. I listen to and read only good and positive things – for me that’s the Bible, positive news stories, uplifting music etc.
5. Rest. I take 1 full day off per week. I switch off from work. Sunday is family day. My focus is not on me but them. I’ve also recently taken to reading a chapter a day from a fiction book. It’s a nice escape.
6. Grow. At least 30 minutes per day I focus on growing my skills, knowledge and experience in some way. Often that means I’m working on some assignments from my coach or reading a relevant book on business, leadership or self-development.
7. Exercise regularly. No surprises there I’m sure. I do 6 days a week first thing in the morning. This clears my mind and sets me up for the day.).
Use it or lose it.
I’ve found the more you use your mind, the better it works. Unlike your computer or your washing machine, it will not become obsolete and will never run down unless you stop using it. Your mind is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. If you stop using it, it will become weak. The key is to exercise your mind little and often with a few simple disciplines that work for you.
Our thinking is either limiting or unlimiting. Every success you’ve ever had – small or large – required you using your mind. Somehow you had some mental discipline that helped you be a success. As it’s said, “Success breeds success.” Exercise your mind. Make it a habit. Keep it sharp. Your success depends on it – at work, rest and play.
Establish or reinforce 1-3 daily mental disciplines to keep your mind sharp.