Train your brain like you train your body. — Chip Wilson
Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, threw out this nugget in an interview with Tim Ferriss.
When it comes to our physical bodies, we understand that we can’t keep our muscles in a contracted state all day. You would never try to hold a heavy weight in a bicep curl all day. You do your reps, maybe a few sets, and then you put the weights down. We understand that the muscles actually grow in the resting phase, after the workout ends.
And yet when it comes to our brains, we’re seeking hacks to keep them active and engaged all the time. One of the most common requests I receive from people is for tips on how to push through the lulls in their day.
Here’s the tip: stop trying to push through.
This is easier said than done. We all want the edge; we are terrified of falling behind and losing time, of not getting everything done, of not fulfilling our potential.
I have moments where I judge myself a failure for losing focus, letting my mind wander, falling down the rabbit hole of distractions.
Of course, the spiral of self-criticism I fall into when I lose focus is actually worse than the rabbit hole. At least the rabbit hole has the potential for being useful at some point.
The mind wanders because it’s exhausted. It gets distracted because it needs a break.
Concentration and focus are the bicep curls of the brain. These muscles are not meant to be in a permanent state of contraction. Brain work is heavy lifting; we need periods of time to put the weights down.
It’s also important to look at what we’re doing when we “put down the weights” of our work.
Are you escaping into a book? Listening to podcasts? Learning something new? Writing? Solving other problems?
If what you’re doing in your “down time” is exercising the same muscles that need to rest, then you’re not really resting those muscles.
I love to learn; my insatiable curiosity is often my escape hatch. And as much value as there is in learning, I know that I must be vigilant in cutting off my learning and other brain-intensive activities to properly rest my brain.
Mindfulness is a big buzzword these days. It’s certainly important and useful to practice mindfulness, to be aware, to increase our concentration.
AND it’s also important for the brain to shut off. The other side of mindfulness is mindlessness. We need both.
Mindlessness isn’t about being careless or ignorant, rather it’s a practice in allowing the mind to wander. We can practice mindlessness by engaging in activities that don’t require thinking, learning, or communicating.
When we get out of the realm of thoughts and ideas, we rest our brains and strengthen our minds.
Your distracted mind
Is sending you a message:
Please give me a break!