Dec 03, 2012

Mental Gymnastics: Becoming a Mental Powerhouse! Part I

I want you to think about the correlation between working out physically and working out mentally.  As you do, I want you to fully consider this: Which is worse, physical or metal lethargy?

Let me share a short story with you.  I recently took four months off from working out.  Prior to this time, I went to the gym at least five days per week for the last three decades.  At fifty-something years old, I was able to out lift pretty much anybody at the gym I went to and was probably in the top 10% of what most Americans can lift.  After four months off and returning to the gym, I found that I’m no longer ‘Superman’.  I dropped at least 25% in weight in all my lifts.  My body and my ego both hurt tremendously.

Now, I share this with you to make a point; our physical body must have an appropriate amount of exercise to maintain top performance, to remain in the top 10% or 20%.  The same is true for us mentally.  How many times do we think about exercising mentally and doing mental gymnastics?  Let me describe what I hear most common from people about their typical day.  It goes something like this:

They get up at the same time every morning and get ready for their day.  Depending on what a person does will determine what ‘getting ready for their day’ means.  For those that have a job, that may mean doing all the things necessary to get ready for work.  If someone stays at home to take care of it, the kids, etc., then ‘getting ready for their day’ may mean getting everybody else off to work, school, and then taking care of the home.  If someone is unemployed, then getting ready for their day means preparing for job searching through various means.  Now, you’ll find commonality in all of these scenarios, and others you may come up with.  Each one has a routine.  Not that there is anything wrong with routines…until we find that we are no longer living intentionally.  Let’s keep going:

The person that is headed off to work normally has some drive time.  They take the same route to work every day.  It gets to the point that they don’t even remember how they got to work because they “tune out” the drive since they’ve taken it so many times and they think about all sorts of other things.  They know they had to have went through stop lights, stop signs, school zones, etc., and, the questions are, “Did I stop at the stop lights?”, “Did I stop at the stop signs?”, “Did I slow down in the school zone?”

The person that is getting everybody else off to their destinations and remains home goes through a similar process.  “Did I pack everything the kids needed for lunch?”  “Did I kiss my wife/husband/significant-other goodbye?”

The person that’s unemployed may find that they started their job search early in the morning and discover that it’s now 2:00 in the afternoon and they didn’t get cleaned up for the day.  They think to themselves, “How did the day pass by without me noticing?”

Unfortunately, the rest of their day probably goes much the same.  You see, everyone has certain states that they go into to perform routine tasks.  Fully consider it.  When you go to work, don’t you have a certain mindset, or state of mind, that you go into to perform your work?  Here’s an example:  A salesperson acts a certain way at the office, in meetings, and when they are with their co-workers.  But, watch what happens when they go into a sales appointment.  They usually change their state.  They may become more formal in the way they speak and act.  When they go into their presentation, especially if they’ve done it for a long time, they will use the same words each time they give the presentation and they hate to be interrupted because it interferes with their “flow”.  Yes, they are in their Presentation “state”, “mindset”, or “routine”, which is triggered by the situation.

We naturally and unconsciously go into these states.  It’s the way our minds are designed so that we conserve mental energy and make it available for use elsewhere.  The problem begins when we don’t do something productive with the mental energy we have conserved.  You can relate it to conserving your physical energy all day long to ultimately sit on the couch and watch TV, play video games, or do something else that requires little, to no, physical exertion.

So, how can we do “Mental Gymnastics”?  What action can YOU take to become a “Mental Powerhouse”?  I’ll discuss those questions in the next blog post.

Creating life in forward motion,

Edward Lewellen


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