Sometimes you read something that hits your Truth button like a savage blow to the solar plexus. This is one of those things. (Thank you to my wife for sharing it on her timeline. 😉 )
Does thinking make you tired?
I wish that I could energize and focus myself by thinking and (relatedly) by reading. I wish I could set my mind to something and just GO but I find that focus and a state of wakefulness are kind of like trying to keep a spinning top from falling off the sides of a coffee table. You have to herd that mess.
(See what I mean?!?! I’m writing late at night and while thinking about the impact of this last statement, I nodded off, fingers barely poised above the home row—except for the heavy ‘d’ finger.
I really did write this segment late at night, really was exhausted, and really did fall asleep in the process. But before I banished it to my Ridiculous bin, I wanted to share some good news with you. The good news is that working WITH the human brain and our physiology, instead of against it, is really worthwhile and will help us focus and reach our goals.
Here are some scientifically backed tips for getting more of your potential loosed.
- Eliminate distractions. Our brain wants to follow distractions. Studies show that a distraction happens every 11 minutes throughout one’s day, while it takes one’s brain 25 minutes to ‘get over it’ and move on. Therefore, cutting ourselves off from certain distractions will pull out stops towards accomplishing our goal(s).
- Limit work sessions, especially creative ones. With very few exceptions, brainstorming sessions, creative writing workshops, and other productive increments should be limited to an hour. Beyond that, everyone keeps looking like adults but inside we start to naturally resemble pent up children that need to go run around the playground for a while. Therefore, build in mandatory breaks for yourself. If you need more time for a project/task, or if it just isn’t done yet, break it up into sections–taking advantage of…
- Chunks. I’m not kidding here–chunking–is a psychological term for how our brain groups things together in order to efficiently keep track of information. This is why we remember things better if grouped into threes. (E.g. phone numbers (555) 555-, “they always come in threes, don’t they?”) This is also useful for planning how to teach and share information: combine it with the fact that in a list of things people will remember the first and last items best, and you can greatly increase the chances they’ll retain some of it.
- Git ‘er dun. Okay, so this one isn’t scientifically steeped here. But it’s right up there with “Just Do It.” Simply finishing something–even if it is only one item out of many you want to complete, or if it is something very small–will give you an emotional and cognitive pat on the back. I saw this in action the most working with special-needs children and those with learning disabilities. When these kids are just floundering and on the brink of total shutdown, we quickly bring the finish line to them so that they are guaranteed to at least cross it. (We would try again later.)
Tutor: “Okay, Johnny, what’s 3 + 4?”
Johnny: “AAAAHHHHH!!!!!”–while flailing and writhing in pain.
Tutor: “Okay, Johnny, touch the circle. Good job! Go play!”
These little tips are sufficient to lighten up on yourself and get tough with yourself simultaneously. Work with your biological inclinations, get serious about building and guarding an environment you’re most likely to succeed in, and then go for it.
Pastor Jay got me thinking the other day. He made a great point.
God always uses small numbers to work with. Not large numbers. He uses a baby in a stable, the runt of the litter, the shepherd, the little old lady…
If large numbers are used, God doesn’t get the credit; people will tend to believe that if a big campaign succeeded, it was due to a show of human force. An individual or a small group of people bringing down huge walls or parting seas DEMANDS that God receive the credit.
This is extremely encouraging to me because it reminds me that starting small, having small odds, or having big obstacles, are not really signs of trouble. They are not signs that I am way in over my head. (Or maybe, even still, being in over my head is a good place to be sometimes, especially when it comes to my dreams.)
In his great book that I’m reading, JOLT!, Phil Cooke talked about his brother-in-law (I think it was) who was an oil tanker captain. These massive ships are so big and heavily weighed down, and have such a small rudder, that they have to start turning 20 miles ahead of time in order to turn and change course!
Sometimes I see myself as a massive object: emotionally, physically, I can take a while to get going, but then when I do I can get momentum that is hard to stop. Maybe I can use this as more of an asset than I thought.
More importantly, my efforts to change my life and take on new challenges and change course is going to take a big push, but it is well worth the suspense.
How about a Being List? Who will you be this week? Might as well try it.
Here’s a modest example:
- A dad to my son
- A caring husband
- A servant leader, who leaves a place looking better than I found it, and leaving someone feeling better than I found them
- Someone who trusts God, and trusts in something much bigger than himself
- Someone who reaches out to somebody else that is hard for me to connect with
- Someone who will give something without concern over what I’ll get back
- A trusting business partner, who follows the advice of those who have gone before me
- A remover of my own excuses
- A person who prays for people I don’t understand instead of bemoaning them
- A person who likes what he is becoming and is thankful for what he has
It’s not easy to make a list like this at first. I found myself reverting many times to a “do” and “don’t” list. There’s nothing wrong with a Do-list (and things still need to get done), but for me it is important to balance what I do and what I am. If I’m more aware of what I’m doing and what I want to do, I can be more aware of who and what I want to become, and vice versa.
No matter what I do, I’m going to be something. I will become what I have done up to that point. If I know what I want to be, it will guide me as to what I must do in order to get there. And it starts in this moment, which is the only one I actually have.
That is an encouraging thought. 😉
When’s the last time you saw a happy Costco employee? It’s been a long time for me. They always strike me as British public service employees. Trying to get them to smile becomes a fun challenge for tourists.
The supervisors are really bad but the snack bar people are worse.
What company do you know that has employees who seem to be happy to work there? I’m trying to come up with a list of my own.
In-N-Out (All hail)
Disney? (Nope. Maybe once upon a time.)
Hmm, this is tougher than I thought. Help!
I’m so pissed off today.
I’m really angry about what’s not working. What’s not happening. What I don’t understand.
Who cares? Change it then.
Show me the way, and give me the courage…