The Thinking Gym

Gyms are opening up on every street corner – burn more in less time and be a better version of yourself, we’re told. Whether it’s a genuine call for health and wellbeing, or an enticement to be attractive and eligible, is another story! Either way, the body is a valuable gift that needs to be cared for, trained, nourished and maintained. Back in the day, exercise was intertwined into daily life. Walking or cycling, for example, was a common form of transport. As time went by, we became advanced and invented cars and motorcycles. The net result – we now devote hours in the gym to walk on treadmills and ride on exercise bikes! Unnatural lifestyles call for unnatural solutions!

While the unhealthy world loses its physical edge, we may also consider how we’re losing our mental edge. Just as we exercise the body and keep it tuned, we also need to exercise our mental capacity. If we don’t, we’ll under-utilise it, or worse still, we’ll end up misusing it. Our mental faculties need constant training, since they drive our life trajectory. The decisions we make, responses we generate, perceptions we breed, and ideas we manifest, are all a product of our state of mind. People possess a default confidence that they have full grasp over their mental and intellectual faculties, yet have never really taken the time to understand them, train them or tune them.

It may be time to join the Thinking Gym. Here are four powerful exercises:

Drop technology and Pick-Up Books – social media and the internet can corrode your concentration, rust your reflectiveness, cut your criticality, and stifle your sensitivity. Seneca sums it up beautifully – “to be everywhere means to be nowhere.” Let’s pick up more books, read, relax, ruminate and return to the real world.

Wrestle with Opposing Opinions – just as resistance builds muscle, engaging with opposing opinions nurtures your thinking. Talk to people who have a different take on life. Don’t enter the discourse simply to ‘win’ or have your voice heard, instead allow the questions, doubts and opinions of others genuinely challenge and clarify you own understanding.

Stretch your Imaginative Expression – express your thoughts in ingenious ways, and you’ll find the depth of your realisation extends. Write about it, speak about it, teach it, and find dynamic ways to share it, and in the process you will find your own understanding of it has dramatically evolved.

Run the Mental Treadmill – let thoughts brew. Henry David Thoreau’s take – “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”