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Writing Your Mind Expanding Script

Captain Jack Sands, a navy pilot during the Vietnam War, was shot down and captured by the Viet Cong.  Imprisoned for the next seven years in a 5’x 5’ cell, he fought to retain his sanity.  He succeeded by envisioning himself playing eighteen holes of golf every day of his captivity.  Each detail of the game—the contour of the course, the weather, the club selection, the smell of the freshly mown grass—was all conjured up in his mind.  He even picked out the clothes he wore.  Mentally, every shot he made was perfect.  Before he enlisted in the Navy, he was an average golfer who was happy to break 100.  After his release, he finally got the chance to play an actual game of golf again.  The result?  He shot a 74!  He did more than keep himself from cracking up; he imposed a mental discipline upon himself that made a concrete difference in real life.  (Brandon Webb, The Red Circle.) 

Incredible stories like that of Jack Sands have led to an explosion of mental acumen concepts like mental management, strategic visioneering, cognitive consciousness and other systems that focus on mental imagery.  Innovators in the field believe that the power of the mind towers over every other factor in human achievements.  Training and development programs across diverse disciplines like athletic programs, military units, sales and management teams and educational psychology increasingly employ mental enhancement techniques.  The mind, more than any other consideration, is the key to improved performance, regardless of the field in which it is tried.  

Recent studies have enlarged on this belief, but the basic concept is hardly new.  Nearly two millennia ago, the Bible said, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”  (Romans 12:2).  Also,  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  (Philippians 4:8).  In 1902, James Allen wrote his classic “As a Man Thinketh” based on a scripture found in Proverbs 23:7, “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.”  This doesn’t mean that the mental side of life is more important that the spiritual, but it is an affirmation that the mind is a gift of God as much as any other human feature.  

Has the script you have followed short-circuited your ability to think?  Do you feel “dumb” because you have been led to believe that you aren’t as smart as other people?  Have you deliberately curbed your appetite for intellectual pursuits because other people (parents, siblings, best friend) would disapprove, or because you felt “out of your league?”  Have you held back because you were afraid of destroying your relationships?  Rip up that script!  It has turned you into a hollow, unfulfilled shadow of your real self.  You are under no obligation to continue following a plan written by someone else.  Open the door and walk into the life that God has planned for you! 

Try to understand a concept that has always seemed too deep for you. 

Have you always wanted to “go deep” but never felt you could?  Mathematics, physics and computer sciences come to mind immediately, but you may not have an interest in any of these.  You may want to tackle human socialization, organizational theory, free-market economics or political science.  Theological concepts like the essential Godhead and the human soul intrigue many people as well.  It’s time to take a deep breath and launch.  The greatest failure is the failure to try.  Whatever you take up, apply your best efforts to understand the subject matter. 

It has been said that “cerebration is painful.”  Mind expanding exercises may hurt more than taking a beating, but the pain is simply because you are cleaning out the laziness, apathy and your mind’s preference for being left alone.  But, the worst thing you can do is leave your mind alone!  You have the capacity to be twice as smart as you are, and maybe more.  Studies have proven conclusively that a person’s intelligence quotient can be raised.  One of the more recent experiments was run in 2011 by Michigan State University’s Professor Jason Moser in which he measured twenty-five undergraduates’ response time to errors. The key is mindset.  Moser found that anyone who thinks he or she can do better can; those that don’t think they can, can’t.  He stated, “We therefore show that growth-minded individuals are characterized by superior functionality of a very basic self-monitoring and control system.”  Crank up your “want to” and you’ll astound yourself! 

John Wesley, blogger of “Pick the Brain” blog, says five simple exercises can get you started:  1) Stop watching TV; 2) Exercise; 3) Read challenging books; 4) Go to bed early, get up early; 5) Take time to reflect.  All of these steps are absolutely within each person’s realm of possibility.  Start with something that interests you. Narrow it down to manageable targets.  Make sure your subject has intrinsic meaning for you.  Discover what you know about it.  Identify what you don’t know.  Finally, commit yourself to fully understanding the subject matter, whatever that takes.  Even if you fall short of your goal, you will have stretched your mind in a positive direction.    

Learn a skill that always seemed beyond your ability. 

Researchers who study the innovative skills of inventors, entrepreneurs, writers and artists talk about tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge.  “Explicit  knowledge  refers  to  knowledge  that  is transmittable  in  formal,  systematic  language,  while  tacit knowledge has a personal quality, which makes it  hard to formalize and communicate.”  (Ibrahim and Fallah.  You may not choose to tackle formal, systematic knowledge, but you can still develop your mental prowess by using intuitive, “hands-on” abilities (tacit knowledge) that have been dormant but can be awakened if you put forth the effort.  Music, painting, writing and crafts fall in this category.  For many people, a leisurely interest in photography, gardening, furniture restoration, hiking, health foods and more has turned into expertise in the field.  There is a mysterious quality about knowledge that acquiring a little bit incites a thirst and a need for more.  

Appreciate your potential and find out what you truly are capable of doing.  The above-mentioned interests will have a profound impact on your mental capacity.  If you focus on furniture restoration, for example, you will learn about styles, periods, woods, fabrics, construction techniques, finishes, famous craftsmen and their distinguishing trademarks, values and much more.  If you choose gardening, you will have to learn about soils, seeds, plants, fertilizers, planting seasons, herbicides, pesticides, sunshine, rain, temperature, rabbits, squirrels, cooking, canning, preserving and much more.  There is a horizontal and vertical trajectory to the knowledge you will acquire, and whether you intended to or not, you will achieve expertise in the area.  Your interest will take on a life of its own, pulling you along with it.  

There are secondary and tertiary benefits to learning a skill as well.  For example, what would learning to speak Spanish (assuming you are an anglophone) do for you from a social aspect?  Who could you befriend?  Who could you influence?  How would your interest in travel change?  How would you be perceived by others?  Going further, the same thing would happen if you were to develop an intense interest in the American civil war.  You would become acquainted with areas of the country you never knew existed.  You would enhance your understanding of the social realities that affect African-Americans today.  You would understand the politics of that era that remain a viable force in twenty-first century America.  In fact, learning almost any skill becomes more then a narrow, singular accomplishment.  Rather, it reverberates into many areas of life and makes you an enriched, viable and interesting player in society.  

Embrace a fact that has always filled you with dread. 

Are you terrified of contemplating your own mortality?  Do you resist acquiring any facts about your risks to inherit certain diseases or physical conditions?  What would you do in the event of a major catastrophe in your community or in the world at large?  Some people are so paranoid of these thoughts that they refuse to write a will, they avoid any mention of a living will should they require surgery, and they will not buy burial plots where they will one day be laid to rest.  

Unfortunately, superstition reigns in far too many minds, keeping people from addressing facts and circumstances that would prove beneficial to them.  The fact is that thinking and talking about death will not hasten it along.  Planning for a major disaster will not make it happen.  Neither preparedness nor lack thereof, has an effect on the likelihood of these events.  They will happen in their own time. 

But there are other topics that incite fear and dread in people as much as mortality.  Many people will not venture into any discussion that challenges their core beliefs, their cardinal doctrines or the traditions by which they and their families live.  “My grandfather was a democrat, my father was a democrat, and by George, I am a democrat!  End of discussion!”  (Substitute republican, liberal, conservative, libertarian or any other political persuasion in the foregoing sentence.)  Not to say that there is anything wrong with being a democrat, but the basis for the belief is suspect in this instance.  Blind faith, brand loyalty, clannish behavior and mob rule all share the same motivation for belief—visceral, emotional reaction.  Anytime that raw, uncensored, knee-jerk emotion stands as the number one reason why a person espouses a certain belief, all rationality evaporates.  When someone else writes your script, your emotions are about all you have left as a solid place to stand. 

Even in matters of faith, we must not close our minds to reason.  The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV) “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”  Faith built on the dubious foundation of emotion has little durability.  Sometimes, the slightest opposition causes a meltdown. On the other hand, one who has personally, and at considerable mental anguish, searched out reasons for his or her belief system can absorb the strongest of challenges.  

Knowledge is power.  But knowledge also is a direct route to a more tranquil, less tension-filled existence.  Once you know the answer to a deep, dark question, you have released its hold on you.  Jesus said it best.  “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  John 8:32.

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Reader Comments (1)

I love your "script" metaphor that you continue to develop.

February 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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