Building Mind Muscle, the Foundation for Success: In-Between the Pages

Take a pause and reflect on where your mind is right now. What does it feel like? Are you frustrated? Are you stuck in a feeling of being warped into a setback? Often times we spend so much lost time building muscle where it doesn’t make the difference or gives us temporary satisfaction towards a long term loss. The biggest and most important muscle to build for your career in life or professionally has got to be your brain.

Having an underdeveloped mind will get you a lot of disappointment and sand kicked in your face. (Shameless Atlas commercial plug, sorry.) Dealing with temporary frustration of not having the right “what it takes” is an integral part of the path towards excellence though. In fact, it’s essential, because once you have that awareness you know what muscle it is going to take to get to where you want to go. You will know what success looks like if it feels something like this:

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” – Margaret Thatcher

Let’s start with that mindset muscle. Are you building brain muscle by going after a dream or have you moved it into a goal? They are not the same thing, which many make the mistake of thinking are one and the same. Only one of those words requires action and purpose. Only one of those words will create the vision and map needed to be successful.

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions because they’re pipe dreams, they don’t have the kind of action associated to them that bring them to focus and reality. That is why only 8% are successful at actually achieving them, and I would go so far as to say that 8% just got lucky. New Year’s Resolutions are hopes. That’s what you are really telling yourself when you say, “I’m going to lose weight and get in shape.” I “hope” I can lose weight and “hope” I can get into shape.

Now a goal, that has plans, timelines, focus, and intentionality as well as a much greater chance at success. A goal has more purpose to it. It sounds a lot different. With a goal and specificity layered into it will sound more like this, “I’m going to lose 1 lb. a week and spend at least 20-30 minutes at a gym, four times a week. First step, I’m going to pay for the first 3 months of gym time to get started.” There is intentionality, focus, and purpose in that statement, not vague hopes and wishes.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” – Napoleon Hill

We have a mindset that is goal oriented and focused, it’s time to build perseverance into the plan by strengthening your mind to win.

We now have a group of muscles to target and strengthen.  Mindfulness and mediation as a practice have come a long way the past several years. Mindfulness and meditation workouts are becoming a increasingly popular way to exercise your mind muscle. This also works to calm as well as balance the mind. It’s been researched and found that 80% of the world-class performers do some kind of daily meditation or mindfulness practice as part of their core training programs.

Meta-skill development strengthens everything else. Where you mind goes, so goes your actions and energy. Thus, having a great bead on being self-aware of your mind (mindfulness) can be a huge multiplier in your efforts at achieving your optimal you and pace. Your meditation muscle building will allow you to be in a “witness perspective” needed to navigate the pitfalls you could encounter along the way keeping you away from painful time sucks. You got a mind that is a beefcake now, let’s go into the final step of this plan to build effective muscle of the mind and keep it.

You have to give yourself time off from the program. Just like any muscle in your body, there is a time to give the mind a rest and let it heal. Give your mind the opportunity to just be, so it can get back into the game refreshed and ready for the next mental challenges that lay ahead. Science calls this building neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. 

The best athletes in the world know the importance and practice taking a day off to recalibrate and reassess. Your mind needs that opportunity for the same reasons. It’s the best way to create neuroplasticity.

An easy way to put yourself in this mode of rest is journaling. I use writing in a journal and most of the time it’s just a flow of words and incoherent thoughts. Later, I’ll sift through them to figure out where I was going. Much of my inspiration comes from those moments where I’ve given my mind the opportunity to unwind in my journal. I write to connect with people, to find out what I believe in, and to share my own ways of being in the world. It’s a great release for my mind so it has a chance to be expanded with more.

To recap, start by building a goal mindset over just a vague hope. It’s your training plan if you will to achieve the success you desire. Second, build layers of muscles with mindfulness and meditation. You need your mind to be agile and nimble. You want to be able to move in and out of focus to get the perspective needed to move in the right directions with clarity. Lastly, let your mind take a break and just be. Giving your mind a day off and time to relax will ensure it’s ready for next. Build a great foundation of rest and reflection that will build neuroplasticity, the ultimate way to be ready for any challenge that may come your way.

Thanks for reading and hope the journey into the weekend is outstanding!

– Shawn

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