Developing a Proficient Mind: How to Stay Mentally Sharp (3 Tips & Techniques)
“That which determines your diameter of thinking
also dictates your circumference of thought…”
~ can’t recall
Mental abilities – psychological traits such as your reasoning capacity, communication skills, creative talents, your subconscious storehouse of knowledge (along with the rapidity of access you have to it) and so on – are a lot like physical abilities in that they take diligence and time to acquire.
So in order to stay sharp mentally, you have to PRO-ACTIVELY set up the behavioral habits and routines that’ll ingrain mental development into your life without your conscious intent or awareness; you have to create auto-pilot systems that’ll subtly (and effortlessly) make you more intelligent over time.
Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” In that vein, here’s three of my favorite, counter-intuitive methods for building mental-excellence into your existence:
1: Take It Back
“Take it back,” as in go old-school with a significant portion of your media and entertainment consumption. If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that as society moves forward we’re, as an overall populace, becoming more superficial and simplistic in thought; that we’re experiencing what Chris Hedge’s refers to as “the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle.”
(Grammatically-defunct texts-messaging, inane and childishly senseless storyline narratives and the general interweaving of political discourse with pop-culture are some common examples. See my post on “The Kindergarten Society” for more on this…)
So one way to keep your mind counter to the general trend is to, as I say, go back in time entertainment-wise. Take advantage of modern-day technology to enjoy old-school, more intelligent films like Patty Chayefsky’s Network (1986), old-school, more inventive rap music like Nas’s It Was Written (1993) and old-school, more challenging video games like Konami’s Contra: Hard Corps (don’t ask me what year, but this game was HOT…watch here).
In time, you’ll find yourself nearly overwhelmed by a library of classic, before-your-time media that keeps you thinking prolifically and feeling young, simultaneously. That’s what I’m talking about…
2: Always Learn New Skills
Constantly learn new skills: don’t just read books or watch documentaries, challenge yourself to develop NEW proficiencies you can use in real life as well.
This year, for instance, I’m challenging myself to learn Spanish (ai coño!) and, time permitting, an Asian language as well. I had to learn basic coding and web design to start this site and, when I’m rich and really set like that, my form of “balling outrageous” is to spend my leisure learning new sports – fencing, kayaking, snowboarding etc. – as well.
Use your imagination here and marinate on this second homie. In fact, start a list entitled “50 Maad Skills I Gotta Master Before I Croak.” Number it down the page and come back whenever something strikes you.
3: Challenge (i.e: Conquer) Yourself
A basic example of this would be writing your own book, like I did with How to Conquer Yourself. Get serious about your legacy and challenge yourself by truly DOING the greatest goal you can possibly thing of…this’ll keep you at the circumference of your potential and, in tandem, expand your diameter of thought.
Ironically, my biggest benefit in writing the book is who I had to become (mentally) in order to write it. None of the status, sales or even emotional contentment – of knowing I’ve made my stand against the world like that – compares to the level of verbal proficiency and mental acuity I’ve developed simply in the process of composing it.
Again, the biggest benefit of writing the book is the new echelon my thought-process has arrived at by nature of what the composition demanded. I can’t emphasize this enough.
It’s funny, but I’m actually SCARED of myself now that I’m smarter…I’m somewhat nervous of how agile my mind has now become (and still becoming). It’s weird, because when I sit down and reflect on this, sometimes it feels like my mind is faster than “me” myself, if that makes sense. (See Bradley Cooper in Limitless to get an idea.).
This is something significant to be wary of beforehand, I’d say: remember that ignorance is, to a degree at least, truly bliss. When you finally get as mentally sharp as you can conceive yourself being – developing the habits I describe here plus adding your own personal methodologies on top of the mix – it’s not all peaches and cream.
“The next level, by definition, is something you can’t see and you can’t understand.” While I hope this helps you (in your quest to keep a constantly evolving and active frame of mind), I don’t want you to harbor the delusion that it’ll somehow lead to a problem-less life either. Your problems (and concerns) will just grow deeper, more esoteric and further complex.
You’ll enjoy them more though, and won’t take them as seriously, which is a good thing.
Discover more great insights, techniques, strategies and wisdom for self-mastery and artistic success in my new book, How to Conquer Yourself: Discipline & Willpower for the Conscious, Creative Thinker, available on on Amazon here. (For autographed and personally-dedicated copies, delivered much faster, click here)