Mind Games

There are so many things we don’t control in the physical world. It can be frustrating if you let it. Don’t.

We humans have amazing brains with capabilities we are only beginning to understand.  We have the ability to create mental images and intentionally manipulate them. We do it constantly, automatically. We know that this alternate world is not real, but it informs and instructs us, just like actual experience.

As we walk down icy steps in the real world, we may imagine what it would be like to fall, striking the pavement, feeling the pain, struggling to get up. By running through it all in our minds, we resolve to steady our step, holding tightly to the rail. And we hopefully avoid this unpleasant experience in the real world. Of course, if we had never slipped on the ice or seen someone else do it, we might not recognize the danger. Memory is the mind’s reference library. Next time we’ll be able to run that mind-video about falling on the ice.

Mental experience can also be a source of pleasure. On a bleak winter day, we can think about Spring and sunshine. If you choose, the mental image can make you feel better, even though the real-world weather hasn’t changed. The choice is yours. And yes, we do this kind of mental exercise to gain pleasure all the time, in countless ways, automatically.

Once we are aware that our mind has this capability, we can consciously use it. We can mentally rehearse things that we will soon be required to do in the real world. Rehearsal improves performance. Musicians do it constantly, so do actors. We do it too, but mostly unconsciously and not nearly enough. Choose to rehearse. Make it a habit.

Make a list at the beginning of the day (better, the night before). Then put the sequence of events in order, from the earliest to the latest. Think about the places you need to go and how you will get there. Imagine how much time it will take. Writing it down is good, because you are not required to hold all of the details in your head. But if you can’t write it down, perhaps because you are driving, go through the exercise anyway. Write later.

How many times have you left for a destination across town, realizing that you didn’t allow any time for travel? As you are leaving, you discover that you are already late because you are due there at that very moment. You probably wouldn’t have fallen into that trap if you had mentally rehearsed the day. Moreover, you might rearrange your schedule because you can do something else while you are on that side of town.

Rehearsal also helps you to get your fears on the table. Only then can you decide on a strategy for dealing with them. Not only will you be able to address these situations when they happen, you’ll discover with relief how often they don’t.

A busy person’s mind is always focused forward. Once a task is completed it is forgotten. If you feel as though you are constantly on the go, but it never ends, there’s a mental app for that. Make yourself a list of accomplishments every now and then, ideally weekly. You will begin to realize that you really are getting important things done, making progress, and you’ll feel good about yourself. Celebrate, at least for a few moments. Your mind will appreciate it.

In summary: Run scenarios in your mind. Make it a habit to rehearse. And finally, celebrate accomplishments.

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