By Gerry Murray. 01-03-2020
(Scroll down for a laugh)
“The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
In producing some of his best masterpieces, Da Vinci regularly took breaks from his work to recharge his creative batteries. He maintained that working for extended periods of time affected his judgement among other things.
This week I provide some tips on the third source of energy - Mental Energy. At this stage, you’ll probably have realised that Physical, Emotional and Mental energy are all linked.
Why do we need to pay attention to our Mental Energy?
Well, one interesting fact is that, although our brain represents around 2% of our body weight, it consumes over 25% of our oxygen. Therefore, how we use our brains matters.
Focused attention consumes energy. Therefore, there’s a limit to how much focused work that we can do at any one time. A greater problem that most of us face is not being able to get any focused work done at all because of distractions and interruptions.
Either way, this is not good for our mental capacity and under both conditions, we need to take time out to recover our Mental Energy. This is no different than for our Physical and Emotional Energy.
I know people who are afraid to take a break lest they are perceived as a slacker. There is a body of evidence to suggest otherwise!
Appropriate Focus and Realistic Optimism
The left and right hemispheres of our brain contribute different things to how we function. In creativity, we need to balance out the more logical, analytical left side with the more intuitive, less linear and less time-focused right side. Researchers have found that most of our insights come when we’re not engaged in focused thought. Some call this “thinking aside”. Einstein famously attributed his best ideas to the bed, the bus and the bath!
So, neuroscience research suggests that focused attention for appropriate amounts of time, combined with some downtime seems to be the best approach.
Realistic Optimism is about being able to balance the tendency to analyse the potential pitfalls of a plan or strategy while remaining positive about achieving the potential benefits of that same plan or strategy. Being overly optimistic without taking into account the potential pitfalls can lead to Blind Optimism. Focusing too much on what could go wrong leads to Scepticism. A healthy mix of Optimism and Awareness of Potential Pitfalls is ideal. And, the great news is that there are tools out there, such as the Harrison Paradoxes, for measuring such things!
Performance and energy management experts Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz highlight the following attributes about Mental Energy that are worth exploring:
- Mental capacity is what we use to organise our lives and focus our attention
- The mental energy that best serves full engagement is realistic optimism - seeing the world as it is, but always working positively towards a desired outcome or solution
- The key supportive mental muscles include mental preparation, visualisation, positive self-talk, effective use of time and creativity
- Changing channels mentally permits different parts of the brain to be activated and facilitates creativity
- Physical exercise stimulates cognitive capacity
- Maximum mental capacity is derived from a balance between expending and receiving mental energy
- When we lack the mental muscles we need to perform at our best, we must systematically build capacity by pushing past our comfort zone and then recovering
- Continuing to challenge the brain serves as a protection against age-related mental decline
What could you do this week to improve your Mental Energy?
Let's face it -- English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant not ham in hamburger; neither apple or pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the sanme, while a wise man and wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite alot and quite a few are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another.
Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent?
Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would ACTUALLY hurt a fly?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it.