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How to Train Your Brain for Better Performance

by Steve Pavlina

One of the biggest problems I see people suffering from is that they waste their precious brainpower on thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that cannot possibly help them move closer to their desires.

Worrying is a waste of resources. Depression is a waste of resources. Making excuses is a waste of resources. People know this, yet they still invest their brainpower in these pointless patterns.

I think the main reason is that these people haven't trained their brains for good behavior. After slacking off for so many years, these brains behave like untrained dogs, peeing on the carpet and chewing up the furniture. And their owners allow that to continue. Consequently, they suffer for it -- in their finances, their relationships, their health, etc. An untrained brain frequently delivers weak results. Who's responsible for this? The owner of course.

When you catch your brain doing something you don't consciously like, such as worrying needlessly, do you let it continue? That's a mistake unless you want to encourage more of the same. Since worrying is largely pointless and unproductive, it makes more sense to tell your brain know that this behavior is unacceptable, and immediately set it going in a different direction.

You can start by getting your brain's attention and telling it to stop. When you catch your brain doing something you dislike, I encourage you to actually say aloud:

No, you don't do that. That's wrong. Cut that out immediately.

Then quickly instruct your brain on what you want it to do instead:

Drop the circular thinking. We have a problem to solve here, so solve it in a way that satisfies me. Here are the constraints. ... Here's what we know so far about the desired outcome. ... Now apply your best efforts to compute an optimal or near-optimal solution. I know you're brilliant. That's a given. Put those 100 billion neurons to good use, and devise a solution to this challenge that satisfies my criteria. Go work on that now, and bring it to my conscious attention when you have something worthy of presenting.

You'd be surprised at how well this works.

If your brain is wasting its energy on worry, fear, anger, loneliness, circular thinking, or distraction, perhaps you haven't given your subconscious mind a problem or task worthy of its status. After all, it's an amazingly powerful supercomputer. Your brain craves a good challenge. It's well adapted for creative problem solving. So give it a respectable conundrum to chew on behind the scenes. Put those 100 billion neurons to good use. Otherwise, don't be surprised if it behaves like a dog that's been ignored for too long, doing whatever it can to get your attention.

You may not be able to consciously control your brain at all times, but you can definitely take charge of it on certain occasions, such as when you catch it doing something self-destructive.

Don't let a poorly trained brain chew up your mental furniture. When it misbehaves, give it some tough love. Be firm with it. Don't just beat it up for failing to satisfy you. Then tell your brain -- as clearly as possible -- what you want it to do instead. Train it for good behavior.

A well-trained brain is like a well-trained dog. Instead of fighting with your brain or getting frustrated with its erratic behavior, you can relax, enjoy, and appreciate its presence in your life. You can receive its gifts.

Keep the training going. When your brain presents a solution to a problem, give it feedback. Did it satisfy your criteria? Did it come up with an intelligent option for you?

When your brain comes up with an intelligent solution that you really like, lavish praise on it. Say to it:

Wow! That's brilliant. I love this. You did a great job! This is EXACTLY what I wanted to see. You're good, you!

Do this to such a degree that you feel some positive emotions. Reward your brain for doing what you consciously want it to do. Brilliant! Nicely done! You did it!

What has your brain computed for you recently? Do you praise it when it does a good job? Or do you take it for granted? What happens when you take another person for granted? Don't they become lazier and more rebellious? Is that how your brain has been behaving lately?

What if your brain doesn't perform as well as you would have liked? Tell it what it did right and what it did wrong and how you'd like it to adjust. Send it back to rework its solution. Say something like this:

No, you came up with another idea that could earn us $X. I already know that you know how to do that. I asked you to identify a $5X opportunity. I don't see how this one is going to accomplish that. Find a way to earn $5X in one chunk. One project. One idea. I know we haven't done that before, but I believe you're smart enough to figure it out. We know its possible, so there must be a way to do it. If you have to replace some old limiting beliefs to accomplish this, you have permission to do that. But you don't have permission to violate my values. Your solution must still be honest, honorable, and ethical no matter what. Now go figure this out. I know you can do it.

Keep your brain busy solving problems that align with your goals. Your brain loves this. A challenge lights it up. It's very good at this. But you must train and reward it properly.

It may seem a little strange to relate to your brain as a separate entity that you must train to perform better, but is this really so strange? Athletes treat their muscles as entities to be trained, and that approach works well for them. Would you rather be a mental athlete with a well-trained brain... or a mental couch potato with an untrained one?

In the past I used to expend a lot of effort trying to solve problems consciously. Now my approach is more like a co-creative partnership between my conscious mind and my subconscious. I delegate many tasks to my subconscious mind these days, including writing. My conscious mind is normally very relaxed while I'm writing. My subconscious basically communicates directly with my fingers, telling them what to type. I don't always know what words and sentences are about to show up on the screen. Sometimes my conscious mind feels more like it's reading than writing. This works for me because I've spent years training my brain to write. So now I can simply tell my brain to write a new article, and it will take care of that for me while my conscious mind relaxes. It's essentially the same idea as teaching a dog to fetch a ball; the dog chases the ball automatically because that's what it's been trained to do. The dog doesn't have to think about how to do it. The dog just does it.

In your head you have this amazing supercomputer that you can assign any task or problem to, and it can compute a solution in the background, bringing it to your conscious attention when it's done. This works for business challenges, financial challenges, social challenges, and relationship challenges.

Try this for yourself, and see how well it works for you. If you get into the habit of treating your brain like a brilliant supercomputer, albeit one that requires supervision and training, I think you'll like the results. Your brain is surely capable of creating an abundant, happy, and fulfilling life for you.

You can have what you desire. Your brain is brilliant. Instruct it clearly and firmly. And reward and adjust its behavior as needed.

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