Keep your Brain Fit

Posted by Trevor on 3 May 2012 | 1 Comment

Your brain is a muscle as important to your overall health as any other muscle in your body. If you don’t work your muscles, they lose tone and strength; you don’t look or feel as good as you could. As you would spend time at a gym working out to get in shape and to stay healthy, you must give your brain a regular workout for the same reasons. I work out every day, even though I may not get the same results I did when I was 20. I do the same with my brain.

As I am not as young as I used to be, I am quite frightened of losing the level of incisiveness and decisiveness that I was able to manage when I was required to solve problems on a daily basis. When I sold my second company, I realized that I was approaching a sort-of-semi-retirement mode. I became aware that my leaner years – mentally and physically – were behind me. Actions that were once a reflex when I was younger somehow became something that required more effort on my part as years passed. What’s more, when you’re busy, you’re able to do a hundred things at once; when you’re no longer as busy, getting even one thing done seems to take forever.

Within a few weeks of this semi-retirement mode, I found myself inclined to a kind of forgetfulness. Remembering was no longer a reflex. My wife would ask me to do something quite simple like: “When you’re out, can you pick up a pint of milk?” I would forget to do this, and I would keep apologizing to her, saying: “Oh yes, I meant to get that.”  “It’s on the list,” I would tell her, even though I didn’t write it down. Let’s put that in perspective. A few months before I was running four companies, two of which were valued at over $100 million. No challenge bothered me and I could juggle a dozen mental challenges at a time. Suddenly, I could not even remember to pick up the milk. I felt like a top athlete who upon retiring suddenly becomes flabby and lethargic.

I find that when you’re working at full throttle, you don’t miss or forget anything. You can buy the milk while you’re solving world peace, if you like. We have this phenomenal capacity to mentally multi-task, storing and retrieving information spontaneously. You tend to use more of your brain in this mode than when you enter a semi-retirement mode. Because I found that I could not remember to do those simple things I was asked to do, I made sure that every day thereafter I would put my brain through a workout. Not one to cry over forgotten milk, I adopted a daily mental workout strategy from previous years.

When I was younger and traveling all of the time, instead of reading a novel about some serial killer or super spy – basically frying my brain with mindless rubbish during those down times – I would do some IQ puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, or the like. I was always keeping my brain active. I think this made me a more decisive and incisive businessman than if I had made the choice to sit on a plane reading the popular magazines often left for business travelers and vacationers. So, I chose to resume these mental workout routines.

Every day I try to exercise my brain. I have Sudoku apps and cryptic crosswords on my iPad, which I work on daily. I feel confident that if I keep using my brain, my neural pathways won’t become fixed and lazy, because I think that’s what happens when we get older. I am not convinced that age has anything to do with this though; I think it’s because we stop using our brains. We stop creating new neural pathways.

Every time you do a new IQ test or a puzzle, the questions are brand new. You are forced to create a new connection in your brain in order to solve the puzzle, because you’ve never seen it before. That keeps the brain fresh and fit. The decisiveness returns, and best of all you don’t forget to pick up the milk either..

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