“Eat Right, Sleep Right, Think Right, Exercise” – part three.
The Buddhists say, “Think Right. Think it today, become it tomorrow. Nothing can help you or harm you as much as the thoughts in your head.” I like to imagine that our brain is like a 5-year old, probably a boy. Most five-year-old boys don’t necessarily intend to get into trouble, or do irresponsible things that create havoc for themselves and everyone around them. They just do a lot of times, because they don’t know any better, and left to their own devices, they have a lot of energy that needs to be expended and if they aren’t focused or directed, they will just start doing “stuff”. That sounds like the ordinary adult brain to me. Our brains as adults basically need the same things that we needed at five years of age to help us learn how to do better and be better. Our brains, or our inner five-year-old if you like, need Supervision, Love, Education, and Discipline. Of course, because I like mnemonics, I like to refer to these needs as “SLED”. The word isn’t really relevant, except that it is an easy word to remember.
Let’s first consider Supervision. Our brains are constantly at work; thinking, studying, analyzing, considering, judging, and looking for something to do and focus on. I find it very interesting how we can be largely unaware of what’s really going on up there, despite the fact that it could be some pretty important stuff. It is extremely important to be aware of your thoughts. Just like our little five-year-old boy metaphor, he, and our brains, have the most chance for success when they are not left unattended. Developing better supervision of your brain is a matter of practice. Simply practice checking in with your thoughts at random times during the day and start paying more attention to where they go and what they focus on. Ask yourself if this is really where you want to be spending your energy.
- I meet so many clients who consider their brain to be their worst enemy. I think sometimes I’ve thought that way myself. It seems silly to think that is sometimes how we see ourselves, and a pretty serious problem when you get right down to it. We need to love our brain. It will be the only one we ever have. Nothing ever grows and thrives in an environment of contempt and scorn. Not flowers, not children, not brains. Love your brain.
- One of my favorite sayings is, “This is not about judgment, it’s about education.” I think there are only three things that come instinctively to human beings that we do when we are born: eat, go in our diapers, and manipulate (others so that we can eat and have our diapers changed so we can do it all over again). Everything else is learned through education. We need to educate our brains everyday so that we can learn how to do better and be better. Every day, like every session of play for our metaphoric five-year-old, should be seen as a classroom of opportunities for us to learn key skills we need to thrive and live our best lives.
- As we become more aware of our thoughts through direct supervision, we then must start to direct our thoughts kindly, and lovingly towards those thoughts that promote successful behaviors. Just like our five-year-old, if we are too permissive, the child will become indulgent, spoiled, and bratty. If we are too strict, the child will become anxious, indecisive, and insecure or rebellious, wild, and uncontrollable. Start thinking of every second of the day as a unit of energy. You only have one of two buckets to put that unit of energy into: one is problem-solving, the other is problem-creating. How do you want to spend that unit of energy that once spent, you will never get back? Practicing this exercise is one way to create more discipline in your brain.
So, there it is: Supervision, Love, Education, Discipline. A five-year-old needs it, you need it, we all need it. It’s a good way to Think Right.