Imagine going about your regular routine for two days without consuming food or water. You could do it, but you would find yourself in an ever-increasing world of hurt (diminished results). Now, let’s change up the scenario just a bit. This time, think about eating and drinking during those two days, but the food and drink you choose is filled with bad fat, enormous amounts of sugar, and every preservative known to mankind. You could do that too, but would also find yourself in an ever increasing downward spiral.
Here’s the basic principle:
What we consume (put in our bodies) influences how well we produce (act in the world of life and work).
Think about this word: hangover. Ever had one? Not fun. The day after consuming too much alcohol is, more than likely, a day of diminished production and results. There’s the headache, the general malaise, and the over-sensitivity to normal stimuli. Not too mention the psychological unhappiness due to lack of self control that led to the hangover in the first place.
This basic principle, what we consume (physically) influences the excellence of our output, keeps us returning to the basics. Things like, drinking enough water, eating colorful vegetables, reducing our intake of meat and so forth. Unless we’ve been living under a rock, we know that what we physically consume, during the day, directly influences the ingenuity of our output. So…we choose wisely. But physical food is not the only kind of consumption that influences performance. There is another. Let’s call it, the consumption of the mind.
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When it comes to excellence and creativity in daily output, the nutrition of the mind is as important as the nutrition of the body. If my daily intake of “mind-food” is full of empty calories, because I over-consume information and ideas that are full of fat and sugar, it’s likely to show up in a lack of creativity, diminished insights, and a difficulty articulating with clarity, depth and simplicity.
Here are a few strategies to increase the quality of your mind-food (consumption) that will increase the quality of your output (production).
Curb the binge watching of your favorite TV shows
Binge watching TV is like having 5 margaritas. It’s fun while it’s happening, but there’s little long-term nutritional value in it. And after the binge, you’re likely to experience a bit of a brain fog. Occasional TV binges are probably about as dangerous as occasional food binges. So, think of it this way: how often do you think it’s good to binge on food? Your answer should probably inform how often you think you should binge on that favorite TV show. Research is mixed on binge watching, probably because it’s a relatively new phenomenon. But, what seems clear is that too much time sitting in front of a screen in a passive mode, leads to physical and physiological woes.
Read and listen to content that stimulates your mind to work/think
Reading and/or listening to compelling content stimulates your mind (brain) to make new connections and ideas about the content, or related (or even unrelated) content. For instance, the inspiration for this article came, to some degree, from a conversation I listened to between Tim Ferris and Malcolm Gladwell. Their interesting conversation fed me and compelled me to do my own reflection.
Read and digest complex ideas and information and think deeply about those ideas. This is a two-step process. First, there’s the intake of the idea. This comes through reading or listening. Second, there’s the reflection on the idea. This is where you engage your mind in a conversation with the author or the material (even if the author isn’t around). Reflection on ideas (that you’ve read) is a way to increase the value of those ideas, as well as the value of the reading/listening. Metaphorically speaking, when it comes to “intake,” of content, don’t just digest it, “metabolize it.”
Have interesting conversations full of challenge and meaning
Small talk and “disposable conversations” are OK now and then, but our minds/brains crave interesting and compelling dialogue. For example, if you’re goal is good physical nutrition, it’s a good idea to hang out with others who want the same. It will make it a whole lot harder to eat right if all of your friends are encouraging you to order the double-chocolate volcano cake. If you want a healthy mind, hang out with people who talk about compelling ideas and explore a wide range of topics.
Have mind-snacks during the day
Throughout the day, you need to give your mind a good quote or idea to feed on. This does, for your mind, what a handful of almonds does for your body. Take an inspiring quote with you for the day and chew on it now and then. Take a penetrating question to work or take 10 minutes to explore an powerful idea with colleagues. Little mind-snacks can revitalize you and keep your brain munching on good stuff during the day.
A 20-30 minute nap strategically placed during the day, enables you to cleanse the toxins that build up in your brain through the day. The research on napping is clear. Avoid at your own peril.