What if you could reprogram your brain in just ten seconds, well, we can at least trick our mind to for a short while, and the impact can be great.
I remember when I was teaching years ago and I had one class who were particularly tired because they had just come from a physical education class just before which put them through a lot of energy use.
I also had a lesson plan that would require them to expel some mental energy though so I had to think of how to bring them out of their growing slumber.
I’d been teaching this class for nearly a year, as part of my 2-year teaching experiment in South Korea, and they would normally be pretty energetic and look forward to the lesson.
I didn’t take their lack of energy personally but I knew I had to do something to bring them around so I just tried something out of the blue after I for a split moment put my hands over my eyes to have a quick escape from the situation to get my mind thinking quickly.
Then I thought. ‘Well, why not try that!’
I’d read years ago about how our brains are only ever capable of thinking in sequential ‘one process after another’ ways.
We can only compute one bit of information after another had been processed, and even though it might seem that we are doing many things at once, especially today in an attention-demanding and distracting world, we are still only ever following a sequential process – just our minds become more apt at doing so with practice.
You could lift up a pencil and eraser at the same time but your brain with be instructing you to first notice the pencil, then the eraser, and then execute the order to lift them both up at the same time.
So, in that split moment, I realized that to change something you simply have to change the process of our thoughts in exact time. In other words, by putting my hands over my eyes I had a brief second to extinguish thoughts or distractions of an energy-less class whose attention had gone and to simply focus on what I could do to solve it.
My mind instantly cleared and found the answer straight away simply because it was reprogrammed to execute a different order.
I tried the same with the class.
I asked them to ‘sleep’ for 10 seconds. They were confused at such a request. They only ever hear ‘study’.
The opportunity to sleep was too good for them to pass up, but most importantly it took their minds away from thinking they couldn’t study as they were too tired to actually doing something completely different.
This instantly calmed their minds (well it did on the second time of trying). I had to try it twice as the first 10 seconds were filled more in confusion than in production, but the second time the whole class joined and they all just calmed down and relaxed their worries.
This is like an instant game of meditation.
While it wouldn’t help them get deeper in thought or build momentum through motivation or action, it was a practice that would help them just quickly ‘let go’ and ‘reset’ of excuses or moans.
I found that this method worked really well in dealing with adults as well as kids.
Adults were more reluctant as they were skeptical to do such an irresponsible thing in their minds – they clearly needed more practice at it to let go and understand its benefits, but they too found a benefit of resetting to change the mind into a state of what I call ‘quick adaption’.
I also tried this with a group of design interns to help them learn how to be creative in multiple disciplines at once, and they found they could move from one project to another a lot smoother with this quick reset strategy.
It’s not the same as thinking you can multi-task.
Remember our minds can only ever do something one after another, so multi-tasking isn’t ever easy or even desired, but resetting on the other hand is a useful remedy (the conscious quick adaption anyway, not the overnight reset our minds do after sleeping which requires a whole different strategy to wake up from).
Anyway, whenever someone seems to have something on their mind or seems too tired to focus, I just go through this magic little trick with them, and 9 times out of 10 they find they’re refreshed and ready to go again.
I do say ‘trick’ though as this is really just that. It tricks the mind into alternative action by taking our mind away from other stresses.
However, it’s not something that leads towards long-term adaptability – that requires a lot more practice as Richly Wills demonstrates through The Creative Eye course.
It won’t work all the time either. Sometimes the person might actually fall asleep if they were that tired! Then again, if they are that tired then clearly sleep is their more essential need right at that moment (read ‘why sleep is our most vital foundation to a good life‘).
Trying to reset to focus and learn just wouldn’t work if a mind is truly exhausted.
Most of the time though it does the trick, and best yet, it really only takes around 10 seconds to reprogram our mind’s currently active processes.
Give it a go. Here’s the technique:
Put your hands over your eyes, thumbs plugging your ears, with your head down sat at a desk (obviously not when you are being active, like driving). Then just count slowly to yourself.
In 10 seconds if you just let go then you will be cleared for your mind to now work on something else!