Authors: Sebastian Bailey
o you feel overwhelmed? Overworked? Overloaded? Do you feel that despite your best efforts, you are not performing at your best? You are not alone. More than ever we are under constant pressure to succeed. We are asked to do more at work in less time and with fewer resources; and we are stretched thin at home as we balance professional responsibilities, take care of our homes, pay bills, look after our children, care for our aging parents, and nurture our most intimate relationships—all while posting Facebook updates that make our friends jealous. Keeping up with our daily lives is challenging enough. Taking the time and creating the space to consider more fundamental questions—
Am I building a meaningful life? What choices should I make to maximize my chances of happiness?
—seems like a luxury few of us can afford.
To thrive in this breakneck environment, our best bet is to leverage our most powerful assets: our internal resources. We need to think smarter, make better decisions, relate more strongly to others, work brilliantly, and manage our stress. The good news is that there is a wealth of scientific information on
to leverage these resources to excel personally and professionally.
The bad news? The majority of that enlightening science is buried in complex academic papers and books. Some has made its way to the popular media—for better or worse. There seems to be an endless supply of “pop psychology” theories that promise a more fulfilling life, success at work, a better understanding of yourself, stronger relationships with others, and the secret to everything else. Not all these shiny theories are bad. But it is often impossible to tell the snake oil from the fairy dust, or the gimmicks from the truth.
We wrote this book with two goals in mind: to make the best, most rigorous research findings on the science of success and fulfillment accessible to everyone and to help you apply these insights so you can effect radical change in your life as quickly as possible.
will explain why you get trapped in negative thought patterns, why your relationships fail or succeed, why your conversations don’t turn out the way you expected them to, why you get stressed, and why you can’t get your creative juices flowing. But more important,
will provide tools and exercises to help you change what you think and how you approach these challenges, so you can optimize your most powerful ally: your mind. When your mind is fit, you get more out of life, more out of work, more out of your relationships, more out of everything.
The original idea for Mind Gym was born in 1999, during a casual conversation over dinner when the topic turned to cultural trends in society. We discussed the 1980s obsession with physical improvement (the birth of jogging and Jane Fonda’s workouts) and the 1990s focus on the soul (yoga, alternative medicine, and meditation). We asked ourselves,
What will the new millennium be about?
The mind. We all agreed that as the pace of technology and life increased, a sharp mind would be essential to our success and fulfillment.
What we needed, we agreed that night, were personal trainers for our minds. Just as a physical trainer identifies the best equipment and exercises that will help us achieve our fitness goals, we all need an expert to help us navigate the complexity of our minds and help us get them into the best possible shape. A year later, we launched a series of “workouts” for the mind to do just that. These short, sharp workshops were grounded in robust science and packed with practical tools that could be applied immediately and exercises that were fun to do.
Since our company, Mind Gym, launched in 2000, more than one million people in thirty countries have participated in our trademark ninety-minute workouts. Some of the world’s most progressive corporations—including Google, Tory Burch, PepsiCo, and Unilever—have brought these workouts to their organizations to help train their people to achieve more by thinking differently. And the vast majority of participants love them. An incredible 95 percent of participants have said they would apply what they’d learned to their lives, and 93 percent would recommend the experience to others.
To develop these workouts, we explored a century of psychological research to identify the best and most helpful insights on how to optimize our minds and behaviors. When necessary, we adapted and combined different theories from the psychological sciences to make them more relevant to the needs of people today. Over the years, we’ve had a chance to test and refine the hundreds of techniques and exercises, first on the Mind Gym team and then, when they were found to be effective, on hundreds of thousands of participants in our workouts. The result is a wealth of practical and road-tested advice on how to think and communicate more effectively.
Because not everyone can attend our workouts, we wrote this book so you can experience Mind Gym workouts and exercise your mind wherever you are—at home, in your office, on a plane, or anywhere you can sneak away to read and try out these techniques for a few minutes.
The science-backed techniques and exercises we offer in this book are informed by a set of assumptions that lie behind everything Mind Gym does:
We can choose how we think
are not preprogrammed to perceive and interpret the world in a certain way, but we are largely free to decide
we think and how we communicate.
We can choose to improve
. Just like exercising at the local gym helps us become more physically fit, we can all improve our mental performance by choosing to exercise our minds. No, we can’t turn ourselves into brilliant thinkers like Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci, any more than multiple trips to the gym will turn us into Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But we
become the best version of ourselves.
We can choose to be smarter
. Intelligence, in its broadest sense, involves much more than abstract problem solving or IQ. In addition to systematic thinking, intelligence includes physical and social skills, as well as perception, imagination, emotional self-regulation, and many aspects of personality. All of these can be enhanced.
We can choose our habits
. Most of us tend to underestimate the extent to which we behave on autopilot, reflecting mental “default settings” that we have forgotten we can reset. By uncovering more of the options that are available, we’ll find it easier to escape our current habits or “settings.”
At Mind Gym, we believe everyone can change radically—if they make a conscious decision to do so. If you are ready to change, ready to get your mind into the best shape it’s ever been, start your exercise program now.
is designed to meet your specific needs. We’ve divided the book into seven parts, each tackling some of the most common challenges people face:
• How to adopt a positive mind-set
• How to increase productivity
• How to repair broken relationships
• How to influence others
• How to resolve conflict successfully
• How to be more creative
• How to minimize stress and maximize bliss
Each part starts with a brief summary of the content covered in its chapters. If your priority is to manage stress or be more creative, then go straight to the relevant section. Having trouble deciding whether or not to stick with a relationship? There’s a section on that too. Each chapter within the section offers specific tools that you can use immediately, and they are crafted to help you achieve results right away. At the end of each chapter we’ve put together some exercises for you, called “Give Your Mind a Workout.” The beginner exercises are to get you started and the advanced exercises are there once you’re ready for something more challenging.
Of course, you can read this book cover to cover if you prefer. Or you may choose to follow one of our pre-designed programs. Just like a physical fitness regime can be designed for strength or stamina, each of our programs has been developed to help address common desires.
There are four basic programs to help you get what you need from
as quickly and efficiently as possible:
Get What You Want
This program is especially helpful if you know what you want—both professionally and in your relationships—but don’t know how to get it, particularly when obstacles keep getting in the way. (Read chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 11, and 15.)
This is a program for those of you who struggle in social situations, have difficulty maintaining relationships, or simply would like to deepen your connection to colleagues and friends. Do you want to be more charismatic? Do you want that special person to look your way? This program is for you. (Read chapters 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, and 14.)
This is a big one. It’s a program for those of you who want to be admired or at least treated as an equal by others. Do you often feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick? Follow this program. (Read chapters 3, 9, 10, 11, 13, and 16.)
If you are facing a difficult time in your life or want to be ready to deal with unexpected challenges, you’ll love this program. It helps you realize how and why you internalize chaos, and how others might be adding to your challenges. And it helps you understand the ruts that you need to get out of. (Read chapters 1, 2, 3, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, and 20.)
Whether you choose to follow one of these programs or read individual chapters that fit your needs, we hope the book will lead you to new paths and reveal aspects of yourself you didn’t quite know were there. By getting your mind in top shape, your life will change: You’ll work smarter. You’ll have stronger and richer relationships. You’ll be more fulfilled. You’ll thrive.
Have a fantastic workout!
HE COMPUTER CRASHES before you could save that all-important document. You forget to buy the vital ingredient in the meal you’re cooking for your hot date. The bad weather is going to make you miss your flight connection. All of these circumstances could make you believe that you’re unlucky or that the world is somehow conspiring to get you. But is it? Or are these just random circumstances you have no control over? Maybe the real question you should be asking yourself is this:
Is my mind conspiring against me—creating negative thoughts around innocuous situations or unrealistically positive thoughts around truly negative situations?
It may surprise you to know that one of the most significant discoveries in contemporary psychology is that we all choose how we think, react, and respond to situations. Sounds obvious, right? Well, it’s not. For years experts thought we were preprogrammed in our early, formative years, that our minds were hardwired like a computer. The theory was that when a person encountered a specific stimulus, only a specific reaction would occur. Of course, there were other experts back then who challenged this theory. But at the time, these experts theorized that our thinking, reactions, and responses to stimuli could only be changed as a result of our being rewarded or punished. Basically, we weren’t given credit for a powerful ability: choice.