There are a number of aspects of mental training that I think are worth mentioning. You can think of each of these as a different facet of your mental fitness; to keep in top shape, you need to ensure that you maintain them all in top condition.
The 7 Facets:
- Short term memory
- Long term memory
- Convergent thinking and problem solving
- Divergent thinking and creativity
- Attitude and mentality or “emotional muscle”
- Expressing your ideas
Short Term Memory (STM) is one of the most studied areas of mental training. Cognitive psychology teaches us that this is mostly in the form of a visual-spatial sketch pad, and can be measured by how many random numbers you can remember. Most people can remember seven digits easily, though eight is far more difficult. We keep things in our STM by repeating them over and over inside our head – once we change our attention, our STM is cleared. Training, often through shortcuts like ‘chunking’ help decrease the pressure on this strictly limited resource.
Long Term Memory (LTM) results in longer and deeper learning. Many believe that LTM results in neurological changes in the brain that can last a lifetime. However, whenever we remember something, we literally “re-member” it, in that we lay down new connections.
That’s why our memories do change over time. The LTM can be trained through practising effective learning techniques, leading to increased efficiency.
Awareness of your environment and yourself is less tangible concept, though very important. When you are concentrating, you notice a very limited array of stimuli; other times, you notice more of the world around you. Your awareness can be internal also: You probably don’t think about what you are wearing, and the temperature, but you could choose to pay attention to those clothes – and their texture against your skin – right now, and notice how warm or cool it is; if you do, you’ll change your experience immediately. Making it possible to consciously choose your level and focus of awareness is a very powerful tool.
Convergent thinking and problem solving involves the identification of the key issues affecting a situation, relating those issues appropriately, and resolving conflicts. Like the other
skills, this is an activity that needs to be practiced if it is to perform at the highest level.
Divergent thinking and creativity is also important, as sometimes we have to think beyond the problem as it presents itself. There are a many techniques that will assist in practising our creativity.
Our attitude and mentality determine what is possible and what is impossible. Training our emotional muscles is focused on developing our ability to get into the right states of mind, and stay there, when we need to.
Expressing your ideas is the final mental skill to highlight here. We must remember that coming up with great ideas is important and valuable, though it is only through our ability to communicate those ideas that we really derive value. Some studies have even begun to show that expressing our ideas can directly increase our intelligence. Such expression can be verbal
Mental skills provide a powerful way to increase your effectiveness. Whatever you do, you will use these skills in some way each day: theyprovide the foundation of your personal performance.