Brainpower – Litemind Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School Mon, 30 Mar 2009 12:24:09 +0000 Brain Rules is a fascinating book that explores twelve simple principles to help us make the best use of our brains, enabling us to become better teachers, students, parents and business leaders. Check out the full scoop.

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Brain Rules

Brain Rules is a fascinating book that explores twelve simple principles to help us make the best use of our brains, enabling us to become better teachers, students, parents and business leaders.

Find below a short review of the book, along with a mind map summary created by Litemind reader Johan D’Haeseleer.

The 12 Brain Rules

The 12 principles describing how our brain works best, which form the core of Dr. John Medina’s book Brain Rules, are:

  1. Exercise. Exercise boosts brain power.
  2. Survival. The human brain evolved, too.
  3. Wiring. Every brain is wired differently.
  4. Attention. We don’t pay attention to boring things.
  5. Short-term memory. Repeat to remember.
  6. Long-term memory. Remember to repeat.
  7. Sleep. Sleep well, think well.
  8. Stress. Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
  9. Sensory integration. Stimulate more of the senses.
  10. Vision. Vision trumps all other senses.
  11. Gender. Male and female brains are different.
  12. Exploration. We are powerful and natural explorers.

For a more detailed explanation of each of these rules, including videos, check out ‘The 12 Rules‘, on the Brain Rules website.)

Although many of us may already intuitively know at least some of these principles, Dr. Medina explains the science behind each of them in a clear, accessible and often very funny manner, bringing along many entertaining stories and practical ideas we can use in classrooms, corporations or in any work environment. The principles are also explained in several, often hilariously funny short videos, to help reinforce each chapter’s concepts (the book ships with a companion DVD).

The main idea of the book — which also serves as a big call for action — is that most of what’s in our world ignores these rules. As Dr. Medina points out, if you wanted to create an educational environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom. And the examples go on and on, from business presentations to office cubicles.

The good news is that we have an incredible amount of room for improvement in practically everything we design, if only we would consider the brain rules when designing the world around us.

No Mumbo-Jumbo

Throughout the years, I gradually lost interest in reading ‘brain facts’ articles. Things like “Humans use only 10% or less of their brain“, or the idea that “listening to Mozart makes you smarter” being passed as scientific truths started to really annoy me.

And that’s what I really like about Brain Rules: it’s based on real science. It’s backed up by peer-reviewed studies, often replicated many times. So when I say science, I mean it. And, surprisingly to many people, that doesn’t mean the book is boring, not by any means. In Dr. Medina own words, “I’m a nice guy, but a grumpy scientist.” Refreshing!

Getting Help from an Engaged Litemind Reader

For ages I wanted to mention Brain Rules on the blog, but never got around to doing it. Reader Johan D’Haeseleer lent me a hand and generously sent a mind map he created, making up for my procrastination.

Johan has been a work simplifier for a big part of his life. In chatting with him, I discovered that we share many ideas, including the belief that we can treat almost anything as processes that can be learned, simplified and optimized — an idea that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. (Johan’s website is in Dutch, but for the curious, non-Dutch-speaking types there’s always Google Translate.)

The Mind Map

And here’s Johan’s mind map, which joins Litemind growing book summary gallery. Enjoy!

Brain Rules Book

Get the mind map for Brain Rules:

More Resources

I would have included several links to Brain Rules materials and reviews, but the official Brain Rules website already acts as a great hub for all related information floating around. So, just head over there and browse around — there’s a blog, many videos, audio excerpts and much more to keep you entertained.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to come back here and buy your copy.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.

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How to Learn (Almost) Anything Sun, 08 Mar 2009 20:55:09 +0000 Have you ever read an informative book, only to later remember just a few main points — if anything at all? The problem might be that you’re using one of the least efficient ways of learning available.

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How to Learn (Almost) Anything

This is a guest post by Glen Allsopp of PluginID.

Have you ever read an informative book, only to later remember just a few main points — if anything at all? The problem might be that you’re using one of the least efficient ways of learning available.

The Cone of Learning

I remember back about 7 years ago when I was taking music lessons at school, there was a poster on the wall that really grabbed my attention. To be fair, it wasn’t difficult for a random object to attract your gaze as our Scottish teacher at the time didn’t have much in the way of keeping you interested. The poster outlined the different ways that we remember things and how different activities increase our chances of remembering something over others.

Cone of Learning
Image Credit

After doing some research, I found that the contents of that poster were based upon the work of Edgar Dale back in 1969. Dale looked at the most effective ways of learning by teaching people similar material in different ways and noted the ability to recall the information after the teaching was finished.

Today, many of you may know this as the Cone of Learning, but beware: although the cone is in fact based upon the results of Dale’s research, the percentage figures were never actually cited by Dale, and added by others after the initial investigation.

Even though the Cone of Learning that became widespread contains erroneous figures, it does represent a guideline for the most effective learning techniques that the human brain is able to acquire and store information from.

Based on the research we can see that:

  • The least effective way to learn something is to listen to a lecture on the topic or read information about it.
  • The most effective way to learn something is to teach others and use it in our own lives.

The Cone of Learning suggests why you are more likely to remember parts of a movie than you are from a book on the same topic. A film uses audio and visual aspects that the brain is more likely to store and hold available for recollection (memory).

Learning Almost Anything

After we discard the erroneous percentage figures, we still must take the cone as just a guideline — one which is subject to change depending on the learning style of the student or the studied subject. Different aspects such as what you want to remember and how often you put it into use will greatly impact how well you remember something. That being said, other things equals, the cone is a great guideline to follow to better imprint something to memory.

On that note, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the best ways to use the Cone of Learning concept, and apply it to an everyday example that we can relate to. The example I’m going to use in the following tips is looking at the best methods you could use to learn what yoga is and remember the necessary positions that are used.

  • Give a Lecture. Although receiving a lecture is one of the worst ways to remember what you are being told, giving a lecture is one of the most effective. You could go into any college or university and offer to give a lecture on the topic of yoga and the many positions that are used.
  • Write an Article. If you have a blog or a website you could spend time putting together an article on what yoga is all about and the movements that are often used in this meditative practice. Additionally, you could also create images to be used on the site to help explain the certain actions involved.
  • Make a Video. Even if you don’t have your own blog or website, there are plenty of video portals such as Youtube and Metacafe that will allow you to upload your own videos for free. This will be effective as you can teach in the lecture format but know that you are instructing to a potentially worldwide audience.
  • Discuss with Your Friends. One of the easiest teaching options that you have available to you are the members of your social circle. Wherever appropriate, bring up a topic you would like to discuss and share your wealth of knowledge on it. The more people you can discuss it with the better your ability will be to remember it in the future.
    Additionally, there are literally hundreds of ways you can discuss it online using the likes of online forums, twitter or even niche social networks.
  • Do it Yourself. It’s no use trying your best to teach others about Yoga if it’s something you aren’t interested in and don’t do yourself. If you teach people the importance of controlling their breathing, then when you are performing Yoga in your own time… make sure you are controlling your breathing. Whatever you would teach others, you need to make sure you are implementing yourself.

There are certainly more ways that you could look into teaching others and applying things into your own life. From holding classes in your house to simply creating an audio file of you speaking, see how you can apply teaching about your subject to learn more about a topic.

Exceptions to the Rule

As with most things in life, this isn’t going to apply to every single person, every single time. For example, from my research into this, it is claimed that autistic people are much more likely to learn from visual images rather than trying to teach someone else or do it themselves. Also, I know many people who have a strong preference for auditory learning over visual, for instance.

Additionally, as stated, the figures in the cone are to be used as a guideline, some people will have a high success rate at learning through teaching others while for some it may not be as successful. Generally, look at the ones which are deemed to be the most effective and try the ones which work best for you.

So, what are you going to do to improve your learning now?

About Glen Allsopp

Glen Allsopp writes in order to inspire, awaken and motivate people into being who they want to be and living the life they want to live. You can learn more about him at his Personal Development blog.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Learn (Almost) Anything.

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Remember Any Number With the Major Memory System Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:43:25 +0000 Did you ever want to be able to recite pi up to 22,500 decimal digits? Meet the Major memory system, one of the most powerful techniques around for memorizing numbers. If you think you could use a boost to your memory, or just want to jog your brain a little, here’s a great way to do it.

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Major Memory System

Did you ever want to be able to recite pi up to 22,500 decimal digits? As for me, I never felt attracted to that sort of stuff. But remembering phone numbers, passwords, PINs, birthdays and all sorts of everyday numbers — that’s something I resonate with!

Meet the Major memory system, one of the most powerful techniques around for memorizing numbers. If you think you could use a boost to your memory, or just want to jog your brain a little, here’s a great way to do it. (And yes, you’ll also be able to pull off the pi digits stunt if that’s what catches your fancy.)

How the Major Memory System Works

Our brains are notoriously poor at memorizing numbers. The problem lies in the fact that numbers are abstract concepts. Although they are represented visually by symbols, they don’t feel very real or appealing to our brains. As I explored in a previous article, our brains usually work best using lively, vibrant images. Numbers hardly qualify.

And that’s what the Major system is about: converting abstract, dull numbers into vivid, striking images. When we do that, committing these numbers to memory is a snap.
Let me show you how to do it.

The Major Memory System in 3 Steps

1. Learn to Encode Numbers as Images

The heart of the Major system — and the key to convert numbers to images and vice-versa — is a 10-item mnemonic table. The table shows how to transform the digits 0-9 into corresponding sounds; which we’ll eventually use to form words. The mnemonics are easy to learn (it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to fully master them) and, once learned, they can be used for life. Here they are:

Digit Sound Memory Aid
0 s, z, soft c z is the first letter of zero. The others have a similar sound.
1 d, t, th d and t have one downstroke and sound similar (notice the tip of your tongue as you say them).
2 n n has two downstrokes.
3 m m has three downstrokes, also m looks like a 3 lying on its side.
4 r the last letter of four, also 4 and R are almost mirror images of each other.
5 l L is the Roman numeral for 50.
6 j, sh, soft ch, dg, zh, soft g a script j has a lower loop like 6. These letters also have a ‘whistle-like’ sound, and 6 looks like a whistle.
7 k, hard c, hard g, q, qu capital K contains two 7s (on their sides, back to back).
8 v, f think of v as in a V8 motor. f sounds similar (notice how your teeth touch your lips for both).
9 b, p

p is a mirror-image 9. b sounds similar and resembles a 9 rolled around (also notice how your lip movement is the same when pronouncing these letters.)

vowel sounds, w, h, y These sounds can be used anywhere without changing a word’s number value.

As an example, let’s take the (in)famous number 42.

According to the mnemonic table, the digits in the number 42 translate to r and n respectively. Now we need to form a word with r and n. We should fill the gaps between the letters using the ‘neutral’ elements (from the last row of the table: vowel sounds, w, h or y). The word rain comes naturally to me.

42 gets encoded as rain, then.

Decoding from word to number is even more straightforward. ‘Mouse’, for instance, becomes 30 (3 for m and 0 for s; vowel sounds are ignored).

The conversion process may seem a little slow and cumbersome at first, but with just a little bit of practice it becomes second-nature.

There are just a couple more notes to bear in mind:

  • The conversions are strictly phonetic, that is, based on how the words sound — not how they’re spelled. If a word has double letters that account for just one sound, you count only one sound (ex: the r sound in cherry counts as only one number). By the same token, mute letters (such as the b in debt) should be ignored.
  • When coming up with words, choose those that are easy to visualize. Concrete nouns — such as objects or animals — always work better than abstract nouns, adjectives or verbs.

2. Associate Images in Your Mind

Now for the fun part. We already have an image, now we’ll need a way to glue it in our minds.
The way we’re going to do this is by imagining a scene, a scene that combines two images: the encoded number image along with a peg image that will be used to trigger the memory.

As an example, suppose you want to buy a light bulb, and you must remember that it must be a 30-Watt one. The two images to combine would be the image for light bulb and the encoded image for 30. Using our mnemonic table, we find that 30 translates to the letters m and s. Mouse seems a pretty good word for these letters, so we’ll go with it.

Our mission, then, is to create a mental scene combining light bulb and mouse.

The secret for this to work is to make the mental scene memorable: make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, animated, nonsensical — in short, make it fun! (For details on how to effectively associate images, check out this article.)

Let’s see: What’s the zaniest way you can combine light bulb with mouse? I don’t know about you, but here’s what I just imagined:

“I’m in my local supermarket, in the electrical accessories aisle. As I catch one light bulb to observe it more closely… Bang! It breaks in my hand, and a giant mouse jumps out of it! The mouse runs away, squeaking frenetically. Everybody in the supermarket stops and stares at me puzzled and in absolute silence…”

Well, imagine that scene vividly in your mind and try not remembering that giant mouse next time you’re in that supermarket aisle… “30-Watt it surely is!”

3. For Large Numbers, Extend the System

“Yes, but everyone can memorize a small number such as 30,” — you say — “what about the big numbers?”

The great thing about the Major system is that you can easily combine it with just about any other memory technique, simple or advanced. That’s what makes the Major System insanely scalable and able to handle gigantic numbers.

For memorizing a small number we created a mental scene combining two images. To memorize a large number, we need to link many of those scenes together, forming a sequence.

There are many ways to do this. Many people like to create a story linking the scenes together, for example.

My favorite method, however, is to use the Memory Palace technique. In short, you use familiar places for storing memories. If you’re not acquainted with it, check it out here).

Let’s try a practical example again: an 8-digit telephone number.

The specifics on how to memorize it are a matter of personal preference, of course. The way I do it is by chunking the number in 4-digit groups, and placing each of those groups in a memory palace location.

I’ll use my in-laws phone number (slightly modified), using their home as my memory palace:

Phone number: 2417-2220

Scene 1: Associate first memory palace feature (front door) with 2417:

Using the Major system: 24 = Nero, 17 = Duck.

“As I arrive at my in-laws’ front door, I see no one but the emperor Nero himself, laughing out loud, as he is about to set the whole apartment on fire! But he has no matches or a torch in his hands: he has a blowtorch — in fact, a rubber duck-shaped blowtorch! And it quacks as it spits fire!”

Scene 2: Associate second memory palace feature (sofa) with 2220:

Using the Major system: 22 = Nun, 20 = Nose.

“As I enter their apartment is the sofa, the first thing I see is a nun chanting and jumping about on the sofa, facing backwards. When I touch her shoulder, she turns around — and it’s actually a witch! She scares the hell out of me — and guess what — she has the biggest nose ever! And yuck — that’s the biggest zit I’ve ever seen” (yes, getting disgusting is also a great way to help your memory!)

This may seem like a lot of work for a phone number, but in fact, this all happens quite fast in our minds. Recovering a number using the process above takes me no more than 4 seconds total — and I haven’t been practicing that much lately. If you practice this regularly, you’ll be able to do it much faster and with less effort.

Bonus: Gain Speed with a Word List

The previous three steps are the basic tools you need to use the Major system. If you want to make it even more powerful and efficient, one way is to use a predefined image list for the numbers you use more often.

If you use a set of predefined images for, say, all numbers from 00 to 99, you’ll greatly improve your speed when forming images, as you won’t need to imagine different words each time you trip on those numbers.

Of course, memorizing more than 100 mnemonics requires a fair amount of time and effort, but once it’s all in your long-term memory, you can use it for life. To be fair, you don’t need to memorize it (in the traditional sense of the word). Let me explain. If you just start using the mnemonics, the images will soon automatically come to you. I don’t know, but there must be something about the phonetics that makes the images manifest themselves rather easily.

Here’s a set of numbers you can use. If you don’t like these words, feel free to substitute others that are more memorable to you:

0. Sow       20. Nose     40. Rose     60. Cheese   80. Fez      00. S.O.S.   
1. Hat       21. Net      41. Road     61. Sheet    81. Fat      01. Seed     
2. Hen       22. Nun      42. Rain     62. Chain    82. Fan      02. Sun      
3. Ham       23. Nemo     43. Room     63. Jam      83. Foam     03. Sam      
4. Row       24. Nero     44. Aurora   64. Cherry   84. Fire     04. Zero     
5. Hill      25. Nail     45. Rail     65. Jello    85. File     05. Seal     
6. Shoe      26. Notch    46. Rash     66. Judge    86. Fish     06. Sash     
7. Cow       27. Neck     47. Rock     67. Chalk    87. Fog      07. Sack     
8. Ivy       28. Knife    48. Roof     68. Chef     88. Fife     08. Sofa     
9. Bee       29. Knob     49. Rope     69. Ship     89. Fib      09. Sepia    
10. Toes     30. Mouse    50. Lace     70. Gas      90. Bus                   
11. Dad      31. Mat      51. Loot     71. Cat      91. Bat                   
12. Dune     32. Moon     52. Lion     72. Can      92. Pen                   
13. Dime     33. Mummy    53. Lime     73. Comb     93. Opium                 
14. Tire     34. Mower    54. Lure     74. Car      94. Bear                  
15. Doll     35. Mule     55. Lily     75. Coal     95. Bell                  
16. Tissue   36. Match    56. Leech    76. Cage     96. Bush                  
17. Duck     37. Mug      57. Log      77. Coke     97. Book                  
18. Dove     38. Movie    58. Lava     78. Cave     98. Beef                  
19. Tape     39. Map      59. Lip      79. Cape     99. Pipe                  

What do you think?

I absolutely love using the Major system. It provides a great brain workout — and a warm feeling of relying just a bit less on technology. Even better than that is the amount of wild private imagery to have fun with! 🙂

What about you? Do you have any experience using the Major memory system or any variation of it? If not, do you have any other ways you use to remember numbers? Share in the comments!

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Remember Any Number With the Major Memory System.

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How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci Tue, 09 Sep 2008 14:33:20 +0000 How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci does a superb job of capturing the essence of Leonardo’s genius and laying it out in a practical framewor. Here are the 7 key areas that shaped Leonardo’s genius and which you can use for your own self-improvement.

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How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci - Mind map

In this post, I present a summary of the mind-expanding bestseller How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, along with some thoughts about Leonardo and the book. (To skip directly to the summary, click here.)

Leonardo is my Childhood (and Adulthood) Hero

Since my childhood, I was utterly fascinated by the figure of Leonardo da Vinci and his achievements. It never ceased to puzzle and amaze me how a single person could be a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer.

Fast forward many years, it was when visiting Leonardo’s exhibition in the Milan Science and Technology Museum that I decided to have him as a permanent source of inspiration for life. Being able to get in touch with his mastery of both science and arts captivated me for good.

Leonardo is not only probably the greatest genius ever: he’s the one that most fully embodies the ‘Renaissance Man‘ ideal. Pursuing that ideal means being focused not on excelling on a single knowledge domain, but on having a holistic view of excellence in life. It means much more than just intellectual achievement, it means full realization of human potential in every aspect.

Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (detail)

A Framework for Genius

In How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, author Michael Gelb does a superb job of capturing the essence of Leonardo’s genius and laying it out in a practical framework for self-improvement. Here are the 7 key areas that shaped Leonardo’s genius and which you can use as a framework for your own self-improvement:

  1. Curiosità: An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
  2. Dimostrazione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
  3. Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
  4. Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
  5. Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking.
  6. Corporalitá: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
  7. Connessione: A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.

In the book there’s a thorough explanation of how each of these seven key areas applies in Leonardo’s life. More importantly, it’s packed with practical advice and dozens of exercises you can start doing immediately to develop your thinking skills in many unconventional ways. For a reference to the exercises, check the free book summary below.

Book Summary

This mind map summary focuses on the practical exercises contained in the book, so it’s intended to be more of a reference you can come back to from time to time than a complete replacement of the book. (If you enjoyed the article 120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power, you’ll recognize that some of those tips came from this book, but you’ll also find a wealth of new tips which aren’t in that article.)

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Book

Get the mind map for How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci:

As a side note, I found it rather amusing to summarize this book using mind mapping, since How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci was one the first references I came across when learning about the technique.


About a decade later, after having bought it in 1998, I still use How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci regularly as a reference for inspiration and personal growth. This book ended up becoming one of the most influential for me, solidifying my choice of Leonardo as a role model and presenting a very useful framework that I use for self-development up until today.

…Which made me curious. Do you have one or more role models in life? Who inspires you the most to reach your full potential? Share in the comments!

La Scapigliata (detail)

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120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power Tue, 26 Aug 2008 16:50:19 +0000 Here are 120 things you can do starting today to help you think faster, improve memory, comprehend information better and unleash your brain’s full potential. Solve puzzles and brainteasers. Cultivate ambidexterity. Use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth, comb your hair or use the mouse. Write with both hands simultaneously. Switch hands for knife […]

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Boost your Brain Power

Here are 120 things you can do starting today to help you think faster, improve memory, comprehend information better and unleash your brain’s full potential.

  1. Solve puzzles and brainteasers.
  2. Cultivate ambidexterity. Use your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth, comb your hair or use the mouse. Write with both hands simultaneously. Switch hands for knife and fork.
  3. Embrace ambiguity. Learn to enjoy things like paradoxes and optical illusions.
  4. Learn mind mapping.
  5. Block one or more senses. Eat blindfolded, wear earplugs, shower with your eyes closed.
  6. Develop comparative tasting. Learn to properly taste wine, chocolate, beer, cheese or anything else.
  7. Find intersections between seemingly unrelated topics.
  8. Learn to use different keyboard layouts. Try Colemak or Dvorak for a full mind twist!
  9. Find novel uses for common objects. How many different uses can you find for a nail? 10? 100?
  10. Reverse your assumptions.
  11. Learn creativity techniques.
  12. Go beyond the first, ‘right’ answer.
  13. Transpose reality. Ask “What if?” questions.
  14. SCAMPER!
  15. Turn pictures or the desktop wallpaper upside down.
  16. Become a critical thinker. Learn to spot common fallacies.
  17. Learn logic. Solve logic puzzles.
  18. Get familiar with the scientific method.
  19. Draw. Doodle. You don’t need to be an artist.
  20. Think positive.
  21. Engage in arts — sculpt, paint, play music — or any other artistic endeavor.
  22. Learn to juggle.
  23. Eat ‘brain foods’.
  24. Be slightly hungry.
  25. Exercise!
  26. Sit up straight.
  27. Drink lots of water.
  28. Deep-breathe.
  29. Laugh!
  30. Vary activities. Get a hobby.
  31. Sleep well.
  32. Power nap.
  33. Listen to music.
  34. Conquer procrastination.
  35. Go technology-less.
  36. Look for brain resources in the web.
  37. Change clothes. Go barefoot.
  38. Master self-talk.
  39. Simplify!
  40. Play chess or other board games. Play via Internet (particularly interesting is to play an ongoing game by e-mail).
  41. Play ‘brain’ games. Sudoku, crossword puzzles or countless others.
  42. Be childish!
  43. Play video games.
  44. Be humorous! Write or create a joke.
  45. Create a List of 100.
  46. Have an Idea Quota.
  47. Capture every idea. Keep an idea bank.
  48. Incubate ideas. Let ideas percolate. Return to them at regular intervals.
  49. Engage in ‘theme observation’. Try to spot the color red as many times as possible in a day. Find cars of a particular make. Invent a theme and focus on it.
  50. Keep a journal.
  51. Learn a foreign language.
  52. Eat at different restaurants – ethnic restaurants specially.
  53. Learn how to program a computer.
  54. Spell long words backwards. !gnignellahC
  55. Change your environment. Change the placement of objects or furniture — or go somewhere else.
  56. Write! Write a story, poetry, start a blog.
  57. Learn sign language.
  58. Learn a musical instrument.
  59. Visit a museum.
  60. Study how the brain works.
  61. Learn to speed-read.
  62. Find out your learning style.
  63. Dump the calendar!
  64. Try to mentally estimate the passage of time.
  65. “Guesstimate”. Are there more leaves in the Amazon rainforest or neuron connections in your brain? (answer).
  66. Make friends with math. Fight ‘innumeracy’.
  67. Build a Memory Palace.
  68. Learn a peg system for memory.
  69. Have sex! (sorry, no links for this one! 🙂 )
  70. Memorize people’s names.
  71. Meditate. Cultivate mindfulness and an empty mind.
  72. Watch movies from different genres.
  73. Turn off the TV.
  74. Improve your concentration.
  75. Get in touch with nature.
  76. Do mental math.
  77. Have a half-speed day.
  78. Change the speed of certain activities. Go either super-slow or super-fast deliberately.
  79. Do one thing at a time.
  80. Be aware of cognitive biases.
  81. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would different people think or solve your problems? How would a fool tackle it?
  82. Adopt an attitude of contemplation.
  83. Take time for solitude and relaxation.
  84. Commit yourself to lifelong learning.
  85. Travel abroad. Learn about different lifestyles.
  86. Adopt a genius. (Leonardo is excellent company!)
  87. Have a network of supportive friends.
  88. Get competitive.
  89. Don’t stick with only like-minded people. Have people around that disagree with you.
  90. Brainstorm!
  91. Change your perspective. Short/long-term, individual/collective.
  92. Go to the root of the problems.
  93. Collect quotes.
  94. Change the media you’re working on. Use paper instead of the computer; voice recording instead of writing.
  95. Read the classics.
  96. Develop your reading skill. Reading effectively is a skill. Master it.
  97. Summarize books.
  98. Develop self-awareness.
  99. Say your problems out loud.
  100. Describe one experience in painstaking detail.
  101. Learn Braille. You can start learning the floor numbers while going up or down the elevator.
  102. Buy a piece of art that disturbs you. Stimulate your senses in thought-provoking ways.
  103. Try different perfumes and scents.
  104. Mix your senses. How much does the color pink weigh? How does lavender scent sound?
  105. Debate! Defend an argument. Try taking the opposite side, too.
  106. Use time boxing.
  107. Allocate time for brain development.
  108. Have your own mental sanctuary.
  109. Be curious!
  110. Challenge yourself.
  111. Develop your visualization skills. Use it at least 5 minutes a day.
  112. Take notes of your dreams. Keep a notebook by your bedside and record your dreams first thing in the morning or as you wake up from them.
  113. Learn to lucid dream.
  114. Keep a lexicon of interesting words. Invent your own words.
  115. Find metaphors. Connect abstract and specific concepts.
  116. Manage stress.
  117. Get random input. Write about a random word in a magazine. Read random sites using StumbleUpon or Wikipedia.
  118. Take different routes each day. Change the streets you follow to work, jog or go back home.
  119. Install a different operating system on your computer.
  120. Improve your vocabulary.
  121. Deliver more than what’s expected.

Readers’ Contributions

  1. Dance! (by Shanel Yang)
  2. Study Philoshophy and the writings of great thinkers. (by ZHereford)
  3. Be around people that are smarter than you. (by Angel Cuala)
  4. Use ‘brain fitness’ software. (by Eric Blue)
  5. Read text upside down (the text, not you… well, you can try that, too). (by Thales)
  6. Act in a stageplay. (by Thales)
  7. Practice ‘environmental creativity’. Keep asking yourself questions like “What does this mean?” and “How can I use this?”. (by Chuck Frey)
  8. Use a reverse clock. You can buy one or make your own. (by Brendan Dunphy)
  9. Take an improvisation class. (by Patricia Ryan Madson)
  10. Pun! Play with words. (by David Lurey)
  11. Do It Yourself: Create or repair things without the aid of paid professionals. Repair, sew, cook, build, weave, paint, etc. (by b.honey)
  12. Teach someone something you know. (by Usiku)
  13. Help a child with their homework. (by Usiku)
  14. Provide thoughtful comments on blogs and websites. (by Usiku)
  15. Discuss religion and politics, even with friends. (by Usiku)
  16. Teach yourself origami. (by Pamela)
  17. Learn to knit or crochet. (by Pamela)
  18. Shop at a market different from the usual. (by Pamela)
  19. Think of something you fear. Work to conquer it. (by Pamela)
  20. Play bridge (or other card games). (by millie)
  21. Practice Yoga. (by Rajesh)
  22. Learn martial arts. (by Chirou)
  23. Study the concepts of Relativity (both General and Special). (by Tim)
  24. Practice echolocation (sense objects by hearing echoes from those objects). (by Tim)
  25. Help and immigrant learn your language. (by Ray)
  26. Translate articles (by Remigiusz Durka).
    Note: Thanks to everybody who translated this article! Caruso (Spanish), Tommaso (Italian), Eylos (Turkish) and Remigiusz (Polish). (Anyone else I’m missing?)
  27. Eat raw foods. (by Carlos Caridad)
  28. Remember childhood and imagine living it with your current experience. (by Janine)
  29. Imagine how would you survice in a different epoch (say, 5000 years go). (by Mel Smith)
  30. Play role-playing games (RPG) (by FreeMasons)
  31. Treat life’s challenges as social experiments (by Michael Gaudet)
  32. Eat with chopsticks. (by Tore)
  33. Crawl backwards, walk up steps backwards. (by Meribela)
  34. Make mistakes! (by Marc)

Contribute your own tip!

There are many, many ways to keep our brains sharp. I’m sure you have your own personal favorite, so please share it in the comments! I’ll regularly compile the best tips and add them to this list (giving full credit, with a link to your site, if you have one). Thanks!

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: 120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power.

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Put Yourself in Any Mental State With a Mental Sanctuary Tue, 25 Mar 2008 17:10:15 +0000 How about using your imagination to create a place that you can go to at any time to generate or recreate any feeling, emotion or memory you feel like?

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Mental Sanctuary

We’ve already seen how to develop perfect memory by building palaces in our minds. That’s an amazing technique, but a great memory is only a hint of how powerful mental environments can be.

How about using your imagination to create a place that you can go to at any time to generate or recreate any feeling, emotion or memory you feel like?

This place can serve as a relaxing place for meditation, a place to feel energized, to bring good memories or feelings, overcome fears, solve problems or perform any change in your mood. In fact, how about creating a place that can achieve all of this and more?

Enter the Mental Sanctuary

The Mental Sanctuary is a metaphor for a specially designed place that exists only in your imagination. Think of that place as your personal fortress — a safe haven that you can “enter” at any time to recreate any feeling or mental state.

The place you choose as your mental sanctuary may be based on a real place you know well, or on one completely made up. Anything goes, as long as you can vividly picture it in your mind.

In that regard, the Mental Sanctuary is a virtual environment that works in the exact same way as the ones in the Memory Palace technique. (If you haven’t done so, I really urge you to read the article explaining the technique, as it lays out the foundation and shows the basic principles on how to create mental places.)

Ideally, your mental sanctuary should be a place with many ‘sub-places’ or compartments — such as a house with many rooms. The Mental Sanctuary can have a vast multitude of uses; each one of these uses will be associated with one specific sub-place. For every emotion you want to recreate — for every mental state you want to put yourself in — you should have a specifically designed place in your sanctuary.

That’s why I recommend that your mental sanctuary be an actual construction — such as a palace or big house. The highly-structured way these places are built — based on rooms, doors and corridors — makes them very effective as the basis for creating our visual environments. Of course, you can design your sanctuary in any way you want — just make sure it’s a pleasant place and make it as rich as you can so you can use it in many ways and expand it in the future.

Let me show how a mental sanctuary works by sharing some ideas of what you can do with it.

Ideas for Your Sanctuary

Here are some ideas you can use for your own sanctuary, based on the most important rooms of my own (which is a medieval castle in a mountain):

1. Relaxation Room

Relaxing is perhaps the reason people most often mentally transport themselves to other places (don’t you ever daydream about your next holiday destination?). In your sanctuary, you can have a special place to relax, and set it up the way it works for you.

As for me, this is the flat rooftop of my sanctuary. From there I can enjoy a magnificent view of green mountains. I can also hear the splashing of a waterfall nearby. The room is completely empty except for a small cushion on the floor I sit on to meditate.

In my imagination, my eyes are wide open, absorbing the visual richness of that virtual world. And this is how I meditate: instead of using common meditation techniques — such as focusing on a mantra or on your own breathing — my object of focus is simply keeping the imagery vivid at all times. I found that very effective for focusing and training the mind to ignore fleeting or unrelated thoughts.

2. Energization Room

Just like there are times when you must relax, there are also times when all you need is to be filled with enthusiasm. Here, again, your mental sanctuary can help. How about having at your disposal one environment especially designed to energize you?

In that room, you can place objects or people that are sources of motivation and inspiration for you. You can, for example, have a big LCD screen on the wall highlighting goal-achieving moments that are yet to come.

In my sanctuary, right next door from the stairway to the meditation rooftop, there’s a wooden door that takes me to what I call my ‘Vision Room’: a room that has the sole purpose of getting me motivated and energized about my goals. There, I have three pictures on the wall that represent my lifelong goals. Whenever I go in that room, I choose one picture, take a careful look at it and commit to do one action — no matter how small — towards that goal as soon as I get back out of the sanctuary. Grabbing the doorknob as I leave the room is the trigger to make sure I don’t forget to set that action.

3. Gratitude Room

Having a specific place and time to be thankful for all the things that you care about is a great way to put your life in perspective. This is a place that I believe every Mental Sanctuary should have, as it’s a terrific way to make you feel good — especially when done regularly.

How you set up this room — just like all the others — is a very personal choice. You can have objects, pictures, sculptures — anything. You can even meet real people that are important to you — either alive or those who already passed away.

One thing that I recommend is making this room the entrance hall of your sanctuary, so that it is impossible to miss it both on your way in or out.

Empowering Rituals as Journeys

Just like it happens with the Memory Palace technique, you tap into the full power of the technique when you define specific walkthroughs in your sanctuary, instead of just imagining isolated scenes.

By defining and following predefined routes in your sanctuary, you can easily go through any kind of standard ritual, procedure or checklist you have. Some quick examples:

  • If you have some kind of empowering morning ritual, you can easily transform it into a walk in your sanctuary. You can, for example, pay a visit to your gratitude room, and then head to your goal room to kickstart the day.
  • Instead of having just a relaxation room, you could, for instance, have a relaxation path, where you visit multiple rooms; maybe a corridor or outside path, where you progressively relax as you walk.
  • Follow through any checklist you like, even the ones that are ‘more technical’. If you’re into
    Getting Things Done
    for example, you can make your weekly review a virtual walk. By adding this sensory dimension to it, you can make it much more enjoyable than going through a dull, linear checklist.

You’re the Architect

Remember that you are the master of your mental sanctuary and, as such, its design is only limited by your imagination.

There are an unlimited number of ideas that might work for your Mental Sanctuary. You could have, for instance, a ‘Creativity Room’. Or maybe a place to talk to your future self. If you’re afraid of talking in public, you could build an auditorium and fill it with people.

The point is: the Mental Sanctuary gives you a structured framework that accommodates any visualization technique you like, in a very personal and powerful way.

As you become more familiar with your sanctuary, you’ll start ‘paying attention’ — creating, that is — sounds, scents and smells and all sorts of tiny details, just like a vivid dream. Being able to be in such a realistic and pleasant place at will is a truly rewarding experience.

Although my own sanctuary has only a few rooms, I’m enjoying the benefits from it and am really excited about expanding it.

Do you have your own Mental Sanctuary? Would you like to share some creative design ideas for new rooms?

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Put Yourself in Any Mental State With a Mental Sanctuary.

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Develop Perfect Memory With the Memory Palace Technique Mon, 10 Mar 2008 19:54:52 +0000 The Memory Palace is one of the most powerful memory techniques I know. It’s not only effective, but also fun to use — and not hard to learn at all. The Memory Palace has been used since ancient Rome, and is responsible for some quite incredible memory feats. Eight-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, for […]

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Memory Palace

The Memory Palace is one of the most powerful memory techniques I know. It’s not only effective, but also fun to use — and not hard to learn at all.

The Memory Palace has been used since ancient Rome, and is responsible for some quite incredible memory feats. Eight-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, for instance, was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence (that’s 2808 cards), viewing each card only once. And there are countless other similar achievements attributed to people using the Memory Palace technique or variations of it. Even in fiction, there are several references to the technique. In Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal, for example, serial killer Hannibal Lecter uses Memory Palaces to store amazingly vivid memories of years of intricate patient records (sadly, it was left off the movie).

Of course, most of us are not in Dominic’s memory championship line of business (or in Hannibal’s line of business for that matter). But still, the Memory Palace technique is amazingly effective in all kinds of endeavors, such as learning a foreign language, memorizing a presentation you’re about to deliver, preparing for exams and many others — even if all you want is to jog your memory.

The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know. A ‘Memory Palace’ is a metaphor for any well-known place that you’re able to easily visualize. It can be the inside of your home, or maybe the route you take every day to work. That familiar place will be your guide to store and recall any kind of information. Let’s see how it works.

5 Steps to Use the Memory Palace Technique

1. Choose Your Palace

First and foremost, you’ll need to pick a place that you’re very familiar with. The effectiveness of the technique relies on your ability to mentally see and walk around in that place with ease. You should be able to ‘be there’ at will using your mind’s eye only.

A good first choice could be your own home, for example. Remember that the more vividly you can visualize that place’s details, the more effective your memorization will be.

Also, try to define a specific route in your palace instead of just visualize a static scene. So, instead of simply picturing your home, imagine a specific walkthrough in your home. This makes the technique much more powerful, as you’ll be able to recall items in a specific order, as we’ll see in the next step.

Here are some additional suggestions that work well as Memory Palaces, along with possible routes:

  • Familiar streets in your city. Possible routes could be your drive to work, or any other sequence of streets you’re familiar with.
  • A current or former school. You can imagine the pathway from the classroom to the library (or to the bar on the other side of the street, if that’s the route imprinted on your mind).
  • Place of work. Imagine the path from your cubicle to the coffee machine or to your boss’s office (it shouldn’t be hard to choose).
  • Scenery. Imagine walking on your neighborhood or the track you use when jogging in a local park.

2. List Distinctive Features

Now you need to pay attention to specific features in the place you chose. If you picked a walkthrough in your home, for example, the first noticeable feature would probably be the front door.

Now go on and mentally walk around your Memory Palace. After you go through the door, what’s in the first room?

Analyze the room methodically (you may define a standard procedure, such as always looking from left to right, for example). What is the next feature that catches your attention? It may be the central table in the dining room, or a picture on the wall.

Continue making mental notes of those features as you go. Each one of them will be a “memory slot” that you’ll later use to store a single piece of information.

3. Imprint the Palace on Your Mind

For the technique to work, the most important thing is to have the place or route 100% imprinted on your mind. Do whatever is necessary to really commit it to memory. If you’re a visual kind of person, you probably won’t have trouble with this. Otherwise, here are some tips that help:

  • Physically walk through the route repeating out loud the distinctive features as you see them.
  • Write down the selected features on a piece of paper and mentally walk through them, repeating them out loud.
  • Always look at the features from the same point of view.
  • Be aware that visualization is a just a skill. If you’re still having trouble doing this, you may want to develop your visualization skills first.
  • When you believe you’re done, go over it one more time. It’s really important to “overlearn” your way in your Memory Palace.

Once you’re confident that the route is stamped on your mind, you’re set. Now you have your Palace, which can be used over and over again to memorize just about anything you want.

4. Associate!

Now that you’re the master of your palace, it’s time to put it to good use.

Like most memory enhancement systems, the Memory Palace technique works with the use of visual associations. The process is simple: you take a known image — called the memory peg and combine with the element you want to memorize. For us, each memory peg is a distinctive feature of our Memory Palace.

The memory pegging technique is the same one described in the article Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language, so if you haven’t read it yet, I highly advise you to do so.

As described in that article, there’s a ‘right way’ of doing visual associations:

Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical — after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.

Although we can use the technique to memorize tons of information, let’s start with something very simple: using our ‘Home’ Memory Palace to memorize a groceries list. Let’s suppose the first item in that list is ‘bacon’:

Mentally transport yourself to your Memory Palace. The first feature you see in your mind is your home’s front door. Now, in a ludicrous way, visually combine ‘bacon’ with the sight of your front door. How about giant fried bacon strips flowing out from underneath the door reaching for your legs, just like zombies in those B-movies? Feel the touch of the “bacon hands” on your legs. Feel the smell of darn evil bacon. Is that remarkable enough?

Now open the door and keep walking, following the exact same route you defined before. Look at the next distinctive feature, and associate it with the second item to be memorized. Suppose the next item is ‘eggs’ and the second feature is ‘picture of mother-in-law’. Well, at this point you already know what to do… The process is always the same, so just keep mentally associating images until there are no items left to memorize.

5. Visit Your Palace

At this point, you are done memorizing the items. If you’re new to the technique, though, you’ll probably need to do a little rehearsal, repeating the journey at least once in your mind.

If you start from the same point and follow the same route, the memorized items will come to your mind instantly as you look at the journey’s selected features. Go from the beginning to the end of your route, paying attention to those features and replaying the scenes in your mind. When you get to the end of your route, turn around and walk in the opposite direction until you get to the starting point.

In the end, it’s all a matter of developing your visualization skills. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be and the more effective your memorization will be.

Final Thoughts

What I like about the Memory Palace (and other pegging methods) is that it’s not only extremely effective, but also quite fun to learn and use.

With just a little bit of experience, the lists you memorize using the Memory Palace will stay fresh in your mind for many days, weeks or even more.

Also have in mind that you can create as many palaces as you want, and that they can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make them. Each of them is a “memory bank”, ready to be used to help you memorize anything, anytime.

Associating physical locations with mental concepts is the most powerful memory combination I know. Most other memory techniques (supposedly more sophisticated than the Memory Palace) are, at least in part, based on the concept of physical locations being used as memory pegs.

Have you already used Memory Palace or a similar technique? What do you think? Any opinions or testimonials to share?

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Develop Perfect Memory With the Memory Palace Technique.

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How to Develop Your Visualization Skill Tue, 18 Dec 2007 17:14:06 +0000 The ability to see things before they actually happen is what enables us to pursue our dreams and ultimately achieve them. In fact, the better we visualize the future we want, the better our chances to make it happen. How do we develop and apply the powerful skill of visualization?

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How to Develop Your Visualization Skill

This is an article by guest writer Albert Foong of UrbanMonk.Net.

Think about this: everything we do begin as a thought. Every action, every word, every human creation exists first in our imagination.

The ability to see things before they actually happen is what enables us to pursue our dreams and ultimately achieve them. In fact, the better we visualize the future we want, the better our chances to make it happen.

Training the Mind is Training the Body

Your brain cannot differentiate well between real action and mental action. There has been research done showing that thinking about an action — even while your body is at rest — will fire the neural pathways in your brain just as you were actually doing it.

To see this for yourself: hold a piece of string and let it dangle. Then, keeping your hand as still as you can, imagine twirling the string around. Most likely, the string will begin to move, ever so slightly.

And that’s the good news: mental training can improve almost all our skills and fast-track us towards our goals.

For instance, many psychologists and life coaches recommend mental rehearsal for all sorts of things. Usually it is social or work-related: to enhance assertiveness, smooth out an interview or a meeting, or even to enhance a date. Athletes at the highest level are also encouraged to use visualization to improve their technique, motivation and drive. When interviewing Olympic gold medalists, they discovered that several winners used visualization, not just for the sport technique, but also to capture the feeling of being awarded a medal.

5 Applied Visualization Techniques

How do we develop and apply the powerful skill of visualization?

Here I present five basic exercises in order of difficulty. Do them in order, moving on to the next one only when you have mastered the first. You can take as many days as you like to get really good at each level, there is no rush.

1st Exercise

Find a photograph, and take your time to analyze it. Memorize every detail you can. Then simply close your eyes and try to recreate it in your mind. Bring in as much as you can: the colors, the birds in the sky, the freckles on the skin — whatever is there. Open your eyes to get more detail if you have to. Remember that this is not a test: do it until you get good at it.

2nd Exercise

For the second exercise, we’re going three-dimensional. This time, take up a small object: perhaps your pen or your keys. Again, analyze all the details and memorize it. Take your time.

Now, close your eyes, and see the object mentally. The challenge here is to start rotating it. See every detail, but from all angles. If you feel comfortable, begin to bring in some surroundings. Place it on an imaginary table. Shine a few lights on it and imagine the shadows flickering.

3rd Exercise

This third exercise builds on the second, and can be hard for some people, although others will find it very easy. This time, recreate your little object, but with your eyes open. See it in the real world, right in front of you. Again, move it around, rotate it, play with it. See how it interacts with the objects in front of you. Imagine it resting on your keyboard, casting a shadow on your mouse, or knocking over your coffee cup.

4th Exercise

This is where things start to get fun. This time, we’re bringing you into the picture. Think of a pleasant location. I like to use my favorite beach. Now, imagine yourself in it. It’s important to be in the scene, not just thinking of it.

Bring in your other senses, one by one. What can you hear? Are the leaves rustling, are there people talking in the background? What about the sense of touch? Can you feel the sand you are standing on? What about smell? Can you imagine eating an ice-cream, and feeling it slide down your throat?

Again, make sure that you are in the scene, not just thinking of it. Make this mental movie as strong and vibrant and detailed as you can.

5th Exercise

And in the final exercise, we’re going to make things a bit livelier. Bring up the mental location from the previous exercise. Now — begin moving around, interacting with things. Pick up a rock. Sit on a bench. Run in the water. Roll around in the sand.

Then, bring in someone else. Perhaps you could bring in a lover, and then choreograph a dance with him or her. Or you could imagine a friend. Hold a conversation with him or her. Imagine them smiling as you tell them a joke. Now, imagine them slapping you on the shoulder playfully. What does that feel like?

Detail and Realism

The reason we emphasize detail and realism is simply because practice doesn’t make perfect. As you might have heard, only perfect practice makes perfect.

If I asked you to imagine the execution of your goals — whether it be doing well in a business meeting, or a date, or sports — you probably saw yourself doing it perfectly straight away. You win big, you look cool, and everyone falls in love with you. This feels good, and can increase motivation but, to put it bluntly, it’s mostly a waste of time.

Realism is the most important consideration in visualization. Soldiers train in almost exactly the same gear they are going to wear in combat. None of them got really good just by playing shooting games on the computer or by playing paintball.

It is the same with mental training. Everything has to be as realistic as possible. I used to be an amateur boxer, and developed my visualization to help me train. My first mental movies were of me moving and punching like Muhammad Ali. But reality soon hit me in the face — the first time I met a live opponent in training, I got destroyed.

My mental imagery up to that point had merely been fantasies — building castles in the air. I had been wasting my time.

But when I began visualizing properly, I found that I made all my usual mistakes, even in mental rehearsal. My heart was beating fast, my fists clenched, and I felt overcome with the same fear. And all this, while I was sitting on the couch!

Did that mean I failed? No, it meant I succeeded. From then on, my mental training began working for me. Because I carried over all my flaws and fears into my mental arena, any improvements I made there would also begin to carry over into the real world.

Applying Visualization to Your Goals

Now, what if we’re not dealing with a physical skill? What if you had set a goal for something like money, a new career or a holiday?

Visualization applies in much the same way. Here are some tips for applying it to your goals:

  1. Focus on the positive. A common mistake is focusing on the opposite of what you want. When I wanted to lose weight, I initially made the mistake of posting pictures of my fat belly all over my room, thinking it was motivating me. But that was the wrong way: by focusing on my fat, I was just keeping the fat there. I should have been visualizing the stomach I wanted.
  2. Have it, don’t want it. Think of something you really, really want. Now, do you have it? Probably not. Most often, wanting is the opposite of having. So when you visualize, don’t think about wanting something, see yourself as already having it.
  3. Be consistent. You have to really work hard on this. Your mind is a muscle, just like your body. The top bodybuilders didn’t get to where they are by working out for two minutes a day. They worked hard for it. Make your goal your burning obsession, a passion and purpose in life.
  4. Be specific. Most people have vague goals. They vaguely want to be rich, or they want to travel somewhere nice. Where? Oh, never thought about it much. It’s like getting into a car with a vague goal of wanting to buy… something. Not going to happen, right? You want to have a specific goal: I’m going out to the supermarket to buy myself some shampoo and a toothbrush. It is the same with your goals. Set it in as much detail as you can: a specific amount of money, a specific outcome from a meeting, whatever it is.

Visualization is a very powerful tool for helping achieving your goals, and I’m grateful that Luciano is giving me a chance to share it with his audience.

About Albert Foong:

Albert runs UrbanMonk.Net, a practical personal development blog that has enhanced the lives of many readers, moving them out of suffering and into a life of joy, love and success. It draws upon ancient spirituality, modern psychology, real life experiences, and everything in between.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Develop Your Visualization Skill.

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How to Always Remember People’s Names Mon, 22 Oct 2007 12:38:59 +0000 Have you ever found yourself in the embarrassing position of forgetting someone’s name, right at the most inappropriate time? This is an awkward and common situation, but by following some basic principles you can easily avoid it from ever happening to you again. 5 Steps to Commit Names to Memory 1. Be Motivated to Meet […]

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Remember People's Names

Have you ever found yourself in the embarrassing position of forgetting someone’s name, right at the most inappropriate time?
This is an awkward and common situation, but by following some basic principles you can easily avoid it from ever happening to you again.

5 Steps to Commit Names to Memory

1. Be Motivated to Meet People

The most important step in remembering people’s names is to acknowledge that people are important and you are genuinely interested in them.

Very often we become too focused on our personal goals, letting relationships slip away. However, we need to be conscious about what people represent in our lives and acknowledge every new relationship as being important to us. Just by adopting this mindset – without resorting to any other technique – your chances of remembering anyone’s name will improve dramatically: No amount of memory tricks can replace genuine interest in people.

2. Pay Sincere Attention to Introductions

  • Focus on the person.
    Not paying attention to the other person is the leading cause of forgetting names. In introductions, most people are only preoccupied with what they’ll say next, anxious to cause a good impression. Relax, focus on the person and just listen: the best impression you can make is by calling the person by name later.
  • Make sure you heard it right.
    This may sound too obvious, but you need to make sure you heard the name correctly. If you didn’t hear it well the first time, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask the person to repeat it – actually, this is often perceived as a good thing, as it shows that you care. Moreover, if Mr. Csikszentmihalyi speaks too fast, don´t be ashamed to ask to repeat his name slowly. He will almost certainly not be annoyed; also, the more uncommon a name is, the more surprised the person will be when you say it correctly later on.

3. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

We usually forget a name during the first few minutes after hearing it for the first time. By using the person’s name in the next few minutes after you first hear it, you are taking a great step in committing it to your memory.

  • Use it immediately.
    “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Robinson”. This not only counts as a memory aid, but also gives the person a chance to correct you in case you got the name incorrectly.
  • Repeat silently.
    “Robinson, Robinson, Robinson”. Mental repetition is especially effective when you combine it with other senses – such as doing it while looking in her eyes or shaking hands.
  • Introduce the person to others.
    Every repetition counts, and taking the initiative to introduce people to each other will also help expand your social circle.
  • Repeat the name throughout the conversation.
    “So, Mrs. Robinson, what do you do for a living?”. Throwing the person’s name in the conversation once in a while really works wonders for your memory and keeps the conversation more engaging. Just be careful to sound natural and not overdo it.

4. Associate!

If you’re still not getting results, we’ll need to resort to some memory tricks. We know that memory works best by associating images, so let’s put that concept to good use here. We’ll need two images: one for the person (usually the face) and another for the name. Creating the association is pretty easy:

  1. Make the person’s face as vivid as possible.
    Humans are already equipped with the best face-recognition software available, but every bit we do to improve the image can help. Exaggerate a distinguishing feature in the person’s face to make it remarkable and humorous, turning the face into a caricature. Pick the first feature that grabs your attention: eyebrows, nose, forehead, avoiding characteristics that may easily change, such as hairstyle, clothes or glasses.
  2. Transform the name into an image.
    We are particularly good at remembering faces, but why don’t names usually come naturally to us? That happens because names are too abstract – we need to find a way to convert them into images, so that our brains understand and better deal with them. You can do this in many ways:

    • Use a known person’s figure.
      Picture the person you just met with a known namesake – either a personal friend or a famous figure. Make them interact in ludicrous or unexpected ways.
    • Find a word that rhymes with the name.
      Paying attention to the way the name sounds is also an easy way to find associations. As usual, imagine the picture for the rhyme word and combine it with the person’s image in a strong way. “Jake drowning in a lake” may be tragic, but works.
    • Play with words.
      You shouldn’t be limited to rhymes only: use any word similarities that suit you best. “Margarine melting down Margaret’s blonde hair” is an image that fits all outrageousness requirements. Don’t try to be too elaborated, though – the first association you come up with will usually be the most effective.

For some people, remembering the first letter of a name is enough for remembering it all. If that’s your case, you can define alphabet pegs for the name first letter and use them as linking pictures. This technique is explained in depth in the article ‘Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language‘. Think ‘Billy the Bear’ or ‘Sandra the Snake’.

5. Review the Name Soon

Reviewing a person’s name and writing it down in the next day or so makes remembering names virtually infallible.

If you’re serious about making and keeping relationships, you probably already have a database with all your contacts. Adding the new contact to your personal contact database is a great opportunity to commit it to your memory. Don’t add only the contact’s name, but also other useful information such as place and date where you first met.

You will have the added benefit of being able to look up the names in your database when you know you’ll meet these people again.

How to Handle Those Sudden Memory Lapses?

What if it’s too late and you already find yourself in the dreadful situation of forgetting someone’s name?

First of all, don’t avoid talking to the person whose name you forgot: the risk of not developing a potential relationship is not worth it.

Another common behavior (of which I was once guilty as charged, I must admit) is calling people with expressions such as ‘man‘, ‘pal’, ‘my friend’. These are fine if you use them once or twice, but they wear out pretty quickly and you’ll risk getting even more embarrassed later.

Try these more elegant solutions instead:

1. Admit It

Being honest and admitting the memory blackout is the simplest and most obvious solution, which you should seriously consider as your preferred choice. Remember that the essential thing is to have the attitude of considering people important. If you do and your memory still fails you, there’s no reason to feel guilty at all. Admit it as soon as possible and get the issue out of the way. Don’t make a big deal of it – everybody forgets names every now and then.

When telling the truth, be gentle and polite: you may be surprised how people actually appreciate some candidness.

2. Introduce Others Skillfully

The most awkward situation for a person who forgot someone’s name is to be forced to introduce that very person to someone else. But if you do it skillfully, you can use that seemingly unpleasant situation in your favor. Try the following line: “I want you to meet someone: this is my friend John”. Then let the conversation flow; it will probably finish with your answer: —“Hi John, nice to meet you. I’m Robert.”

3. Recover Context Information

A great way to increase the chances of remembering someone’s name is by remembering specific information about the person or about the circumstances when you first met. If you can’t remember, you can try letting the person provide you the missing pieces: “What are you up to these days?” or “How’s the business going?” are good lines that don’t raise much suspicion.

Make It Easy for Others

Now that you won’t forget people’s names again, how about fixing the problem from the other side – making it easy for others to remember your name? You not only make yourself more memorable, but you also save other people the embarrassment. Try these tips:

  • Always say your name slowly and in a clear voice.
  • Introduce yourself first:“Hi, I’m Bob; we met at the company cocktail party last month.” This line has the added benefit of also encouraging the other person to say his name.
  • When being introduced, you may want to “teach” others how to remember your name. “By the way, have we met already? I’m Luciano Passuello — you know, just like in ‘Luciano Pavarotti‘: I am no Italian singer, but my mom once said I can make damn good pasta!”

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Always Remember People’s Names.

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10 Sure-Fire Strategies to Improve Your Vocabulary Tue, 09 Oct 2007 12:52:40 +0000 There are several proven benefits in improving your vocabulary, but how should we go about learning new words in the most effective way? By using the following ten vocabulary-building strategies, you are guaranteed to develop a strong vocabulary and keep improving it every day. 1. Read Voraciously It’s undeniable that reading is the most effective […]

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10 Strategies to Improve Your Vocabulary

There are several proven benefits in improving your vocabulary, but how should we go about learning new words in the most effective way? By using the following ten vocabulary-building strategies, you are guaranteed to develop a strong vocabulary and keep improving it every day.

1. Read Voraciously

It’s undeniable that reading is the most effective way to get new vocabulary. When you read, you see words being used in context — and that’s what makes it much more effective than, for example, merely memorizing word lists.

With context information surrounding each new word, there’s a good chance you can guess its meaning just by understanding the overall text. Finding out the meaning of words in such a way is the natural way of learning language – and reading provides the best opportunity to get exposed to this natural way of learning.

If you’re not able to infer the meaning of new words when reading, it’s probably because there are too many unknown words in the text. In that case, try reading easier materials. The key to good reading is making it a pleasurable activity; so don’t be afraid of coming across unknown words, but make sure the text is appropriate for your reading level.

2. Make Friends with the Dictionary

A dictionary is the first indispensible resource to improve your vocabulary. It’s only by looking up a word in a dictionary that you will learn its precise meaning, spelling, alternate definitions, and find much more useful information about it. A thesaurus is also a valuable resource for learning by finding connections between words, such as their synonyms and antonyms.

Consider adding a good dictionary and thesaurus to your bookshelf. Here are some recommendations:

For online dictionaries, there are many free options with great extra features. Even if you have a good dictionary in print already, you can’t miss having a good online dictionary at your disposal:

  • OneLook: Has a reverse lookup function (get the word from its definition) and works as a “meta-dictionary”, showing you definitions from other major online dictionaries. I recommend you try OneLook and explore its results to decide which dictionary you prefer;
  • Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary: An old-time favorite of mine, although the blinking ads are getting a bit annoying lately;
  • Ninjawords: It searches the free dictionary Wiktionary. What makes this site interesting is that you can look up multiple words simultaneously. Moreover, the results pages can be bookmarked – making them good personal reference pages;
  • Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus: If you’re a fan of mind mapping, you will certainly enjoy viewing related words represented in a visual map format;
  •,, The Free Dictionary and many others: All of them are good resources – try each one at least once to help you make up your mind.

3. Use It or Lose It

Don’t settle after you learn a new word by reading it or looking it up in the dictionary: these are good starts, but it’s by using the new words that you truly commit them to your long-term memory.

Be creative and try to use your newly learned words in as many ways as possible:

  • Write them down;
  • Say them aloud;
  • Create sentences with them, mentally or in writing;
  • Try to use them in a conversation;
  • Discuss them with friends.

It’s also important to be aware of your own language style: every time you catch yourself saying common or nonspecific words such as “nice”, try coming up with richer and more precise expressions instead.

4. Learn One New Word a Day

If you learn just one new word every day, you’ll soon notice they add up pretty quickly. I like to think of it as the “kaizen way of growing your vocabulary" and what makes this strategy stand out is that it can be used by anyone, no matter how busy one’s schedule is. In the same way I grow my collection of favorite quotes in baby steps by receiving a new famous quote every day, I also learned to enjoy growing my vocabulary by committing myself to learning at least one new word each day.

There are many websites that provide free word-of-the-day services, delivering them in many formats – such as e-mail, RSS feeds, podcasts and even text messages sent to your cell phone. Here are my favorites:

  • Merriam-Webster’s Online Word of the Day: This is the website that delivers the most useful words of all. It’s also the most feature-rich: it provides audio explanation, pronunciation and word history. The service is available by e-mail, RSS feed, podcast, and SMS;
  • WordSmart Wordcast: Provides difficulty level, comprehensive details and audio pronunciation for the word. Just like Merriam-Webster’s Online, it’s available by e-mail, RSS feed, podcast and SMS;
  • Dictionary Word of the Day: Another fine service, not as complete as Merriam-Webster’s or WordSmart, but still worth checking out.

5. Understand the True Meaning of Words

By deeply understanding words, you can make your vocabulary grow exponentially. Instead of just memorizing words, try to really understand them by looking at their etymology, word roots, prefixes and suffixes. At least half of English words are derived from Greek and Latin roots, so there are enormous benefits in being familiar with them.

Just to pick an example, when you understand that the prefix “ortho” means straight or right, you start to find connections between seemingly unrelated words, such as orthodontist (a specialist who straightens teeth) and orthography (the correct, or straight way of writing).

Understanding the logic behind words always pays off in terms of learning and recalling. Consider the examples: “breakfast” meaning “interrupt the night’s fast”; or “rainbow” meaning “bow or arcg caused by rain”: while these meanings may be trivial to native English speakers, having such insights about words, foreign or otherwise, never fails to delight me.

6. Maintain a Personal Lexicon

By keeping a personalized list of learned words, you’ll have a handy reference you can use to review these words later. It’s very likely you’ll want to go back and refresh your memory on recent words, so keeping them in your own list is much more efficient than going back to the dictionary every time.

Even if you never refer back to your lexicon again, writing words down at least once will greatly enhance your ability to commit them to your permanent memory. Another excellent learning aid is to write an original sentence containing the word — and using your lexicon to do that is a great way of enforcing this habit. You can also add many other details as you see fit, such as the date you first came across the word or maybe a sequential number to help you reach some word quota you define.

There are many ways you can keep your personal word list; each one has its own advantages and disadvantages – so make sure to pick the format that works best for you. You may prefer to keep it as a simple text file in the computer, or in a regular paper notebook; or maybe as flash cards in a shoe box.

My format of choice is a computer spreadsheet, for its handy features such as searching, sorting and filtering. For each word, I have columns for the date I learned it, a sample sentence, along with a link to its definition in an online dictionary. Lately, I’ve also been experimenting with keeping my personal lexicon in a concept map. This has been working particularly well so far, and I plan to explore the technique in more depth here when I get more conclusive results.

7. Follow a Process

To make vocabulary improvement a permanent habit in your everyday life, you should make it as habitual, automatic and tightly integrated in your daily workflow as possible – otherwise you won’t do it when your days get too busy.

If you already adopt some kind of structured workflow for your life – such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done – you’re probably familiar with the idea of organizing all input that comes to your life in “buckets”: virtual inboxes that get processed in a similar way to your e-mail inbox.

In that regard, one particularly useful concept is the one of maintaining a “Word Inbox”. By having a predefined place you use to capture the words you come across, you can process them much more efficiently. For example, my word inboxes, which I try to empty once a day, consist of my word-of-the-day feed and of notes on my PDA – which I use to capture any new words I discover during the day.

Your process can be as simple as you wish – the key is to define it beforehand and then follow it. By knowing exactly how and how often to process your inbox, you stay on top of your vocabulary improvement process, even when there are other pressing matters crying out for your attention.

8. Play and Have Fun

Playing games and engaging in group activities are useful in any kind of learning, but particularly effective for language-related learning. Gather your family and friends and play word games together. Some interesting options are Quiddler, as well as the classics Scrabble and Boggle.

If you don’t want to spend money on boxed games, it’s easy to come up with your own word activities. You may, for example, try your own variation of “Word Evening”: at a specific day of each week, a different person brings a new word to the meal. The person reads the word, defines it, and the others must come up with a sentence using the word.

If you don’t have time or don’t want to engage in group activities, there are numerous options of word games in the Internet. You can either play them when you’re bored, or integrate them in your daily routine, such as playing a quick game after lunch, for example. Consider the following recommendations:

9. Leverage Every Resource You Can

The Internet is a gold mine of resources for vocabulary building. The links I collected here are just my personal recommendations and don’t even scratch the surface of what’s available online.

There are plenty of vocabulary applications you can try. There are many vocabulary-related books you can explore. There is a wealth of free literature on sites such as Project Gutenberg. If you use the Firefox browser, there are many ways to integrate dictionary lookup functions, such as the plug-ins and DictionarySearch. You can find specialized vocabulary lists, such as these feeling words or descriptive words. Damn, you can even learn some classy, Shakespearian insults! 🙂

The point is that you’re only limited by your willingness to learn: let curiosity be your guide and you will never run out of resources to learn from.

10. Diversify

Do something different from your daily routine: hunting, fishing or blogging – any activity that is not a part of your normal life can become a great way to learn new words, as every niche has its own jargon and unique ways of communicating. Read different books and magazines than the ones you’re used to. Watch foreign-language movies. Take up new hobbies, hang out with different people.

By doing things out of the ordinary you will not only improve your vocabulary but also make your life much more interesting.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: 10 Sure-Fire Strategies to Improve Your Vocabulary.

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