Develop A Brain Extension
As a brain owner myself, (or does it own me?) I’ve taken an interest in the brain and how to improve brain power naturally, since the late 1970s.
It would take a great deal of writing and reading time, to cover all there is to know about how the brain works. Most might be interesting but of little practical use to those who want to learn how to improve brain power, unless you want to become a neurologist or brain surgeon.
So here I include just a short, practical introduction to the capabilities of the human brain followed by highlighting several limitations of the brain that lead to asking you to consider if you, like me, need a brain extension to help improve brain power!
How To Improve Brain Power Naturally:
A Rough Guide For Brain Owners
There used to be a myth that some large dinosaurs had two brains. Much has been written about creating a second brain based on the ideas of Tiago Forte. But humans (arguably) do actually already have at least a couple of brains. Some experts even claim we have 4 or even 5 brains!
The brain in our head is an organised mass of organic ‘neurones’ and other specialised cells. It’s made up of (depending upon what you read) 3 or 4 distinct parts. Another similar mass of neurones hides behind the gut at our solar plexus. The neurones in the head are connected to those at the solar plexus by a large tangle of nerves collectively referred to as the Vagus Nerve.
The neurones at our solar plexus monitor our organs and the microbes in our gut. Some experts say that our bodies and minds are in effect run by those microbes. We need to look no further for a very good reason to be careful with what we ingest!
From hereon, I use the word ‘brain’ to mean the organism contained in our head.
A Few Brain Facts
Much has been written, in countless places, about the incredible capacity of the human brain. Every one of us carries with us about 3.3lbs (1.5kgs) of soft tissue protected by a boney structure, plus 3 membranes, with fluid that helps to absorb trauma shocks.
A blunt fact: the electrochemical activity in the human brain provides trillions of times more computing power than any man-made computer to date.
It consists of around 100 billion neurons that are joined via a quadrillion of networked connections.
That’s 1000 trillion connections, different combinations of which are multi-functional and constantly changing!
The way the neurone connections work, and what they serve to achieve is extraordinary. Without going into detail, the connections and how they transmit signals are extremely flexible and provide virtually unlimited memory storage.
Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not a static organ, it’s a continually evolving and developing organism. The terms ‘brain plasticity’ or ‘neuroplasticity’ are used nowadays to refer to the brain’s ability to continually develop its neurone connections based on what it experiences.
In addition to providing the world’s largest memory bank, however, there’s another popular myth that most of us only use about 10% of our brain. But scientific tests have shown that about 90% of it is active at most times and the other 10% or so is active as well when we are awake. We do indeed use our whole brain, but not usually all of it at the same time.
The Mind Is Where It’s At
As I am sure you are aware. our brains perform numerous functions a proportion of which are collectively referred to as our mind. The functions of the mind are popularly split into two groups.
There are those functions that provide awareness and our ability to think, known as the conscious mind (which rests when we sleep) and those that we are not normally aware of, the subconscious mind (most of which is active all of the time).
Although we are largely unaware of activity in the areas of the brain where the subconscious mind operates, we are mostly aware of its effects through our senses. Despite our general lack of awareness of subconscious mind activity, everything we do is actually carried out via our subconscious ‘programming’, including those things that we consciously decide.
The Importance Of Setting Goals
Now moving on… the relevance of setting goals is not just as a tool to help us achieve something. Having goals, or a purpose, is essential for our general well-being and happiness. People living with no goals or aspirations are invariably unhappy.
Success experts have often suggested that writing down goals is important. I’ve learned from personal experience of writing out my own goals, and through working for around 40 years as a coach and facilitator, with both individuals and groups, that the action of writing goals really does make a positive difference to those who like to get things done.
I believe there are three types of goals (or aspirations). First, there are those that I like to call defined outcome goals. These are the main goals that we set such as personal visions, high-level competitive targets, business results, project outcomes etc. Then there are the action steps that we decide are needed to achieve our ‘outcome goals’. I call these ‘action goals’. Third, there are measurement goals, often referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
(By now you may be wondering what the title, “The Best Way To Improve Brain Power Naturally: Develop A Brain Extension” is all about… please be patient… if you keep reading it will become clear).
Writing Things Down
I’ve already suggested that writing down goals makes a positive difference. Although most people seem to agree with that, unfortunately, most people don’t actually do it.
The value-add of writing things down includes:
- Providing focus;
- Helps when communicating with others;
- Acts as a reminder for ourselves;
- Helps us organise and prioritise;
- We can tick things off when completed – i.e. record our progress.
You can probably think of a few more benefits.
However, there’s one overriding value that most people don’t realise, but which has a profound impact on our productivity and performance. It is, for most people (except perhaps for those who have nothing to do) the best way to improve their own brainpower.
The thing is, that unlike our lack of awareness of subconscious activity, we are well aware of what’s in our conscious mind where logic, imagination, creativity and decision making come to the fore; otherwise known as thinking.
A factor that most people are unaware of is that our subconscious mind constantly monitors conscious thoughts and automatically attempts to deliver its interpretation of what is asked of it.
The power of our brains is often admired. What is talked about less often, is that the brain/mind combination is not well designed for certain functions. This list is in no particular order of importance:
- With the exception of areas that house our conscious thinking, the brain operates in some respects like a computer in the sense that It makes no value judgements on information passed to it.
- Whether useful or not, our brain takes in what we feed it, then responds based on instructions it has been receiving from our conscious mind and external influences since birth.
This has many implications but I don’t want to digress too far from the point here.
- The brain has an enormous capacity for memories, however, recalling specific memories is not always easy. For example, we easily remember exciting or traumatic incidents then sometimes forget to buy the bread.
- Often we ‘order up’ a memory using our conscious mind, and the subconscious delivers when it gets around to it, often at the most inconvenient time. Unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious has no sense of time nor timing. In addition, the brain’s memory doesn’t seem to have any kind of index. There is no easy search mechanism.
- Experiences (or messages) that are often repeated are reinforced within our subconscious mind and relatively easy to recall. Good or bad, useful or not makes no difference. Other experiences that have perhaps occurred only once are often buried deep in our memory and difficult to recall however important or useful they might be to us.
- All information is treated as current by the subconscious mind regardless of how long it’s been held. Such information is often applied to current experience inappropriately. For example, a childlike reaction to a situation can surface at any time.
- Memories become part of our subconscious programming and can be changed and sometimes lost. This seemingly negative trait is a double-edged sword. It can be a useful trait that enables us to make changes to our subconscious programming.
- The conscious mind is unable to multi-task. When we think we are multi-tasking what is really happening is that we are switching from one task to another… albeit often extremely fast.
- Also, our conscious mind can typically hold only 3 to 5 thoughts at any one time, and often loses some through being distracted by external events, or through subconscious ‘interference’, or because we try to consciously remember more than we are capable of.
- Our subconscious mind just loves to ‘talk’ to us. Although perhaps with our best interests at heart, it regularly interrupts conscious activity, whatever we are doing or thinking, with random messages (as mirrored by some people’s texts I guess :-).
- The conscious mind operates relatively slowly in comparison with the lightening speed of most of our subconscious activity.
So what we all have in our bodies, for our very own personal use, is in effect, the most powerful computer on the planet with several flaws that most people don’t compensate for. To be more precise, the brain/mind is well developed for being creative, and much less well developed for quickly recalling memories, or for holding memories consciously. These flaws often cause us to perform less than optimally.
The Case For A Brain Extension
Now imagine… your alarm has just gone off in the morning. It’s time to get up. You remember that around 3 am you had woken up with a brilliant idea for a new post for your personal blog. At 3 am you thought: “I must remember to write that down in the morning”.
Four things happened following on from this:
First, you spent the next twenty minutes thinking about your idea; ‘worrying’ it, until you fell back to sleep.
Secondly, by then the idea had been partially ‘parked’ somewhere in your subconscious mind.
Thirdly, it was dropped by your conscious mind when you (or it) went back to sleep.
Fourth, probably you woke up a bit out of sorts from lack of sleep…
Later in the day, twenty minutes into a half-hour team briefing at the day job your subconscious reminds you what the early morning idea was (i.e. it gets around to responding to the request you gave it when you woke up).
This time you write yourself a note. The manager running the meeting asks for your opinion and you have no idea what about…
Then, when driving home a subconscious part thinks it’s a good time to talk to you about how embarrassing it was, having to admit that you’d lost the plot of the discussion at the meeting.
You cringe at the emotional reaction and nearly run a red light… but another part of your super fast subconscious mind notices and jolts you back to reality just in time to avoid a catastrophe…
How To Improve Brain Power: The Solution Is Simple
Learning how to improve brain power is not essential, but is extremely useful.
The first part of the solution is simple but not necessarily easy. It takes a day or three to set up, and some discipline. The solution to the story above is obvious. Using a few minutes to record the idea when it woke you up would have avoided the subsequent consequences.
The factor that makes the solution not so easy is that this situation can and does occur regularly, at any time, without warning, for any of us, especially when we have a lot going on.
Today we are bombarded with ideas and opportunities most of the time. As the mind has evolved it has become excellent at recognition, at spotting ideas and opportunities, but relatively poor at recall.
There are three ways to handle the unintentionally disruptive behaviour of the subconscious mind:
- Ignore the interruption. Some of the interruptions add no value. However, some are useful and if ignored may simply disappear (be forgotten);
- Handle the interruptions as they arise, which can make sense if it only takes a minute or two;
- When it doesn’t make sense to take immediate action for any reason, take steps to capture the interruptions as they arise, for handling later. Write a reminder!
How To Improve Brain Power: Why Create A Brain Extension?
Recapping: we have a brain that has a vast subconscious memory bank and a very creative consciousness.
However, its ‘design’ is such that it’s often slow to consciously recall what we want from the memory bank, and we can’t actually hold much at any one time in our conscious, creative mind.
We consciously try, naively to remember far more than our conscious mind is capable of and it never seems to learn from experience; we need to deliberately train it.
We often think a new thought or idea will be easy to remember later…
… we end up either forgetting whatever it was or consciously worrying about the possibility that we might forget something. Either is a recipe for stress.
The Information Age
In this modern, so-called ‘information age’ we are constantly bombarded by interesting, fun, useful and often not so useful information. Our brains (or should I say minds) are constantly being stimulated and tested. This phenomenon reflects enormous opportunity, but on top of normal day to day activities and commitments can easily lead to overload.
It has become impossible for most of us, for our brain to keep up with the bombardment. The overloading of our capacity causes problems of memory loss along with fuzziness from the interference of those things we are working so hard to retain.
So what we can do is create a kind of extension to our brain to help us improve brainpower. Ideally, somewhere outside of our conscious and subconscious minds, perhaps functionally similar to a computer’s external disc drive.
We need somewhere to download all ideas or thoughts that pop into our mind, that we either want to do or need to get done.
This isn’t just a to-do list.
It’s a comprehensive list of everything useful that ‘crosses our desk’ or occurs to our mind. It requires a simple system, that once set up, reaps enormous benefits and enables us to improve brainpower.
Once such a depository is created, regular reviews and organisation of the items that we capture can minimise and virtually eliminate stress. It helps to control the interference factor. When the mind knows that there is a process to capture everything important and possibly useful, it stops worrying unnecessarily.
Personally, for anything that occurs to me that I can’t handle straight away, I write it down. Then every week, I first discard any items that are not appropriate to keep. I prioritise what is left. A daily focus on doing ‘first things first’ gets things done in order of importance, without losing anything. More can be done, but these are the essentials.
A Software Solution For Your Brain Extension
No, I’m not talking about upgrading your brain’s software! When I first started capturing I wanted to get out of my mind, towards the end of the 1980s, it was all on paper. A few years ago I started using apps. I used a mixture of products and eventually used Evernote and Trello. Both are fantastic for what they do but limiting for my requirements.
Nowadays, I use software, currently free for individuals, called ‘Notion’ on my iPhone and PC. It combines the benefits of Evernote and Trello in an ingenious way that includes database functions.
I use the same software for my writing process, as well as various other areas of interest. Nowadays I organise my whole life within ‘notion.os’ software.
The notion.os software is provided on both the web and apps. The apps can be used offline and the various versions all update each other automatically when the internet connects to the device.
Whatever I capture on the iPhone (iOS) is automatically updated on the PC (Windows) and vice versa. There are versions of the notion apps available for Android and macOS as well.
Are You Interested?
“If you’re carrying around in your head 100 billion mainframe computers, you just have to get in there and learn how to operate them. I think it is your personal imperative to invest the time, energy, and study needed to better understand and use your mind power”Dr Timothy Leary in 1992
So my question to you is, are you interested enough to rise to Dr Timothy Leary’s challenge?
Do you want to learn more about how your brain works, how to improve brain power naturally, or perhaps more about how to create your own brain extension?
Just let me know what you think, or ask any questions. I’d love to hear what you think.
If you have any questions, please reach out, add a comment or contact me.
If you think others might find it useful, please share…