Do you ever think about thinking? I do. Apparently we are the only species that thinks about our thinking. Yet, my mind is so often disorganized.
I recently read an interesting book called The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin. It’s a thick a meaty read about thinking and organization.
He talks about how our minds are rich because everything we have thought or experienced is in there somewhere. The questions is how do we get it at when we need to access it.
You see, on it’s own the brain doesn’t organize things the way you might like it to. It doesn’t have orderly file drawers or alphabetized book shelves.
Yet, there is a tremendous benefit in having an organized mind because it leads to effortless decision making. Instead, our minds are often like junk drawers.
Too many decisions
Each day, we make dozen of unimportant daily decisions. What cereal should I buy? What should I wear today? Do I want paper or plastic bags? With she sheer multitude of them, we get into decision-overload because our brains don’t automatically rank the importance of the decisions.
The fatigue of facing so many trivial decisions on a daily basis creates what the author called neural fatigue. It leaves us no energy for important decisions.
The author says the processing capacity of the brain in like bandwidth. If you have too much going on, the drain on your brain is not unlike what happens to the Internet at your house when various family members are all gaming and streaming at the same time. The speed and smoothness becomes glitchy and inconsistent.
Successful people learn to filter out the important from the unimportant, the thing that requires immediate attention from the thing that can wait. The author discussed at length the danger of multi-tasking, something moms have had to get proficient with to survive the parenting years.
Multi-tasking involves attentional switching, or rapidly taking our attention from one thing to another. We may think it is a good thing, enabling us to accomplish a lot, but it actually is harmful. The author refers to multi tasking as the enemy of a focused attention system.
As I get older, I am working on focus and paying attention. I no longer take pride in trying to do 10 things at once. I relish having a quieter mind that can appreciate the thing that is in front of me.
What we remember
The other thing I found the most interesting about this book was the discussion of why we remember some things, and forget others.
He goes into a lengthy discussion about how we best remember things that are distinctive and unique, or things that have a strong emotional component. You will remember events that elicited fright, elation, sadness or anger.
I am fascinated by the mind and the human spirit. This book helped me to learn more about my own mind and explained some of the difficulties I experience. It is well worth the read.