I recently watched a video masterclass by Jim Kwik, an expert in memory improvement and brain performance, on the 10 keys to unlocking your brain’s full potential.
He lists the 10 keys and suggests you rate yourself on each of these on a scale of 1-10. So, I gave it a go. Do the exercise for yourself as you read through this.
1. Eating good brain food – 7
Well, you are what you eat, apparently. Kwik believes that good brain food is crucial to ensuring your brain is able to function at an optimal level. These foods include avo, blueberries, salmon, tumeric, leafy veggies, eggs, dark chocolate, coconut oil, broccoli and walnuts. I actually score pretty highly on consuming these foods. However, I lose big time points for all the other crap I put in my pie-hole over and above these items. I’m hoping though that with the commencement of my new inflammation busting regime, which includes cutting out gluten, sugar and dairy, I will be able to pick up my score on this one.
2. Stop negative self-talk – 5
Putting yourself down is apparently pretty damaging to your brain’s performance. Studies have shown that your brain and body don’t know the difference between reality and thoughts. As an overly competitive person, I have been known to chastise myself for falling short of my own lofty expectations on the professional, personal, sporting and relationship fronts. On the tennis court particularly, I am prone to bouts of self-abuse. I can tell you categorically that this negative self-talk does not work on the tennis court – and I’m pretty sure this applies to other facets of life too. I’m really trying to be kinder to myself. This means laughing at myself when I fall over in a yoga class or when that top button on my pants seems to have shifted (although I’m still convinced someone is washing them in hot water).
3. Regular exercise – 8
Everyone know that exercise is good for the mind as well as the body. In my case, I have recently decided to change my approach to exercise. Instead of seeing exercise as a way to punish my body or sport as a competition that must be won, I ask myself these questions:
a) Is this helping me get to one hundred years old in good shape so that I can still enjoy my life?
b) Is this causing me too much stress?
I’m not saying that I am not going to push myself or compete, but I am trying to incorporate some activities that don’t put as much strain on my joints or my mind. These include swimming, yoga and kayaking.
4. Brain nutrients – 7
Rather than smashing an array of off-the-shelf vitamins and supplements, I agree with Kwik that you need to get way more scientific and personalised. This includes seeing a physician or naturopath and doing blood tests to identify any conditions you may be suffering from (or predisposed to) as well as what nutrients you are deficient in. Sounds sensible, yet it’s taken me forty years to do this. Oh well, better late than never.
5. Positive peer group – 8
You may have heard the phrase that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the majority of your time with. There is no doubt that we tend to imitate the behavior of those around us. As such, it’s really important to make a conscious decision to surround yourself with people who support your goals and don’t hold you back. I have already seen on my journey to becoming Wealthwoke that there are some people who are uncomfortable with the whole vibe. However, I am really grateful for the vast majority, who have been hugely supportive.
6. Clean environment – 8
This one is pretty self-explanatory – clean air, food and water are important for optimal brain function. Fortunately, I live in Cape Town, so the air is pretty clean. The water, when we have it, not so much. I do try to stick to filtered or bottled water as I’m having a hard time trusting our Government to provide these kinds of things at the moment.
7. Sleep – 6
As someone who has suffered from some pretty unpleasant insomnia, I fully understand the impact of sleep patterns on cognitive functions. According to Kwik, sleep is important for consolidating your short-term memory, cleaning out brain plaque and providing inspiration and ideas through dreaming. For me, the biggest impediments to sleep are stress, use of technology before bed and failing to stick to a nightly bedtime routine. Over the last few months, my wife and I have tried to implement some better habits, such as removing the TV from the bedroom and putting our phones away an hour or two before hitting the hay. We also both bought kindles recently, which has had the duel benefit of ramping up the time we spend reading as well as allowing us to darken the room about half an hour before going to sleep.
8. Brain protection – 3
By far my worst scoring element. I am 100% guilty of smartphone addiction. There is no doubt in my mind that in time, cell phone use will be found to be as damaging to our health as cigarettes. Besides the addictive nature of these devices, the electricity has got to be messing with our brain cells. To reduce the radiation to my brain, some tips that I’m trying to implement are using speakerphone mode wherever possible (the electromagnetic field is one-fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet) as well as switching my cell to flight mode and not charging it next to my bed when I sleep
9. New learnings – 9
According to Kwik, your brain can create new cells, pathways and connections until the day you die. To do this you need to give it novelty and stimulus. It’s a little ironic that when I was working really hard in my career, I felt I wasn’t really learning anything new. I guess I was just too exhausted to be curious. That’s definitely changed since I launched Wealthwoke – exploring new concepts and ideas and talking to diverse, interesting people has reawakened my love of learning.
10. Stress management – 8
Stress is simply a brain killer – its debilitating and consumes all your energy. Two years ago I would have scored a 1 or 2 on this one. It’s better now since selling my business, getting a new perspective on life and implementing a regular mindfulness practice.
Overall, I scored around 7/10, which I am pretty happy with, but there is still room for improvement.
This is a really useful exercise to do every couple of months as a health check for your brain. It’s a good idea to track your scores (and the reasons for them) on each element over time to identify areas that need attention.