Mental Gymnastics? Think about all the flipping, twisting, jumping, swinging, flying, and the list goes on, that you see when you watch a gymnastic event. Then think about what happens in your head when you have A LOT going on-enter mental gymnastics. When we are not use to ‘performing’ mental gymnastics we can enter into overwhelm and shutdown ending in a paralyzed state.
For twenty-five years of my life, I coached the sport of gymnastics. In the gym, I quickly learned that when a gymnastic skill is broken down into smaller parts of the whole skill the learning was much quicker. I also discovered the value of skill drills, having the gymnast repeat the smaller part over and over again (they hated this!) until they didn’t even have to think about what they were doing.
To draw the correlation, when we are on the precipice of change, growth, or overload, the WHOLE of the mess is too much to comprehend and think about at once. So here are three things you can do to train your brain to perform mental gymnastics.
MAKE THE INTANGIBLE THOUGHT TANGIBLE
I call this the ABCD method-A Brain Clearing Dump! When you make the intangible thought tangible, it allows you to tap into your senses to help you actually deal with the mess. Writing things down, you tap into your sense of touch. You can see your thoughts, which may help you articulate them better to someone, then tapping into your hearing. You have de-cluttered your head. Now you have room for strategy and creativity. This would be like setting up the gymnastic equipment in a gym for the gymnast to do their work of performing. Your gymnastic equipment is your tangible list of thought.
SORT AND CATEGORIZE; BREAK INTO SMALLER CHUNKS OF THOUGHT
Looking at your list of thoughts, ask yourself, ‘what goes together?’ Or take it from the perspective of ‘one of these things does not belong with the others’. (Feel like you’re on Sesame Street?). Then name the categories in a way that it makes sense to you. There is power in this process because without really knowing it you are conditioning your brain to make mini-decisions, mini-choices. Sorting and categorizing gives you the ability to see, move around and play with your mess of thought. Before you know it, you have conditioned your brain to be a bit more agile, flexible and powerful in making choices and decisions.
ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS
Have you ever experienced a situation when you are trying to remember a person’s name, a name of a song, or a place and you just can’t bring it forward? But the whole time you keep saying to yourself, what was the name of that ____________, oh well, I can’t remember. Then perhaps an hour later, a day later or even a week later out of nowhere the answer pops in your head? Your brain never stops looking for the answer to an open-ended question. Using what, how, and where questions allow your brain to work for you. Ask the question and let go. I have found if I’m patient and pay attention, the answer always presents itself.
These three practices, as simplistic as they may seem, allow you to condition your brain for the really big mental gymnastics that happen in life events such as changes in job, family, lifestyle, health, relationship, and much more. It’s often the simple practices that create the biggest shifts. Practice these and do a mental flip….don’t flip out!