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The Vigorous Mind: Cross-Train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional, and Professional Boundaries
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The Vigorous Mind: Cross-Train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional, and Professional Boundaries

by Ingrid Cummings
 

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Learn how to 'Cross-Train Your Brain.' Here's why:

To make the most of your precious leisure time. The Vigorous Mind will address that most fundamental of questions: How Shall I Spend My Time? Overwhelmed by the turbocharged pace of modern life, we let too much of our brainpower lie dormant. Could leisure represent an opportunity

Overview

Learn how to 'Cross-Train Your Brain.' Here's why:

To make the most of your precious leisure time. The Vigorous Mind will address that most fundamental of questions: How Shall I Spend My Time? Overwhelmed by the turbocharged pace of modern life, we let too much of our brainpower lie dormant. Could leisure represent an opportunity for something more substantial, such as personal growth and development?

To move past the rut of over-specialization. Society has gone too far in the direction of simplicity and over-specialization. The dawning trend is beginning to emerge: A corrective move back to glorifying generalists ('Renaissance people') as the big-picture, intersectional thinkers we are. Let's diversify our brain's portfolio!

To put a stop to 'mental malnutrition,' or 'the blahs.' Many of us are listless, depressed, or anxious but aren't sure why or what to do about it. Hint: Neuroscience shows that the brain needs a well-rounded array of pursuits to stay intellectually sharp and emotionally healthy, as well as to resist the ravages of Alzheimer's and dementia.

To achieve greater professional success and overall life gratification. Building a more vigorous mind will tremendously enhance your engagement with the world.

But is it possible to be a 'Renaissance person' in our modern era? In The Vigorous Mind, you will discover that the ancient eastern philosophy known as kaizen makes it achievable, if you devote as little as 20 minutes a day to cross-training your brain.

In The Vigorous Mind, professional 'Renaissance woman' Ingrid Cummings offers a social criticism and inspiring self-improvement program that details the antidote to mental undernourishment, unfulfilling careers, untapped talents, and unexplained boredom. Through the techniques and insights in The Vigorous Mind, you will build a more complex, interconnected brain and replace indifference with cognitive reengagement, a sense of optimistic gratification, and a full-to-the-brim life lived without regret.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780757306983
Publisher:
Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date:
01/07/2009
Pages:
326
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

How to Use This Book,
and How I Came to Write It

Life itself is the proper binge.
—Julia Child (1912–2004), chef

The Proper Binge

Doesn't it make sense that we should all feel pretty good about ourselves?

After all, we've acquired so much of what we've always desired: spouses, kids, careers, friends, homes, cars, education, electronics, shoes galore, and microwave ovens with innards that twirl around and around. It's scary almost, how well we're doing, even when you factor in economic frazzles and the volatility in so many sectors of our lives. So of course, things aren't exactly perfect, but we never counted on perfect. We did somehow expect, though, that we'd feel a little better about things. Instead, around midlife (your mileage may vary), almost without fail, burnout sets in. Maybe severely, maybe mildly. The blahs.

Stagnation. Just at the point in life when we should feel proud and accomplished and something approaching happy, we begin to feel . . . flat. There's no mystery why the haunting song 'Is That All There Is?' was a hit. It oozed ennui, that corrosive disillusionment so many adults experience. We feel it, most of us, but we try to deny it. And our culture offers up lots of ways to tamp it down, things that are quite contrary to Julia Child's proper binge noted above. 'Improper binges' could include drink, drug, demon chocolate, antidepressants, shopping for more shoes, or buying microwaves that are even fancier in their ability to spin the food around yet still leave cold spots in it. No, the problem isn't that things aren't perfect. The problem is that we've lost our ability to be seduced by the world. Children are enthralled by everything, because it's all new. As adults, though, we believe we've been there, been everywhere; done that, done everything; bought the T-shirt, bought the iPod. We've become blasé. We've started to flatline. And we don't know how to fix it.

Is it any wonder so many of us experience burnout and low-grade depression in midlife? Sit up, because this is the big reveal: we are starved for mental stimulation. A core belief of mine is that we all simply want to feel better about ourselves. Becoming just a little smarter, a little more well-rounded, a little more engaged with the underappreciated treasures of this wide, wide world—that will do the trick very nicely, thank you. Yet, for the most part, we deride ourselves, noting our failings, our shortcomings, our underachieving smallness. But it's absolutely possible to feel better about ourselves without resorting to antidepressants or antianxiety medications. Just as the world offers up plenty to be disheartened about, so does it offer up all the raw materials to cross-train our brains.

What does it mean to 'cross-train' your brain? At the most basic level, it means to make a point of exercising all of your brain, not just the comparatively small part you take out for a spin every day in your job as a chemist, organic farmer, or automotive designer. When you visit a personal trainer for purposes of physical fitness, you generally exercise every major muscle group in your body before you consider yourself to have 'worked out.' Yet, on the mental side of the equation, we let scads of our precious brain bandwidth lie dormant with nary a thought as to the damage that chronic inactivity is doing to us. Just as we should be cross-training our bodies (swimming, if we're primarily a runner; lifting weights, if we're primarily a gymnast), so should we be cross-training our brains (working crosswords if we're primarily a social worker; gardening if we're primarily an aesthetician).

'Brain exercise' is a vital function that has unfortunately been relegated to a secondary role—playing second fiddle to the universally hailed imperative for physical exercise. We all know that an agile, well-stimulated brain is better conditioned to fend off the ravages of mental dementia and Alzheimer's disease than a sluggish, understimulated brain. We know it, but we don't do enough about it.

Cross-training our brains leads to becoming a generalist. A generalist is a gloriously restless person whose penchant for a variety of diverse interests allows him or her to acquire all kinds of skills, curiosities, and enthusiasms. And, generally speaking, generalists are the people who are best positioned to fight back the blahs that come a-callin' on almost everybody eventually. Cross-training your brain—adopting the habits and worldview of a generalist even as you continue to pursue your career as a specialist—is the antidote to mental malnutrition. Plus, complementing your professional specialty with a series of unrelated pursuits will trigger a higher skill level at your profession—I know that sounds paradoxical. Cross-training will also put the brakes on the midlife melancholies and career burnout. Better health and improved joie de vivre will result.

This book is for people who suspect they've become cognitively malnourished and want to reverse course. It's written for those who feel strangely flat and don't have an inkling why. It's for anyone who wants to broaden his or her horizons by building a more vigorous mind. I have in mind the reader who can hear Peggy Lee crooning 'Is That All There Is?' and wants to lash out in resistance—but doesn't quite know where to start.

©2008. Ingrid E. Cummings. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Vigorous Mind. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442

Meet the Author

Ingrid E. Cummings is a contributing Editor at Indianapolis Monthly magazine. Her monthly "Life Lessons" column has Ingrid taking up belly dancing, motorcycle riding, chess, dream interpretation, and many others adventures. She also writes an award-winning newspaper column called "Rubicon Crossings" and is an associate professor at Indiana University. Cummings is the host and executive producer of a radio show called "Rubicon Salon," a program that examines defining moments in the lives of accomplished individuals. An international public speaker and trainer, Cummings heads up her own strategic communications business, Rubicon Communications LLC. As a result of her interest in "everything under the sun," Ms. Cummings has founded The Rubicon Center for the Rebirth of Renaissance, which presents the annual Rubicon Distinguished Achievement Award. The "Rubie" is designed to recognize the pursuit of lifelong learning in the liberal arts.

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