What would a gym for your brain have in it?

If we believe our brain to be a muscle of sorts, why is it that we do not “work it out” as intentionally as other body parts? How much time do you spend per year sitting down with the explicit objective of “increasing your mental strength”? And if you were to, how would you go about doing it?

There is a LOT we still do not understand about the brain. (I would say fields of neurology, psychology, and psychiatry are going to radically improve over the next several decades. To the point where, sooner or later, we will look back on our current understanding as ~laughable). It is WEIRD just how little we understand ourselves. My intuition is that understanding how our brain works, both at the chemical level but also the abstract level (e.g. how do we form thoughts?—please read I Am a Strange Loop for some commentary here), will drive a step function improvement in our lives (our happiness and productivity).

But even so—even with this massive gap in our understanding—I think we know enough about our brain (and who we are as people) to know that there are certain _things_ that are generally good for us. Things that improve our happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction with life.

There are things we can do—exercises/processes/actions—that will help us become more resilient, more thoughtful, more patient, and more productive. I am not making the claim that I know the universally perfect set of processes, but, similar to working out your muscles, what if there was some sort of gym, some sort of place to go to work out your brain.

It could be a digital place.

What would the workouts be?

I imagine a variety of different types of exercises, including:

  • Writing: Writing prompts that help you better understand yourself and also the world around you.
  • Reading: Learning to read faster/better/improve memory but also tackle different types of topics.
  • Therapy: Different forms of therapy, especially transference based talk therapy/psychotherapy that helps people better understand their past.
  • Debates: Be given a topic and debate both sides against someone else for an hour. Sharpen your argumentation style.
  • Meditation: Learn The Way of Zen (a la Alan Watts) and practice mindfulness.
  • Physical exercise: I think your brain and the rest of your body are connected in many ways (more than we could understand today). Physical exercise, especially hard physical exercise, can help you get your mind right. Yoga could be a good candidate.
  • Feedback: Get candid feedback from someone else about who you are and how you present yourself.
  • Nutritionist: Audit what you eat to make sure you are giving your brain the appropriate ingredients to thrive.
  • Linguistic analysis: Do sentence completion exams to understand the types of words you use.
  • Exposure therapy: Conquer your biggest fears and insecurities by exposing yourself, in small doses, to these challenges.
  • Improv: Learn to act with spontaneity and freedom.
  • Math and logic tests: Take math and logic tests to sharpen your thinking skills.
  • Psychiatry: Experimentation with different forms of medicine and treatment.

Are you starting to get the idea? This sort of mental gymnasium could be hyper personalized and tailored to your needs. Everything would be designed for one purpose—to help you build your mental strength. The mental endurance of a Navy Seal is in reach. Imagine now building an institution—a gym of sorts—that is entirely dedicated to helping you get there.

Where can you do this today? Therapy is honestly so not-intensive today. You can read books on your own. You can build your own curriculum as probably your best option. I just think there is a gap here because even someone who wants to go out and build mental strength – there’s not a clear way for them to do it.

There is also no clear way for someone like me as an adult to get raw candid feedback on an ongoing basis from someone. This again feels weird and that there should be an easier way, especially for someone seeking growth, to learn more about themselves.

What if we rebranded mental health as mental strength?

I think years from now we will fully accept the brain as a muscle. When we do that, we will lose the stigma of “mental health” being a soft and fluffy thing. Instead, we will build a culture where MENTAL RESILIENCE AND STRENGTH are celebrated. This will kill the victim mindset. This will empower a generation of doers who believe in their internal locus of control.

That will have an enduring impact. Again, I think we will look back on our current understanding of the brain as extremely simplistic and unintentional. It also feels likely to me that we will see social media as a killer of mental clarity and focus. We will see the casinos in our pockets as NOT clearly better for our mental strength, and we will see trends where people throw out their phones in pursuit of PRESENCE.

(If you are interested in working on this please ping me)

I think this will be a generational shift -> away from the notification/endless scrolling generation and towards people who crave LONGER TERM SATISFACTION.

Today’s consumer tech companies do not really help people connect more – they make it easy for people to validate one another but not in a meaningful way. I hope likes are not the future.

Don’t get me wrong, band-aids and shiny casinos do sell — but they are not actually better for people in the long term. I crave depth. I crave meaning.

It will take decades for people to recognize this (the allure of short term optimization is SO tempting) but eventually, tides can turn.

And when they do, I think mental sharpness will be everything. The world will be built around a vision of intentionality and presence. AI and energy abundance will enable you to be AS HUMAN AS POSSIBLE. The question that people will need to marinate on is what their definition of as human as possible looks like.

Is it clicking buttons all day? Is it being a cog in a machine?

Or is there something more?


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