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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Keeping Your Mind On Fire

As I mentioned in my memories about Mexico, among the things I value most during travelling is having time to think about topics apart from my daily routine. In his excellent essay How To Be A Free ThinkerScott Berkun recognizes that  "... many of history’s great spiritual leaders chose to step away from their cultures and their worlds for a time." Clearly, there aren't too many things more inspiring than foreign cultures and environment.

For the good or for the bad, however, most of us are more or less bound to their place of living, and their daily routine (which, I guess, for most people is working, unless you adopted a 4 hour workweek). So, that made me wonder, what can you do to keep your mind on fire, even in a potentially mind- and idea-suppressing environment?

In the last week, I paid close attention to what does inspire me, and what provokes me to think about issues that really matter to me. Of course, people care about different issues, and consequently, for many of them different approaches might work out.

However, here are my thoughts:
  • Reading, ideally about a variety of different topics. What I'm onto these days is Mindfire (again by Scott Berkun; obviously a primer for this article) a master thesis about the political and economic transformation in Central-Eastern Europe, Management 3.0 (Jurgen Appelo) and I just finished novel price winner Ivo Andric's masterpiece The Bridge on the Drina
  • Physical exercises. Long hours of sitting in office do not only cause pain in the back, it's also pain for your brain. After jogging, swimming, skiing, mattress-sports or maybe just a walk my mind is not only open, but actually even full of energy for new stuff.
  • Wandering around with open eyes and open ears. I'm trying to re-invent the curiosity which I used to have as a child (pretty much to the sorrow of the people facing my constant questions).
  • Make notes. Since a few weeks, I don't leave home without my pocket Moleskine anymore. Whenever something interesting catches my attention, I write it down to came back to the issue later, or to discuss it with somebody who might be interested as well, or may be even offer some explanation. Since I'm doing that, I'm also surprised myself about how many questions are around in that brain over a day. It simply doesn't stop anymore once you've started!
  • A beer. Or maybe two. I'm fairly certain that this is absolutely necessary to re-adjust your body every now and then, and I think there is more than one example of a great thing that was initiated over a couple of pints in a bar.
  • Discussions with other curious or passionate people. Ideally ... well, see the point before.
  • Theater and exhibitions. Totally diving into another time or place might have impacts similar to travelling. Just that it's much cheaper, closer by, easier to reach, and in the morning you'll still wake up in your own bed again.

In case you look for some inspiration or idea on anything, you might try one or two of these approaches. 
Of course, there might be many and more approaches ... so I wonder, what are yours?

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