Monday, January 05, 2009

Why mind beats body

The mind can be loosely defined as the function of the organic brain - the thing that the brain does. Some scientists will try to tell you that there is no mind - only brain, but that is just science guys being dense. The mind is greater than the sum of its organic parts. It is more expansive than the organic machine itself. The expansiveness of mind allows greater leverage and potential for change than do the limitations of the physical frame.

You get more mileage out of changing how you think about the use of your body than you get out of changing the physical abilities of your body.
  • Physical is fleeting - mind is much longer-lived. Unless you work out fanatically, there is an average decline in physicality of 1-2 % per year after age 30. The mind, if exercised moderately, can often remain sharp and active and productive throughout a lifetime.
  • There is not much physical variation between healthy bodies. This is an example where the exception proves the rule. If it were common to occasinally see extremely strong or extremely fast people then the Olympics would not be interesting to watch. It is the exceptional nature of these few freaks that suggests that most of the rest of us are non-exceptional physically. On the other hand, there are a lot of people in the world that know approximately what it would take to become an olympian. Exceptional minds are more common than exceptional bodies.
  • The mind runs the body. Sometimes skilled and experienced teachers in martial arts or other physical arts can tell you what you are thinking just by watching your movement. This is not ESP, it is just a knowledge of how the mind directs the body. If the body is doing this, then the mind must be guiding it like that. Spastic, uncontrolled, undisciplined motion never accomplished anything exceptional.
  • There is vast variability in how efficiently different people are able to use their minds to control their bodies. Read Jim Loehr's classic book, The New Toughness Training for Sports and you'll see that elite athletes really only differ in mental attributes. By this stage of the game there is very little physical difference between competitors because everyone has used the same best training methods to reach their physical peak. Their ability to control their mind separates champions from elite athletes.

But on the other hand, you do have to have a healthy, strong, fast, efficient body to tote your brain (and mind) around.

1 comment:

  1. Great article.

    You're so right. While being in decent shape is required, a bigger requirement is your mind being where it should be. As they always say, "Mind over matter".


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