Exercise Your Thinking Muscles

“Sometimes you must give up the good to get to the great. The key is knowing what to keep and what to discard from your mind.” ~The author.

Success today requires proper diet and exercise in both the physical and mental realms. Here are some healthy suggestions as to proper diet and exercising for thinking success. At the end of the day, thinking success doesn’t happen by chance or luck of the genetics draw, but rather through a healthy mental diet and daily exercising of your thinking muscles. Our main enemy in this success quest is the instantaneous nature of life that computers have brought to the Information Age.



To a large extent, we are all basically what we read. That is where we get most of our beliefs, truths, opinions, biases, judgments and conclusions. Unfortunately, electronic communication is based on speed, which too often misses critical details and filters out what we think we don’t need to know. One or two sentence communication is the norm today, so the majority of great books in libraries and bookstores sadly to often go unread. For those few who are still avid readers with an insatiable desire to learn useful knowledge, that could mean a widening of the knowledge gap with those who don’t. Such gaps are anti-unification of the world today and we don’t need any more divisions.


Another big part of who we are now is a result of who we hang out with. If we are friends with positive, successful people who may be just a little ahead in evolution than we are, then that is where we are likely headed. If the opposite is true, then we get the opposite results, becoming more prone to negative thoughts and failures. In my experience seeking new friends to help pull you along can only be done with an assertive outreach approach. But the good news is you rarely get turned down because positive, successful people are always anxious to pay it forward. Just be careful about keeping negative people on your BFF shortlist too long.



We all have different levels of intuition and we all use this input in different ways. Exercising the intuition muscles requires listening to intuitive hunches, following them carefully, and then recording results so you know better which ones to turn right on and when to turn left. Doing this is like building your biceps with curls—the more the repetition in right form, the better the results. I believe it was Oprah Winfrey who decided intuition resides somewhere between the head and heart and that seems to be a good place for it.


Exercising creativity doesn’t require art, music, acting, literature or other such talents. It can mean as little as just looking at old and familiar common place things and discovering new and unusual ways to resurrect these things for better results than they may not have gotten the first time around. Creative thinking is good for flexing and expanding all your thinking muscles, going new places without a map. Or, creativity, as John Maxwell said, may just be adding one small thing to an existing formula to get a slightly different answer.

Critical Thinking

This is one area where we can all improve on, given that the Internet has a monopoly on what is truth vs. fiction and isn’t hesitant in imposing that on us. Critical thinkers are always wary of stopping half-way and adopting half-truths that are pervasively popular. They exercise thinking further, which usually takes them to a bigger or more useful truth. Critical thinkers are also aware of global applications such as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in particle physics to knowing in general with the caveat that nothing at all is really certain, only tentative. Things in life are in continuous flux with no clear starting or ending position. Just constant movement. Critical thinkers jump in the river and try to understand it as they go, knowing they can’t stop the raging river to study it closer as still water.


Philosophical wondering (and wandering) is not just for academics, but good mental exercise for us all. In a study of 95-year old people, one of their top regrets was not contemplating life enough. Thinking deeply about things like what life means, what our purpose is, how to live a good life, what to be most passionate about, is not useless busy work, but hard work that has big payoffs in uncovering success clues that may be too well hidden to normally notice. Contemplation doesn’t necessarily consume your life, but rather give you one to enjoy more.

Positive Thinking.

For every negative thought you have which leads to failure, you need to replace it X 2 at least, in order to erase the established neural pathway and create a new one whenever a future stimulus calls for the right response to lead to success. Otherwise the negative thought will always out-speak the positive one trying to be heard. This principle holds true when you attempt to practice the “Law of Attraction.” You simply cannot attract positive events with positive thinking until you first identify the negative thinking that is interfering and replace those thoughts. Life will always have things that are easily judged and evaluated as negative, until we begin to apply real wisdom that remains over time and survives critical thinking, such as the Uncertainty Principle referenced above.

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” ~Bruce Lee.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Cascade Security Corporation in Bellevue, Washington; sport psychologist, photographer and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, ‘P’ Point Management, Reality Repair, Reality Repair RX, Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale. He can be reached at 425-652-8067 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net or www.authorsden.com/cottringer