How to Exercise Your Mind: Becoming More Positive

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" by Robin Sharma. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you know how to exercise your mind? Why does The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari say that it is important to know how to strengthen your mind?

In The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, your mind is thought of as a garden that you have to tend. The book offers tips for how to exercise your mind.

Read on for some tips on how to exercise your mind and how to strengthen your mind.

Tend the Garden: How to Strengthen Your Mind

The beautiful garden is a metaphor for your mind. Just like you have to watch and tend a garden, you should watch and tend the thoughts that you allow into your mind. This is how to exercise your mind. When you let your garden get polluted with worries and anxieties, you waste your mental energy and can cause serious long-term damage to your creativity, motivation, and even your general mood.

Your mind is the one thing in the world that you have total control of. You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you respond to it. Therefore, learning how to manage your thoughts is key to learning how to manage your life. However, to master your mind you have to exercise it, just like you would train a muscle. Two powerful techniques for how to strengthen your mind are meditation and Opposition Thinking. 

Opposition Thinking is the practice of recognizing when a negative thought is creeping into your mind, and immediately replacing it with a positive one. It works on the premise that, while the human mind can jump between thoughts very quickly, it can only ever hold one at a time. 

Your mind will attract what you want into your life, so you have to know how to exercise your mind, training it to attract the right things will have a huge impact on yourself and your surroundings. 

Finding your focus is crucial to finding your happiness. When you find something you truly love doing you’re able to concentrate fully on it, with no wasted energy. Then your work will feel like play, and will invigorate you rather than exhausting you. 

Finally, recognize that there is no such thing as objective reality. One person’s worst enemy could be another person’s best friend, and what seems like a tragedy might actually be a great opportunity—such as Julian’s heart attack. Therefore, don’t think of events as “good” or “bad,” just live them and accept what they have to teach you.

How to Exercise Your Mind

While listening to Julian, John remembers his youth and wonders when he let go of it. He remembers having huge dreams of being a superstar athlete, or a rich business mogul. He believed that he could do and be anything he wanted. At the same time, his greatest pleasures were simple ones like bike rides and skinny dipping. 

John confesses that he has little control over his own thoughts, or life, these days. Julian agrees, and says that he has to work his mind to make it stronger, just like a muscle. 

John asks for a quick solution, something he can do then and there to fix things. Julian tells him that quick fixes won’t work, but a single month of dedicated effort will be enough to see huge changes in his life. Just ten minutes a day of meditating on his current circumstances, how he’ll make the next day better, and his purpose in life is enough to start. Also, the less he worries about results, the faster he’ll get them.

Technique #1: The Heart of the Rose

John asks for practical techniques that show how to exercise your mind. So, Julian teaches him a meditation technique called the Heart of the Rose. This can be done with nothing but a rose and a quiet space.

Take your rose and stare at the center of the flower. Think of nothing but the rose. Notice its color, shape, scent, and even its texture. Other thoughts will intrude at first. Accept them, and return your attention to the rose. With practice, those intrusive thoughts will lessen and eventually stop as your mind gets stronger and more controlled. It’s a simple exercise, but it has to be done every single day to be effective if you want to know how to strengthen your mind. 

At first, it may be difficult to spend even five minutes staring at a rose. Many people think they have no time to stare at a flower, but they’re the ones who need it most. Saying you have no time to stop working and meditate is like saying you have no time to stop driving and get gas. 

Technique #2: Opposition Thinking

A second powerful technique for how to exercise your mind is Opposition Thinking. It works because, while the human mind may jump between thoughts very quickly, it can only ever hold one at a time. 

Therefore, when a negative thought occupies your mind, you can replace it with a positive one. This requires awareness of your own thoughts. Keep watch for negativity creeping in, because you cannot afford even a single negative thought to pollute the garden of your mind.

How to Exercise Your Mind: Becoming More Positive

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Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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