How to Run Your Brain

Sports psychologist Josephine Perry was on the Bad Boys of Running podcast to talk about the mental aspects of the sport and how to design your life to work with your brain.

Want to use your phone less?, asked Atomic Habits author James Clear, put it out of reach. The need to “check things” is small and easily clears any friction when the phone is in our pocket or on the table. But make yourself get up, a small but significant task, and we simply don’t do it as often.

A design approach works for our brains too.

1/ Your brain is a relative thinker, from Instagram to other runners, what we see sets the terms.

We prioritize information based on its availability. Change what’s easily available, change what we compare ourselves to, like a PR.

2/ Your brain is designed for danger, food, and sex (aka survival). Don’t you dare start into the unknown it sternly warns.

One solution is to deconstruct large problems into small ones. Writing a book is hard. Writing something every day is easier. Collecting ideas from a podcast is easier yet. Each big and scary attempt is a collection of small and doable attempts.

Another is to create a jar of wins. Write down accomplishments and put them in a jar. The visual is good – we’re visual creatures – and it uses the brain against itself. Rather than being fearful, our brain has evidence of hard things we’ve already done and we’re more likely to start.

3/ Your brain is lazy. Our how ya feeling language is limited. We only use words like: fine, angry, frustrated, tired, good, or excited. Limited words mean we have limited responses.

But precise language changes our description and consequently our reactions. Rather than be tired we can be worn out mentally from work. That’s different from I’m an introvert and need a break from people. Different triggers, different actions.

Personal growth is a challenge. We’re working on the thing while we’re working with the thing. But it’s easier with tips like these.

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