2 Habits That Magnify Your Mental Agility

Thanks to my mom.

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Photo by Chris Lawton

Few years ago, at a holiday family dinner, my mom shared:

As a newly minted parent, I paused to soak in this perspective. I added- “Maybe adults should pursue their passion as profession?”

She responded, “That would be ideal, but what would be more pragmatic is to find ways to reduce mental exhaustion in whatever you do.”

My instincts agreed with her -there is a relation between mental agility and happiness.

My Pursuit of Mental Agility

Day in and day out — we interact with other people either face to face (meetings, coffee rooms etc.) or indirectly (emails, text, voice mail etc). In those interactions, the gray cells are used up in either understanding others or being understood.

In using our mental strength, some of us are predominantly visual learners; others like to hear and many others learn by touching/doing (kinesthetic learners). All stimuli enable learning, most of us have a predominant style of learning that helps us soak information better.

During people interactions, I became more self-aware that I am a predominately visual learner — pictures, charts, whiteboards, time lines, equations worked. I also noticed that I tended to communicate in my natural style of learning and I tried to understand others in their natural style of learning.

What happens if you flip it — they communicate in my dominant style while I communicate in theirs? I made a conscious choice to do just that and never looked back — this change has made a world of difference in enhancing my mental agility and happiness — in getting things done comfortably and being agile at the end of the day.

1. How do I get others to communicate in my dominant style?

Surprisingly, simple requests during conversations like, “Can you show/draw/chalk out for me? It helps me follow better”, works wonders. Sometimes, people pause for a moment but they are more than happy to do it. The reason is not hard to seek. As humans, we have an urge to be understood especially when our viewpoints/thoughts are clear and during the flow of exchange, we are more than happy to customize presentation style to get our views across. We do not do it naturally as we are focused more on the message than the mode of delivery. A gentle suggestion on mode by the listener resonates with us as it helps us get our point across better.

2. How do I return the favor- communicate back in their dominant style?

I simply observe. Words are a giveaway. Visual learners use words like see, look(s) within sentences like I see your point, looks good etc.

Auditory learners use words like sound(s), hear within sentences like sounds right, I hear you etc.

Kinesthetic learners use words like grab, grip within sentences like grab my attention, gripping story etc.

Same energy at 6 PM as 8 AM — thank you Mom!

Author Daniel Pink, in his thought provoking book talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose as drivers for intrinsic motivation that create happiness at work. My experience echoes those drivers in a more elementary form- awareness of our own learning styles and those of others we interact with, goes a long way in propelling our human dialogues forward with mastery and purpose.

When I am back home in the evening and as I pick up my then two year old and hug my six year old and listen to their day stories with same high energy level as I left home, I get reminded of the thought provoking question that set me on a wonderful road not taken. I would like to thank my mom for steering me towards what matters and for practicing her best advice on giving — focus on what is of great value to others but less cost to you.

My gray cells and my heart are very thankful to her.

Words from well-wishers

Deepa Narayanan,
“Hi Karthik, That was a really nice read. And your perspective on the relationship between happiness and mental agility came as a pleasant eye-opener.

One doesn’t realise how much energies go into trying to communicate, be understood. And if it is indeed done in a manner that adds value to another while keeping your own energy expenditure (‘costs’) less, how wonderful a win-win situation you have created right there! To let another know that you really want to understand him/her…that automatically opens out the channels for the other to want to get you right, understand your point of view. And that is happiness! And surely half the battle won with respect to communicating anywhere — -homes, organisations, just about anywhere!”

Karaoulanis Andreas,
“Hello Karthik. Another great post!. As a family man myself i completely understand what you say and what you are feeling while you are with your kids. Communicating with them and with everyone else is the essence of existing. Parents are the foundation of our lives. I hope we will be good role models for our kids in the future. When things are getting tough the first thing that comes to our mind is the persons we love more. like our mother. But this is not only that. You mentioned about your favorite- predominant communicating style.It is amazing once again how analytic you are. Things that sounds trivial to others turn out to be of the greatest important for you, something that is very good. Communicating is not as simple as it may seems to be.”

Barry Rellaford,
“Hi Karthik — another wonderful post. We are learning so much about our brains through fMRIs and other brain research — matching communication styles reminds me of the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming. What you’ve added here is the importance of our hearts, not just our brains. Matching communication styles may make the flow of meaning easier but the intent behind it is what really matters. Your family is blessed to have you — and I sense you bring both your head and heart to the workplace.”

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Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.

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