By going over your day in imagination before you begin it, you can begin acting successfully at any moment.”
~ Dorthea Brande
Dorothea Brande was a well-known writer and editor in New York in the mid 1930’s. Her book, BECOMING A WRITER (published 1934) is a staple on the bookshelves of creative writers throughout world. Her second book, Wake Up and Live (1936) sold over 2 million copies, published in 11 languages, and was even turned into a musical the following year. A recent post by Gretchen Rubin on my favorite blog, The Happiness Project, shared one of the teachings from Brande’s book: 12 Mental Exercises to Make Your Mind Keener & More Flexible. Rubin writes, “These exercises are meant to pull you out of your usual habits and to put you in situations that will demand resourcefulness and creative problem-solving. Brande argues that only by testing and stretching yourself can you develop mental strength.”
As I read through the exercises, I found myself thinking of them as a kind of yoga for the mind, mental asana of sorts. (In Becoming a Writer, Brande actually does advise practicing a meditation before a writing session.) I find these intriguing. I’ve acted on #1 from time to time, but usually with passive-aggressive motivations so I guess I need to revisit THAT one!
Summary of Dorothea Brande’s Twelve Mental Exercises
- Spend an hour each day without saying anything except in answer to direct questions, in the midst of the usual group, without creating the impression that you’re sulking or ill. Be as ordinary as possible. But do not volunteer remarks or try to draw out information.
- Think for 30 minutes a day about one subject exclusively. Start with five minutes.
- Write a letter without using the words I, me, mine, my.
- Talk for 15 minutes a day without using I, me, my, mine.
- Write a letter in a “successful” or placid tone. No misstatements, no lying. Look for aspects or activities that can be honestly reported that way.
- Pause on the threshold of any crowded room and size it up.
- Keep a new acquaintance talking about himself or herself without allowing him to become conscious of it. Turn back any courteous reciprocal questions in a way that your auditor doesn’t feel rebuffed.
- Talk exclusively about yourself and your interests without complaining, boasting, or boring your companions.
- Cut “I mean” or “As a matter of fact” or any other verbal mannerism out of your conversation.
- Plan two hours of a day and stick to the plan.
- Set yourself twelve tasks at random: e.g., go twenty miles from home using ordinary conveyance; go 12 hours without food; go eat a meal in the unlikelist place you can find; say nothing all day except in answer to questions; stay up all night and work.
- From time to time, give yourself a day when you answer “yes” to any reasonable request.
Interesting Question: Of these twelve exercises, which ones would be the most challenging for you to undertake? Why?
More Insight: Read Gretchen Rubin’s post on The Happiness Project: “Creativity: 12 Mental Exercises, Zany but Productive”
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What is The Happiness Project?
“I’m working on a book, THE HAPPINESS PROJECT — a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will hit the shelves in late 2009 (HarperCollins).” ~ by Gretchen Rubin
You can find a direct link to The Happiness Project, along with the daily feed, on my sidebar.
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