“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Albert Einstein
While fitness in the physical pillar is basically objective, your path to emotional wellness and intellectual satisfaction will be much more individualistic. The psychological inputs you had during your life are unique. Your path to resolving the challenges developed during your childhood is likewise unique. The topics you and I find mentally stimulating may be quite different.
The mental pillar of fitness has three realms:
- Emotions – Cognitive Development | Societal Habituation | Mental Resilience
- Relationships – Friends and Colleagues | Community Connection | Pets
- Learning – Education | Reading | Avocations
Having been through the process of attaining physical fitness, you will find it is similar for mental fitness. First you need to assess your state with respect to each realm. Some questions are:
- How content do you generally feel?
- How resilient are you when faced with life’s emotional ups and downs?
- How often do you feel the blues or depressed?
- How well do you bounce back from setbacks?
- Are you able to build and maintain satisfying relationships?
- Do you feel connected to a larger community?
- What is your plan for lifelong learning?
- What interests do you pursue and how passionately?
Use these to start your discovery of your state in each realm. As you identify challenges you may need to consult with others. Significant psychological issues may require your seeking help from a competent mental health professional. Yet this need not prevent you from making progress in other realms.
Next gather sufficient information from reliable sources on such issues as emotional health and resiliency, relationships, and education, so that you are comfortable making decisions about your life direction in each realm. Some of the resources I use are:
- WebMD Health
- American Psychological Association
- Military Mental Heath Blog
- Becoming Minimalist
- U.S. News & World Report - Education (Charges a Fee)
- Great Books
If you would like a digest of what I consider the most relevant information from these and similar sources consider following me on Twitter.
Now, start setting goals. Unlike with fitness in the physical pillar, setting measurable goals is more difficult in the mental pillar, especially if you want to boost your emotional soundness or relationships. Improvement will come through identifying quantifiable behaviors that you can habituate. For example, to improve my marriage every day I write something positive about Melanie in my journal.
The key to fitness in the mental pillar is self-awareness. Without this quality, you will not know the true state of your emotional and intellectual fitness. As well, you will be unable to ascertain your progress. Of course, as with any behavioral change self-discipline is crucial. But unless it is coupled with candid, periodic self-assessment it is too easy to conclude you are on the right track when this is not the case.
I learned a terrific practice from Michael Hyatt in his blog post The 7 Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal. He recommends noting your emotional state each day. Having used this technique for a few months, I have made more progress on one of my key issues than in years of trying any other approach.
While college degrees purportedly attest to greater fitness in the mental pillar, they confer no such condition. Your emotional and intellectual fitness is highly subjective and cannot be measured against that of another person the way physical fitness can. In any event, the goal is not to become superior to others, but through self-awareness and self-discipline to intentionally direct improvement on your path to holistic fitness.
Question – What exercises do you use to gain greater self-awareness?
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© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved
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