Friday, January 24, 2014

A Book Review of Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes

How many thoughts float in and out of your head without your stopping to identify them?  How many ideas and insights have escaped because you forgot to pay attention?  How many decisions or judgments have you made without realizing how or why you made them, driven by some internal default settings of whose existence you're only vaguely, if at all, aware?  How many days have gone by where you suddenly wonder what exactly you did and how you got to where you are?

If you find yourself groaning after reading through these questions excerpted from the prelude of
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, be encouraged.  Author Maria Konnikova explains how to combat these, and many other, memory mishaps.  She uses the example of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous character, Sherlock Holmes, to explain how to develop effective habits of thought that will help you use your mind well.

What Sherlock Holmes offers isn't just a way of solving crimes.  It is an entire way of thinking, a mindset that can be applied to countless enterprises far removed from the foggy streets of the London underworld.  It is an approach born out of the scientific method that transcends science and crime both and can serve as a model for thinking, a way of being, even, just as powerful in our time as it was in Conan Doyle's.

Mastermind is filled with fascinating information about how our incredibly intricate and amazing minds work.  Praise God for the marvelous creation of our brains!  While reading this book, I found myself frequently stopping to share whatever I had just learned with whoever happened to be in the room at the time!  And Marty (who, in my mind, is a mini version of Sherlock Holmes in the flesh) and I have had several stimulating discussions about how to incorporate some of the techniques on a spiritual level.  Below you'll find a list of some of the specific ideas/ways in which I'm working at putting into practice what I've learned from Mastermind:

* Giving full attention/removing distractions by purposefully engaging my mind (I specifically worked at developing this in church on Sunday and ended up gleaning much more from the lessons than is typical for me.)
* Being more aware of my thoughts and not allowing them to just run amuck and flow through without conscious awareness.  Trying to capture specific thoughts and analyzing them for truth and accuracy.
* Developing the habit of giving whatever task is in front of me my full engagement - completing it well and fully, whether doing dishes or writing a blog post.
* Giving conversations with others (whether in person or on the phone) my full attention.  Gleaning the most I can from each (with the goal of gaining at least one new insight - about them, about me or about something else) and intentionally seeking to share wisdom. 
* Continuing to grow in wisdom and knowledge and making more connections from old things to new; keeping my mind active and learning.  Specifically, I want to continue to keep an on-going, research-type Bible study going in conjunction with my regular Bible reading.  This forces my mind to engage and interact with the Word more.  Also, I've subscribed to a free "word of the day" e-mail service to learn new words and work at incorporating them into daily use. 
* Living more multi-dimensionally; engaging each of the senses.  My sister told me about a woman who periodically forces herself to stop and take note of what each of her senses are experiencing at the moment.  A good practice - once a day determine what I'm hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling and tasting in that one random moment.
* Writing it out.  Get everything down on paper and out of my brain keeps me from on-going distractions.  I can more easily manage things on paper than in my head, and it keeps me from "re-creating everything from scratch."  Writing out issues that I'm dealing with helps me to see and separate out emotions.
* Viewing mistakes and failures as opportunities which cultivates imagination and breeds creativity.  Analyzing mistakes helps to keep me from wasting time and energy in the future and can be viewed as an encouragement to look for the good and purpose in them.
* Thinking through situations/issues/habits that have been stuck in an unsuccessful thought pattern and never brought to completion or closure.  Analyzing for the truth and changes that I need to make mentally/physically/spiritually to move through and past these things - no longer wasting time on having to re-process and mentally confused every time I come upon them.  (For example, I have an old relationship that I have never felt peaceful about but didn't know why.  I've lately taken some time to think through and talk over with a friend what I'm stuck on, adjusting, and thinking rightly about the relationship for maximum joy in the friendship.)
* Challenging myself to work at disengaging my emotions from conversations and circumstances in order to more clearly see the truth/reality; "separating situations from interpretations."  Too often I allow my emotions to lead the way and control me.  Emotions are indicators and tools, not my masters.  (This one's probably the most challenging for me!)

Whew!  Forgive me for such a long blog post, but I really wanted to "get down on paper" all that I've been thinking about and learning.  Mastermind is truly a goldmine of inspiration and helpful information.  I highly recommend this thought-provoking book - challenging and encouraging.  It's made me feel as if I've woken up!


Brianna said...

I think I would go crazy if I had to think like Holmes ;)

Patty said...

Interesting ~ I'd like to read this.

Vicki said...

Sounds fascinating!