Your brain can do some pretty amazing stuff (as well as some incredibly aggravating things). You are actually way cooler than your brain, which is simply a very fantastic thinking tool.

You are not your brain, photo by Clarita

As we mature, we have the opportunity to get to know what our unique brains can and cannot do. It never ends. This is partly because as we change and our brains age, the relationship—the dance between you and your brain—will change. Another reason is that—and hopefully you know this—there is no one on this whole planet who thinks quite the way you do. You’re that complex, that interesting.

Check out this list and see if there’s an idea here you haven’t tried for utilizing and discovering the potential of your brain:

1. Allow it to work on solving problems without you
I’ve discovered that, left to its own devices, my brain is pretty good at rooting out great solutions. There are many times my conscious attention gets in the way. So I state the problem, ask as clear a question as I can, and then I forget about it. This is kind of what you do when you opt to “sleep on it.” Having experienced a fresh perspective after a good night’s sleep, you’ve learned to trust that process. Now do it while you’re awake. Practice framing (and sometimes reframing) a question, then practice letting go. It may help to imagine something like pressing a Submit button or releasing a dove.

2. Play to its strengths
Different brains excel at different things. Your quirks may be clues to your special superpowers. Temple Grandin, who writes both about animal behavior and being autistic, knows that she sees the world in very unique ways. Her passion for animals and her curiosity about the brain’s inner workings have led her down a research path to discover more about her own brain and her own potential (not to mention the potential of people with so-called “normal” brains).

3. Be aware of its limits: balance Brain with Gut
Brains alone can’t cut it. Even if all the perceiving you do happens only in your head (who knows? but I’m not going to debate that), there’s something else in the driver’s seat. My brains have been fooled enough times that I know: after I’ve looked, listened, measured and researched, I always do a gut check. My “gut” is the part that says, “measure again” or “what haven’t I asked yet?” and sometimes, “I don’t care what the facts say: something is wrong.”

4. Be aware of its limits
The human brain can be fooled, and your brain in particular can be fooled in particular ways. It’s important to take its weaknesses into account. Brain research is full of examples that demonstrate how the human brain is actually wired to miss huge signals. One that may be familiar to you is the gorilla experiment. Personally, I’m unable to process the complex No Parking signs on many L.A. streets. No matter how carefully I read them, I’ve made expensive mistakes. Sometimes I ask passersby for help; Sometimes I just move my car.

5. Experiment
It’s a computer, a roulette wheel, a petri dish and a magic telescope. If you play with it, you may discover completely new things it can do. Subject it to games, lack of sleep, abundant sleep, new experiences, new people and new challenges. Your brain may also be the awesomest toy ever.

What have I left out? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment field below.

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