Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stumped on a Resolution

I intend to do a full post on my new years resolutions, as I haven't fully thought them out yet and the ones listed in my last article are still incomplete, but I could use your input on one resolution if you could give it. One I definitely know I'm going to pursue is the practice of doing cognitive exercises every single day. This is multi-faceted. For one, it would be really good for my mind and intelligence to do this, and would go a long way in enhancing my functioning, efficiency, and overall competence. For two, I've found that I best develop a skill -- although this is obvious -- when I isolate it and practice it intensively, so I'll be able to reach new heights of cognition by concentrating intensively on particular areas of importance, such as math and mental calculations (which would be helpful in doing culinary math as a chef). Thirdly, it would also combine into and assist another resolution, reaching cognitive exhaustion five times a week (i.e. exercising my brain so much that it makes me physically tired), as if all else fails in the day, I could achieve this goal by repeating my cognitive exercises until I'm sleepy. (I want to do this because I've noticed that the greatest and most rapid changes to my brain and mind came when I exerted myself to fatigue. I would go to sleep and "magically" find the next day that I've attained significant improvements in an area, such as the ability to whistle a note when I couldn't the day prior.) And finally, doing all this could give me more hours in the day and be more efficient since achieving cognitive exhaustion allows me to obtain "super sleep" during the night, the phenomenon of getting ultra-efficient sleep that's lasts a very short amount of hours but is insanely restful. How could one pass up all these benefits?

My difficulty is trying to figure out which exercises to do, and how and how often to perform them. My particular mode of thinking right now is that since there are seven days in a week I could do seven different exercises to maximize variety and balance, but there are some complexities. Some particular exercises, I think, should be done everyday and not once a week, and then there's the other confounding factor of, say, trying to do multiple exercises in a day, doing more than seven different ones in a week, and just varying what combination I do each day (and never doing ALL of them on one day, since that would be too time-consuming).

So far all I know for certain is that I want to do a math and conceptual exercise.Ultimately I'm trying to stick to exercises that's relevant to my most important functions in life, so these are the only two I can identify right now.

For the math, it would be of immense benefit to be able to quickly and accurately do mental calculations in my head since I work in the restaurant industry. Lots of math is involved: divvying up tips among workers, determining discount percentages, the yield and cost of a particular recipe, and much much more. At my current stage I think it would be greatly helpful in serving costumers by doing calculations in my head rather than being held servant to cumbersome and possibly buggy computer (and, not to neglect, impress them with my fluent ability and garner tips!), and later on it could also be helpful in dealing with tax stuff and whatnot at the end of a shift. There's other uses too, such as adding up my grocery total in my head during shopping, figuring out the best prices, and so on. There's math everywhere, and I've been far too weakened by voluntarily enslaving myself to the calculator.

To practice, what I'd do is find (or possibly create) an online math equation generator online and then practice figuring out the problems for a certain amount of time. The challenge is that I won't allow myself to write anything down: I must do everything in my head.The practice lapsed before, but I once did this with addition and subtraction with another generator and got very skilled, to the point that I plateaued only because I maxed out the numbers and digits the generator was capable of producing. It was entertaining, challenging, and kept me quite sharp in my everyday functions.

While I do know exactly what type of practice I'd like to conduct here, the only concern is with finding the right generator. Do you guys know of any? I want to play with ones that are capable of producing very complex problems with a lot of numbers and digits, like ten numbers all with ten digits, and decimals too. I'd like to utilize generators capable of producing different kinds of problems too, like fractions, percentages, and so on, but if I have to use multiple generators for that, then that's okay. I can find these generators online, but the difficulty is that the ones I've one have some annoying constraints, such as maxing out at too few numbers and digits, hence limiting how far I can challenge myself.

The conceptual exercises, on the other hand, are a more philosophically sophisticated vocabulary-type exercise. The reason why I don't just call it a vocabulary exercise is because I'm not just learning a word and its definition; I'm trying to train my psycho-epistemology and integrate the concept into my knowledge, thereby working to keep me reality-oriented, have a well connected network of concepts, and so on. Of course, it does bear some similarity to a vocabulary exercise, such as picking out unfamiliar words and looking up their dictionary definition. What I do to go beyond that is work to connect the concept to its proper chain (such as visualizing chairs and tables to understand "furniture," or figuring out how the concept is derived from another or is a precursor to a higher one, etc.), what it's similar to, and what's its distinguishing features are. Definitely more intense than the normal vocabulary exercise. The way I've got it now still has some kinks, but it's overall good. The main problem is with productivity: It has a few burdensome elements in it that makes me procrastinate on and drop the practice, as it's annoying to maintain. I'm okay doing the exercise; it just annoys me to have to be on the lookout for words to perform exercises with (such as during reading, when I don't want to break my concentration) and documenting them for later reference (I used my audio recorder before, but it's annoying to have to listen to separate audio files that consist of only a single word). If I can smash these annoyances then the practice will be much easier to maintain, but I guess until then I'm going to have to just exercise discipline. I thought of this whole practice, I think, years ago, and despite recognizing its immense value I've had a lot of trouble doing it regularly, and often dropped it for months at a time.

Kinks and whatever, those are the cognitive exercises I can think of so far to do, but what else is there? A physical practice to develop my motor skills for cooking and bartending? A audio challenge exercise to enhance my listening ability for coworkers and costumers at work? (A book I'm reading right now noted a blind woman that developed the audio portion of her brain so much that she can comprehend speech at a rate way above normal.) Just what other areas of my brain and practices can I challenge to push my cognitive limits in 2012? The sky is no limit. Could you, perhaps offer some suggestions? I do have other ideas on how to improve myself cognitively, such as speeding up my handwriting while maintaining neatness and speeding up my reading while retaining or speeding up comprehending ability, but those, I think, are distinct because I can incorporate their practice into a great many activities rather than isolating them and stop pushing myself once I reach my goals, whereas the cognitive exercises are mostly isolated and will be practiced indefinitely.

For right now, I'll keep thinking. Despite an approaching "deadline," I doubt the police will come after me if I don't settle on my resolutions before midnight on the 31st. And there shouldn't be anything wrong with making new year's resolution during the new year, right?

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