When was the last time you thought about your brain? That pound of grey jelly in your head is the most sophisticated, and significant, part of your body and yet most of us never think of it at all.
As we age, many of us focus on strengthening our bodies when it is our minds (and, following that, our hearts) that need strengthening. Our minds need to be stretched and tested, made stronger and more resilient to deal with the challenges of living consciously and ageing gracefully. This is about more than doing cross-words and brain teasers. This is about taking the time to learn, to question, to read and to teach ourselves what we are rarely taught to at such which is ask ourselves why we think the ways we do, to challenge our own assumptions. We must learn to think for ourselves: to know what we think and why.
To do this we must first understand that we all see things differently. The ways our brains work, the way we see things, understand words, concepts, even what we see when we look at a picture or out of the window, are all unique to us and to the experiences that have shaped us to date.
The concepts of confirmation bias and the mutable nature of memory show us how important consciousness of how our brains work is. The concepts of narrative fallacy and decision fatigue show us how important it is to be aware of the limitations of our thinking. This self-knowledge is the only starting point of change, both local and global. We need to know our own minds and move forward from there.
We are often told that self-awareness is narcissistic and indulgent but we must ask ourselves who is telling us this? Usually the very structures that stand to lose if we learn to question ourselves, and then, them.
I am, while writing many of these pieces, actively avoiding quoting others but I know that the voices of those who have learnt to do this, the voices of those who have taken the time to understand their minds and to make their own choices are the ones that I want to listen to. With that in mind, I would like to recommend some reading: do take a look at our books section.