Today during my meditation session, I found it really hard to calm my mind. Thoughts kept running in and out, popping up and down like ping pong balls.
As I observed the thoughts, most of them were thoughts about things I didn’t have closure with, or thoughts that were painting future situations I might experience; an important business phone call, a meeting I forgot to schedule, tension building around a friendship, what to do about 4th of July, my upcoming moving arrangements, and a host of other things darting in and out.
What’s cool is that I was able to observe those thoughts for a second, and then, while I meditate, set them free for 12 minutes. One by one.
My takeaway was that I couldn’t fully give myself today until I gave myself mental room to be clear. I needed to make space in my mind for calmness.
As my friend, Darren Hardy, pointed out in his High Performance Seminar I attended, your brain is similar to a computer. We have long term memory and short-term memory (referred by us computer nerds as RAM). RAM for a computer is used to open and close programs, and find data quickly and a non-sequential order.
Have you ever noticed your computer slowing down after you’ve had it open for a while? Each time you open a new program, your computer assigns some of its RAM to the task. If you keep opening programs or leave the computer on for days and days, the RAM is eaten up, and your computer slows down to a crawl.
The same thing goes on in your brain.
Each time your ‘open’ something new in your brain without getting closure or without resetting, you eat up some of your own personal RAM. Eventually, your head is spinning, you can’t concentrate on the task at hand, you feel worried or anxious, and you are either (a) regretful over the past or (b) fearful of what might happen in the future. Your RAM is gone and you’re powerless to do your best work right now.
So, how do we reset? How do we clear our personal RAM to make space? Here are some tips I’ve found handy.
Write it down
We all have Androids or iPhones. Use the Notes section of your phone to capture anything that you need to do that you have not yet put on the calendar or your to-do list. Then, when you’re planning your day or week, transfer those notes and assign the task to a specific day. Did you forget to call your friend and congratulate them? Either take action on it immediately, or jot it down in your notes and review at the appropriate time.
This creates space by freeing your mind from having to remember it over and over. It allows you to observe and capture it, then act on it at a later time.
Unless you train yourself, most of your thoughts will be spent on things you cannot change at this moment. You will either be thinking about a past event that you cannot change, or a future situation that does not yet exist. Most of that time wastes your RAM. Make a choice – day by day – to observe where your thoughts are and move them to what you can do about things right now. That’s where you get your power – by applying your energy to thoughts and tasks that you can control right now.
When something in my past keeps bothering me, it tells me that I don’t yet have completeness with it. Then, my brain keeps bringing it up, over and over, until I deal with it.
How to clear the thoughts
- Observe the thoughts.
- Ask myself, “Is this within my control to change?” If not, then I work to release it. I decide to accept what is, instead of what I think should be.
- If it is in my control, I ask myself, “Is there anything I can do about this, right now?
- If so, do it immediately, or plan it out (with a time and date).
- If not, I write a note to think about it again at some point in the future, then I let it go.
What I’ve done is cleared space in my head to think and do things that (a) I can control and (b) that I have power to influence at this time. It allows me to “clear my RAM” and work on the most important and real-time events right now. It gives me the right to accept that I don’t have to know the answers, I don’t have to control the outcome, and I don’t have to worry about things. It gives me mental space to focus my energies on what I am doing now, and it produces better results.
I wish this was easy to do, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’d grade myself a “C” on it right now. I’ve had to really work on clearing my personal RAM. But what I’ve observed is that the more you observe and clear, the easier it gets. At first, I totally sucked at it. Now I suck less. And tomorrow, I might even get good at it.
If you find you suck at it at first, that’s OK. It’s normal. But keep practicing and you’ll rewire your brain to create space for today.
Bonus: 3 Steps to Having a Great Day:
- Stop for a moment, take a few minutes and let your mind dwell on three things you’re grateful for.
- Choose to live today free from the failures of yesterday.
- Choose not to worry about what might, or might not, happen tomorrow.
Try it out. Then, repeat tomorrow.
What are ways you make space for yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips. Leave a comment.
2 thoughts on “How to Make Space in your Head”
Steve, great article!! I meditate on gratitude every morning and for the past week or so I’ve really struggled to keep my thoughts on gratitude… I have to admit I winced a bit at the part about the thoughts that interrupt being things about which you don’t have closure… I can relate to that far too much right now!!
Great tips and very well written!
Hi Steve! All of this so true. One that could be added is – get enough sleep! Getting enough sleep allows you to go into REM sleep. It is during that time that short- term memories have a chance to become long-term, freeing up additional RAM space for the next day. I also use a lot of Excel workbooks to ‘download’ information that is bouncing around in my mind. The plus in using Excel files is that the information can be organized so it becomes a useful resource in the future. Have a great day, and thanks for the tips!