Defining Mind Fitness
What can you handle?
People often ask me what RARE SENSE is exactly. I tell them it’s the pursuit of mind fitness. Alternatively, you can think of it as a discipline, lifestyle, or attitude instead of a “pursuit.” Honestly, the exact term isn’t very important. More critical is the realization that your entire life is a mental construct. And therefore, the fitness of your mind is paramount to optimizing your existence.
Despite that fact, most people do very little to train themselves mentally, which is why I usually refer to the “uncommon” pursuit of mind fitness. Adding this modification also highlights my rather obvious play on “common sense.”
However, I’ve yet to define “mind fitness” explicitly anywhere. In the RARE SENSE Manifesto, I spoke about the need to rebrand “mental health,” or at least move past it, because of the negative connotation and baggage associated with that phrase. I argue that “mind fitness” is more proactive and goal-oriented. But I failed to say precisely what I mean by it. Given that an understanding of RARE SENSE rests firmly on this expression, I need to take a step back and do that.
Let’s start with a quick refresher on how we arrived at the term. Most people agree that physical health is a spectrum. At one end, you have “illness,” and at the other, you have “fitness.”
But humans don’t reside solely at one of these two poles. Quite the opposite. We each find ourselves at one of essentially infinite locations along the continuum. And we can move (albeit slowly) in either direction, depending on our diet, exercise, and recovery regimen, among other factors.
Conversely, we tend to treat mental health as a binary concept. You either have “problems,” or you don’t. You are “ill” or “fine.” “Diseased” or “normal.”
Except conditions like anxiety and depression aren’t infections. They’re not contagious. You can’t “catch” them. Of course, mental illness, just like physical illness, is real. But unless we are referencing severe conditions, we would be better served to think of them as synonymous with an unfit mind. A mind whose health exists on a spectrum like our bodies. Which means it can be trained and consequently, move gradually towards the positive end.
The other issue inherent in our current construct is treating physical and mental health as separate and distinct entities. Never the twain shall meet. This is simply wrong. The two are interconnected and inseparable. One impacts the other and vice versa.
So if we accept that mental health is not only a spectrum but also consummately intertwined with physical health, we can combine them. And if we regard fitness as a “higher” degree of existence and illness as a “lower” one, we can orient our combined mind-body health spectrum vertically instead of horizontally. The result is a holistic health continuum.
But remember, all of existence is ultimately mental. The only way you experience something physical is with your mind. This means its fitness remains of prime concern. Pursue that, and the body will follow.
The question then becomes, what exactly does “mind fitness” mean? After all, we can’t seek to achieve something without defining it first. The most obvious place to assist us with such reification is within sister somatic counterparts. I’ve been a CrossFitter for over a decade, and I’ve always thought that discipline describes physical fitness most succinctly and practically:
Work capacity across broad time and modal domains
Basically, it’s the degree to which you can perform any task. Put more simply, it’s what your body can handle. Could you lift a 300 lb weight off someone being crushed by it? Or what about running five miles in thirty minutes to get help? Or even carry that person the same distance? Your combined ability to do all these things and any other possible permutation determines your physical fitness. To appreciate this perspective, you don’t have to agree with CrossFit’s methodology. The critical point is that the fitness of your body has nothing to do with six-pack abs or other aesthetic concerns. Those can be welcome side effects, but the core goal is the capacity to act, regardless of circumstance.
In Episode 2 of the RARE SENSE Podcast, I spoke with Ben Bergeron, who has coached numerous CrossFit Games champions. In that interview, he similarly referred to mind fitness as—what you can handle mentally. How do you handle a traumatic event? How do you handle the anxiety you might experience as a result? If we expand our aperture, we can consider other mentally-focused questions. Do you understand quantum mechanics? Could you defeat a chess champion? Can you handle either of those things?
Thanks for reading RARE SENSE! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
This is the crux of what makes our pursuit unique and currently uncommon. It goes beyond practices like meditation and mindfulness and arrives at something more overarching in nature. Those disciplines are necessary and certainly help you address your own thoughts more effectively. But they do little, if anything, to increase your capacity for complex problem-solving, expand your comprehension of an academic field of study, or build new neurons in applying a skill.
The various mental capabilities that span the human experience are extensive and diverse. Therefore true mind fitness maximizes as many of them as possible. Consider everything your mind could potentially do. Then ask yourself how prepared you are to handle all of it. Within your answer lies the framework for the complete mind fitness package: awareness, focus, emotional processing, effective communication, learning, applying skills, problem-solving, creativity, etc. Based on that understanding, we can now ascertain a working definition for “mind fitness:”
Mental capability across the breadth of human experience
The best part is that every moment is an opportunity to train.So get to it.
DISCLAIMER: RARE SENSE content is not medical advice. Nor does it represent the official position or opinions of any other organization or person. If you require diagnosis or treatment for a mental or physical issue or illness, please seek it from a licensed professional.
Check out the RARE SENSE Challenge if you need help starting mind training.