This is the second article I’m publishing on Substack, but it should have been the first. I want to dive into RARE SENSE, why it’s important, and how it might help you.
At its core, RARE SENSE is a mental health theory and practice. However, I prefer to use the term mind fitness. It’s proactive, positive, and doesn’t carry the connotations or baggage associated with mental health. RARE SENSE is primarily based on lessons I learned while working for years to overcome my mental health and chronic illness issues. Throughout this journey, I saw dozens of practitioners, ingested thousands of supplements, racked up hundreds of pages of lab results, read countless books, and tried all sorts of unorthodox treatments. It was an experience that taught me one critical lesson—the extent to which many of the solutions to my problems were within the power of my mind. RARE SENSE represents the application of that key learning, based upon the best practices I’ve found, into a structured and cohesive approach.
Throughout any forthcoming content, I will not claim to be able to treat or cure anything. I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist. Nor am I discrediting the expertise of people with those titles. I simply assert to be a sufferer who’s been down nearly every rabbit hole and tried almost any potential remedy over the last decade. That counts for something in the realm of credibility regarding the concept I’m presenting here. You don’t need a fancy degree or license to inquire within, be not dumb, and figure it out.
I’ve also found more solace and inspiration in the voices of the afflicted than in the accredited. Hopefully, I can motivate others to speak up too, so we might collectively express an attitude of courage, tenacity, and unity. After all, we’re the ones in the arena. As Maximus says in Gladiator,
We’ve got a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? If we stay together, we survive.
RARE SENSE isn’t a me thing. It’s a we thing.
Lastly, remember that the ultimate power is yours, regardless of what you read here. A great counselor is essentially helping you help you. We as individuals possess the extent to which any advice has on our thoughts and actions. Words themselves possess no salubrious or deleterious effects.
No matter who you are, I think you might find RARE SENSE useful to improve your mind. Maybe it can even allow us all to perform better as humans. So without further ado, let’s start with a brief overview of its basic tenets.
The Current Model
Everybody understands the importance of physical fitness. The healthier our bodies, the more capable we are, and the more enjoyable our lives can become. This classic approach is based on diet, exercise, and recovery. It’s a simple model. Eat well, work out, get enough sleep, and you’ll be healthy, barring any diseases.
But recently, the term human performance has become the rage. The idea is to level up physical health; to optimize it through various dietary and workout regimens, bio-hacks, and technology like wearables and trackers.
Finally, alongside this evolution is an emerging trend of mindfulness and meditation as an adjunct to the traditional view. Taken in total, the current model looks something like this:
This works for many people. But it’s a construct that mainly focuses on our bodies, despite the rather obvious fact that what makes us the dominant species on Earth isn’t our physical makeup. Innumerable animals are more impressive in that category. They’re faster, stronger, and more powerful. Some can fly, and others can breathe underwater. There isn’t a single fundamental physical characteristic where humans rank at the top of the chart.
Homo Sapiens rule the planet because of our minds. No other living thing even comes close in terms of mental capacity. Therefore, we cannot reasonably take a slant on human performance that largely ignores this fact and almost exclusively concentrates on our physical well-being. We also can’t think of mental development as purely limited to mindfulness. Meditation is a great practice. But it’s only one component that makes up overall mind fitness. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, everything we experience is a mental construct. If we take human performance seriously (and should), we must view it with a mind-first attitude and find ways to be mentally fit as a priority.
A New Model
The path to genuinely optimized human performance sees the old factors of diet, exercise, and recovery as supportive of physical health via mental health. Looking through this lens (and considering that our brains control our bodies and absolutely everything we do), physical fitness results from mind fitness. By taking the existing model and flipping it on its head (both literally and figuratively), we can shift the focus of our fitness regimens to our minds. And by adding the components of mental orientation and development, we can round out the model and achieve a holistic approach to mind fitness and human performance.
The beauty of this construct is that it also reinforces itself. It’s cyclical. Better mind fitness improves the behavior that created it in the first place. This new model consists of three blocks, each of which contains four actions:
Orient (Locate, Feel, Focus, Notice)
Develop (Learn, Apply, Solve, Create)
Maintain (Breathe, Fuel, Move, Rest)
Taken together, our new model looks like this:
I’ll detail what each of these pieces means in future content and lay out actionable measures to execute against them. For now, here’s a rough overview.
The underlying fundamental thing we need to perform each day is maintenance. Our brains are just another organ in our bodies. And your mind won’t operate efficiently and effectively if your brain isn’t healthy. Staying up all night eating junk food on your couch isn’t a recipe for success. Luckily the same basic formula for a healthy body creates a fit mind. Many of us already have a physical fitness routine and now must ensure it supports mind fitness as well. However, we also need to bring the forgotten practice of breathwork into the picture.
Once we do the basics behind a physically healthy body and brain well, we can properly orient our minds. This starts with picking the most natural setting possible. You have to be somewhere physically. So it might as well be a place with sunlight and fresh air. From there, we can establish routines that tap into our feelings, help us focus on the present, notice when our mind drifts, and objectively observe our thoughts. This process can be repeated throughout the day and even incorporated into normal life.
If we are oriented well, we can then develop ourselves. This involves a daily routine of education, skills-based learning, application, problem-solving, and artistic expression. Our minds can’t grow without being challenged, and it’s here where most mindfulness practices fall short of a complete mind fitness picture. It’s not enough to only be aware of our thoughts. We want to also think better through learning, creating, and figuring things out.
You may have noticed that I used routine in all three paragraphs above. This was intentional. One of the key learnings I’ve found through proper mind orientation is that we are nothing more than a collection of patterns. Routine behavior, in essence, makes us. Establishing habits that coincide with the Maintain, Orient, and Develop blocks is critical to the success of the RARE SENSE philosophy. This means we need proper training.
Everyone understands that people exist on a spectrum of physical health, from elite athletes to those who are morbidly obese. To move in a positive direction along that spectrum (or maintain your current level) requires consistent effort. Conversely, many of us approach mental health as if it’s a yes/no issue – like you either have problems or you don’t. This is simply untrue. Mental health also exists on a spectrum, and being fit similarly requires regular practice.
It’s time we evolve how we think about our minds and their development. This isn’t just about people with mental disorders or illnesses. It isn’t just about meditation. It’s about understanding that our entire existence is mental. Everything starts and ends with thought.
Let’s redefine how we perform as humans. Let’s value the health of our minds and develop them through a regular training regimen. Let’s understand how we think and think better. Let’s seek a way to truly optimize our consciousness to benefit ourselves and the collective good through awareness, understanding, and wisdom.
Let’s start using some RARE SENSE.
Level up your mental health:
Subscribe to the RARE SENSE Substack.
Subscribe to the RARE SENSE podcast on any major streaming platform and leave a five-star review if you love it.
Subscribe to the RARE SENSE YouTube channel.
Take the RARE SENSE Challenge.
Connect with me on all major social media platforms @thischrisirwin.
Invite me to speak about mind fitness to your organization by filling out the RARE SENSE contact form.
You can also support my work by purchasing RARE SENSE gear or sharing my content with others.
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.
Great stuff hear Chris. Excited to see where you take this. I really think you're on to something here.
Elite Mindfulness…I love it! I totally agree that “mental issues” are not a yes/no situation. We all have our moments, or even entire seasons where our perspectives are skewed by negative or positive routines. Just having an awareness of this can make one feel more empowered to change course on the current path of it’s not working. Can’t wait to read more