Why should you read this chapter?
We’ve already covered a variety of exercises that help one focus in our age of distraction:
- Handwriting Ideas
Now, we’ll cover a profoundly underrated and often-overlooked exercise that helps the mind focus and get the day started on the right foot: the concept of using flashcards for focused affirmations.
In a prior chapter on handwriting ideas, I mentioned the use of using flashcards to start the day. In this chapter, I’ll elaborate on the why, what, how, who and best practices in using flashcards to focus the mind.
The concept of using flashcards
You don’t realize how pervasive it is.
In our information age, technology has centered on delivering more information, in less time. What does this give us? TMI (“Too Much Information”). We’re given a sea of data, and a millisecond to derive meaning from this data.
More than ever, we need to find a way to understand and reflect on meaningful data.
That’s where flashcards come into the picture.
The act of flashcard reflection is a habit that likens itself to Western forms of meditation–focused, contemplation-based meditations.
The concept is simple: throughout the day, write down quotes, ideas, actions, insights, vocabulary and lessons. Then, each morning, review the ideas and digest a handful of them to remind you of what you’ve learned and why you’re here.
Three Sections of Flashcards:
This section includes vocabulary and terms that you’ve picked up out of books, or even a book specifically aimed at vocabulary.
Why should you care about vocab? I mean, the SAT is probably long gone, right?
The reason you’ll want to sharpen your vocabulary: You’ll want to sharpen your vocabulary not for the purpose of using the terms to “sound smart;” rather, you’ll want to pick up terms so that when anyone ever attempts to sound smart around you, you’ll be able to immediately interpret what they’re trying to say. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to correct them on their incorrect use of a term (if they’re arrogantly using a term, that is).
Here’s a book I used for sharpening my vocabulary: Word Smart
The second section within your flashcard deck centers on the part of life that matters most: life itself.
Life lessons include quotes, ideas and personal experiences that you want to learn from. These can be anything that are inspirational, moving or self-affirmations that remind you who you are and what your purpose is (we’ll get into purpose in a later chapter). Fill this section with ideas that not only move you, but also define who you are.
The pain and lack of purpose in our world is very real.
I have quite a few friends and colleagues that have pulled themselves up from their bootstraps and launched successful ventures. These are people that are written about in newspapers, blogs and even books; however, I find that their vulnerabilities and feelings are exactly the same as the rest of the world’s. And the one’s that don’t have a sense of purpose, or a sense of meaning, end up burning out. You must realize that success is not as important as significance.This section within your flashcard deck serves as a reminder of this concept every single day.
The career section contains lessons, concepts, quotes and models of a specific industry or occupation that you’re passionate about.
For instance, if it’s entrepreneurship, you’ll stumble across an article like, “Startup Advice in Three Words,” and then write down lessons from the article on a flashcard.
If you’re in the engineering realm, write down critical formulas, laws and concepts. If you’re a business consultant, write down models such as Porter’s 5 Forces. If you’re in real-estate, write down some of the old economics laws that build a foundation for your thought process. If you’re an artist, jot down some ideas that inspire you; or inspirational stories from famous artists.
Each day, I take ten flashcards from each section and review them.
This results in three things: it gives me clarity, peace of mind and a focused start to the day. I know why I’m here, what I’m passionate about and what I plan to do. If you make this a habit, you’ll get focused at the start of every day–and it will translate into not only results, but fulfillment. Guaranteed.
4 Simple steps for getting your flashcard system up-and-running:
- Get a large number of flashcards
- Get the flashcard separators
- Get the flashcard box (sample)
- Get a solid pen that encourages your to write (you’ll do a lot of it)
Starting from nothing:
The value of flashcards, like the network effect, sits in direct proportion to the quantity and quality of flashcards that you have available. In order to get started, though, here’s a trick that wasn’t available to me when I began creating flashcards:
It’s called Flashcard Exchange.
This services contains thousands of Flashcards made available by others. It’s like YouTube for flashcards. These flashcards are for studying, and span a wide range of material and disciplines. The best part of this service is that you can select either to review flashcards online or offline.
There’s really pro’s and cons with both.
The pro’s with online flashcards centers on the ability to edit, rearrange and save paper.
The con’s with online flashcards sits on the freedom to actually write freely. Additionally, you’re more likely to get distracted when YouTube, and Perez Hilton are just a click away.
Why Flashcards work:
We live in an information overload society. Services that make it a point to provide less information are thriving. You’ll see articles that are going viral that show the best start-up advice in three words. You’ll see tools like Twitter, who make it a point to share bite-sized bits of information. Or even 37 Signals, who make it their competitive edge to focus on less–and focus on only core features.
Bite-sized pieces of powerful, moving ideas are contained within flashcards. The shape, style and nature of flashcards enable one to swiftly engage and absorb those ideas. This is the power of flashcards. The power sits in their bite-sized ability to galvanize one to take action. It’s a perfect routine for starting any day.
The Science Behind Flashcards:
The use of flashcards is really a form of self-affirmations. The repetitive use of flashcards is a focus-driven, knowledge based form of self affirmations. Being that these affirmations are based on knowledge and prior thought, I refer to them as “Focused Affirmations.”
Focused affirmations are a form of autosuggestion that allow the brain’s synapses to strengthen, sharpen and move towards actions that are built within the foundation of focused affirmations.
You’ll find autosuggestion and affirmations in many self-help books; typically they come across as touchy-feely, and the author really doesn’t give a damn on whether it truly works or not. They’ll just say, “tell yourself that you’re the best! Then they’ll give you a quote from some benign, dead author; or they’ll take you through a meandering story about someone that told themselves that they were the best. I’ll do you a favor and cut through that. Here’s the real juice:
The no bullshit take on self affirmations, and whether or not they work:
In the human brain, there is a type of cell that exists, which rarely gets any coverage or exposure in the media or in your boring textbooks growing up. These cells are known as glial cells. Glia, in Greek, refers to glue. These cells surround and glue together neurons within the brain, and kill inanimate and dying neurons.
Thus, if you’re not using a specific set of neural synapses, you’ve got a glial cell looking over its shoulder ready to kill it off. Thus, in order to counter this neurological act, you must routinely exercise your neurons. You do this through consistent, and routine focused thought. Scientists have found that affirmations keep the neurons firing, and the neurological pathways fresh. Thus, focused affirmations do, indeed, expand the mind and allow you to carry out the actions in which you’ve envisioned.
Self affirmations vs. Focused Affirmations
Self affirmations are short phrases that are in the present-tense. For instance, “I am confident,” or “I make shit happen.”
Focused affirmations are quotes, vocabulary, lessons, models and phrases outlined on flashcards above.
So which type of affirmations should you implement?
In my flashcard deck, I have about 90% focused affirmations, and 10% self affirmations. I proportion my affirmations this way to supplement focused insight with active belief. For me, this works and makes sense. I suggest having more focused affirmations than self affirmations; however, the actual percentage proportion is on you to decide.
The act of using flashcards for focused affirmations and self-affirmations is critical for expanding the mind, and moving towards significance (not just success). By building a daily foundation containing the acts above, you’ll feel a certain sense of clarity. This clarity will allow you to focus and live a more fulfilled day. Guaranteed. Put this into action, and as always, please share your results in the comments below.
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