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Ask anyone how they’re feeling these days and chances are they’ll reply with some version of “exhausted.” We’re tired of operating amid uncertainty. We’re tired of balancing childcare with work. We’re tired of staffing shortages and supply chain problems.

When we feel like this, our brains want to save mental energy by directing our focus to the most readily available, recallable information to help us make decisions quickly. We often do this by going with our gut and making our best guess.

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We are naturally inclined to do what feels good or comfortable or just “right”. Our brains tag effort as bad because it’s hard work. So, how do we do hard things when our brains are constantly telling us not to?

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Focused mode of thinking is when you concentrate intently on something, like solving a math problem. While, diffused mode of thinking is a more relaxed kind of thinking. It is when you zoom out of the problem and see new connections, new patterns, and the bigger perspective. At any given point in time, you are either in focused mode of thinking or the diffused mode. It seems you can't be in both thinking modes at the same time.

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Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects is an interesting course offered on Coursera. The instructors, Barb Oakley and Terry Sejnowski have put together a series of videos and reading material that are concise yet full of information. There are interview videos with experts with multiple backgrounds that are insightful. Here are some of my take aways from the course.

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Minimalism forces you to live in the present. Removing items associated with past memories frees you and allows you to stop living in the past. Once the past no longer has power, you can begin to live in the moment.

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