To say one has a mind like a steel-trap is an idiomatic way of paying a high compliment. It is claiming that a person is able to gather and process information very quickly, come to conclusions, and appreciate subtle differences and definitions. Even though some people are born with this kind of mental disposition, many of us are not. Training your mind to be able to think quickly, clearly and effectively, however, is possible for everyone, no matter what your I.Q. or status in life.
Training your mind is both a science and an art. It is a science in the same way that physical training follows certain biological laws and rules, and there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. If you work weights you can build up a bicep, and eventually become top-heavy with spindly legs – not very attractive or healthy. But if you have a personal trainer, he can guide you in how to optimize the workout to achieve your premium physical powers. The same is true of training your mind. You need some guidance from those who have gone before you, and can lead you into the world of logic and reason.
Learning to think takes practice, and that’s where the art comes in. Anyone who learns to play a musical instrument, for instance, usually does not sit down and begin playing like Chopin. The same is true in training your mind to think clearly and effectively. You must exercise your mind daily, nurture it with rational games, feed it with books, dwell on puzzles and problems. The more you work out, the stronger your mind will become, until you also are thinking at your maximum potential, clearly, effectively, rationally and like someone who has a mind like a steel-trap!
Ever wonder what techniques “memory champions” use to remember dozens or hundreds of facts and figures, dates and historical events, names and faces and places? Would you like to have this ability next time you are at an important dinner party or company lunch and need to place names with faces? Would you like to have the mind power that enables you to save paper and trees by perfectly recalling your shopping list? It’s possible, and you don’t have to be a genius or a savant to learn how to remember things.
There is an ancient trick to memory called the method of loci whereby one remembers things by associating them with the part of the brain that uses spatial memory. You might try this with a familiar room. You have a list of things you need for work, and a route from your bedroom to your bathroom. On the bed, you mentally place a giant briefcase. On the dresser you have a ream of shredded paper. In the hallway, a huge ringing cellphone, on the toilet a stack of client information, etc. As you mentally trace the route, you can more easily recall the list. It works more elaborately with associating numbers and letters as well by combining images, and is a very effective method of mind power, a path of total recall. A numbered way of accessing information, such as saying, “in the first place” (the bed), and “in the second place” (the dresser), etc., is a remnant of this method of memory work.
Potentially, you could devise a memory mansion of the mind, a multi-roomed artifice filled with tons of associate information, all easily retrievable. The more dramatic the image is that is associated with each familiar spatial place, the more easily it is retrieved. The method of loci is a proven way to use your mind power and master your memory.