Why You Should Stretch Your Mind And Ways To Do It

Today is the birthday of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., born August 29, 1809.

He was a brilliant doctor known for his witty lectures at Harvard, and also a poet and essayist.

There is one quote I enjoy from his prose series “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table” that has become popular on sites like Pinterest and Tumblr:

Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions. After looking at the Alps, I felt that my mind had been stretched beyond the limits of its elasticity, and fitted so loosely on my old ideas of space that I had to spread these to fit it.  

—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. 1858.

It’s so true.

New thoughts and experiences permanently change our minds. When you hear a new idea, it moves in and makes room for itself in your head.

It might not always be useful, sometimes we might even disagree with it, but we still notice all this new space.

(metaphorically speaking)

Once expanded to see a broader view of the world, of humanity — the mind will never return to its original dimensions.

According to science, we only use less than 10 percent of our brains. We confine ourselves to limited, mostly past experiences. It seems like as you get older, you lose your childhood curiosity and have programmed yourself not to stretch without even realizing it.

I love Holmes’ quote because it reminds us how much we’ve yet to tap into.

So what does this actually mean? Can you really stretch your mind and achieve more out of life?

Ask yourself, what makes you come alive? Follow that passion. Seriously. Do it.

Take some risks and have a willingness to make magnificent mistakes in your career, in love, in the pursuit of your personal happiness. There’s no such thing as failure, only early attempts at success.

Be conscious about what you are thinking, saying to people and doing in life in general. Actively remind yourself to be present and inquisitive.

Soak up as much wisdom and knowledge as possible. The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know. You will have the drive and motivation to want more.

You only get one brilliant mind and one short life, so do it big. Read, write, question and explore.

Our minds are never going to return to the size they were before.

That is the point of the quote.

And I love it.

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Add yours →

  1. Yes! Yes! and, Yes! FYI…curiosity hasn’t killed this cat yet!


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