For a Great Mood, Stick to the Basics

I see my work as beginner material. And I'm not saying that to insult my work. Not at all. The most important material in any field is fundamental and not fancy. It is beginner material. Most of the greatest gains come from the most basic methods.

Think about that. When you're trying to improve your mood, almost all the benefit comes from just a few basic techniques. The ignorance of this fact sends people on time-wasting goose-chases.

For example, I know a young man who drinks wheat grass, uses healing magnets in his shoes, and drinks water only if it is filtered. But he doesn't exercise. In my opinion, exercise is beginner material. It is basic and fundamental and would produce more real gains to his state of health and well-being than all the esoteric stuff combined. There are hundreds of studies showing how effective and important exercise is, and there are only scattered reports or mere anecdotal evidence that the other three things I mentioned make much of a difference or do any good at all.

If the basics are already in place, and you've got extra time and money for more questionable things, by all means go for it. But if the most important basics are not taken care of, forget the esoteric things.

There are a few things in life that are really important. All else is secondary and even superfluous. But there's only one problem: The fundamentals are boring to an inquisitive mind like yours, so it wanders off and wants to get fancy. But to really be in a good mood a lot of the time you need to keep coming back to the basic fundamentals.

No matter what you're trying to accomplish, you will do best if you concentrate most of your effort on the most basic and fundamental things.

Earl Nightingale once had a conversation with his friend, Dr. L.D. Pankey. Nightingale was looking at a picture of one of Pankey's classes he taught for the people in his profession every year, when he noticed that there were some familiar faces — faces he'd seen in pictures of earlier classes.

"I notice many of the people who took your course a year ago took it again this year," said Nightingale, "What did you teach them this year that you didn't teach them last year?"

"Nothing," replied Pankey, "I teach them the same thing every year, not only in this country but abroad as well. Oh, I add to it each year, as I learn new things. But basically, it's the same course every year."

"Do you mean you teach the same things to the same people all over again?"

"That's right," said Pankey. He looked up at Nightingale. "When you find your golf game isn't as good as you'd like it to be," he said, "or you suddenly find the ball isn't going where you want it to go, and you can't quite put your finger on what's wrong, what do you do?"

Nightingale didn't have to think about that one. "Well, I go back to the pro for some lessons."

"That's right. And what does he teach you? Does he teach you something new about the game — something you didn't know at some time before? Or does he merely remind you once again of the basic fundamentals that, if you'll but be guided by them, will result in your getting the kind of score you'll be happier with?"

The idea of coming back to basics is itself a basic and needs reminding too. And one of the most enjoyable ways to re-learn the basics is to teach them to others. No doubt, as you read the articles on this blog, you'll learn some useful things you'll be able to teach your friends, and by teaching them, they will benefit and you will learn it better. That's a finding that has schools changing their curricula.

In tutoring programs in the past, they would take kids who excelled and let them teach kids who weren't doing very well. But recently, a different approach has shown a tremendous amount of promise: Taking average or below-average students and having them teach students two grades lower — fourth graders tutoring second graders, for example.

In studies on this approach it was found that the second graders obviously benefit, but the fourth graders did too. Many of them had never quite mastered some skills until they had to teach it to someone. The process of teaching the younger students allowed the older students to clarify and solidify what they had learned before, and it also improved their attitudes and increased their self-confidence besides.

When you think you've got a pretty good grasp on something, try teaching it to someone. The process of doing so will increase your own understanding, as well as giving you an even better ability to stay in a great mood than you have now.

Helping someone else learn something fundamental will deepen your mastery of those important basics. One of the things I like most about the business I'm in — writing — is how much better I understand what I learn just by trying to explain it in writing.

The point of all this is: Stick to the basics. One good way of reviewing some basics you already know is to teach them to someone.

Fundamentals are the most important. Everything else is icing. When your frame of mind is in good shape, when your relationships are all doing well, and when you've done what you can for your health for today, then concern yourself with extras. Don't spend time on icing when the basics are not in place.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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