Those of you who work out on a regular basis (you might have to use your imagination here, Jon) will be well aware of the value and importance of stretching before you begin your workout. Stretching warms up the muscles slowly and prepares them for the more strenuous exercise to come. In this way, you prevent damage that would be caused by enlisting your muscles to do work before they were ready.
So what does this have to do with proposal, right? (I can see Jon tapping his pen, doing his best to be patient here, all the while thinking, “Would you please get to the point here B.J.?”). Well, the concept of doing mental stretching and preparing our brains for the heavy lifting ahead each day came to mind the other morning at the breakfast table.
You see, part of my morning routine is to do the ‘Jumble’ puzzle. I suspect many of you will be familiar with and perhaps attempt to solve this each day. For those of you not familiar with the puzzle, it consists of four words which are scrambled that, when unscramble reveal the answer to a question or phrase. I find it to be great for getting my mental juices flowing. I also find it fascinating that a scrambled four or five letter word, typically a very common one, can occasionally be nigh on impossible to unscramble. And it’s downright infuriating when it is revealed to be a very common word and is, upon revelation, intuitively obvious (though it certainly wasn’t prior to that point!).
In addition to being a great way to get my brain in gear (don’t go there Jon!), I also find knowing that there is a solution, and not being able to immediately see it, prepares me for persevering when attempting to solve the problems and puzzles that I’ll no doubt encounter throughout my day. It definitely conditions me to look at things a variety of ways and to try to see what I might be missing.
Jon and I also use ‘stretching’ exercises when working with proposals teams. This might be ‘The World’s Best Proposal’ to help team members visualize the best case end result during a kick-off meeting, or it might be a problem or puzzle to prime a group during a strategy development session.
So consider what you’re doing for stretching and warming up that major muscle – your brain – before starting your day or a challenging activity. If mental stretching is already part of your routine, great. If not, give it a try and see if it doesn’t improve your performance (and lessen the pain afterwards). And if you managed to unscramble the third word of yesterday’s Jumble puzzle, don’t tell me the answer. I’m still working on it.