The Shocking Value of Developing Mindfulness

Solve this puzzle as quickly as you can: 

A man purchases a baseball bat and a ball for $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball.  

How much does the ball cost? 

Was your answer 10 cents? If so, you answered like 80% of college-educated individuals, and you also answered wrong

Check again. If the ball costs $0.10, then the bat would cost $1.10, bringing the total to $1.20. 

The correct answer is actually 5 cents. If the ball costs $0.05, then the bat would cost $1.05, bringing the total to $1.10. [1]


Do not feel bad if you answered this problem incorrectly the first time around. Even Ivy League graduates only answer correctly on this problem 50% of the time!

So why do so many intelligent people get this problem wrong?

The answer lies in the part of our brain that is doing the problem solving. When you were thinking about the problem the first time around, you were using a completely different part of your brain than when you thought about it the second time.

Because you were asked to solve the problem quickly, you subconsciously delegated the task to your brain's limbic system; or as I call it the "primitive brain". The primitive brain is responsible for all of our automatic decision-making. It responds to traffic signs, reminds us to brush our teeth, and tells us to check our email when we get into the office. [2]

It takes care of these easy tasks so that we do not use up as much mental energy thinking about each trivial decision. This allows us to conserve our mental resources for more important thinking like planning, communicating and using our creativity. 

However, as you can see, the primitive brain is not very smart. It picks up bits of information (a total of $1.10 with $1.00 for the bat) and comes to the easiest answer (the ball must be $0.10!) without questioning other factors.

Why does he want me to answer quickly?

If the answer is this easy, why is he even asking me?

Maybe I should add my prices for the ball and the bat to see what I get before deciding on my final answer.

These questions call upon our modern brain. This part of our brain is responsible for a higher level of thinking. It is what we use for abstract thinking, creativity and exerting our willpower.


We like to believe that our daily decisions are made from a process of well-informed decision-making. We believe that we are investigating every angle of the problem and choosing our best option.

Unfortunately this is completely false. About 45% of the decisions that we make come from our primitive brain. We naturally want to conserve our mental energy, so we default to making the easiest decision whenever possible. [3]

This works well when the task is simple, like remembering to brush your teeth, but problems occur when we start to use our automatic decision-making in pursuit of our higher goals. 

As you can see from the problem at the beginning of this article, our primitive brain’s decision-making is flawed. If we default to using the logic of our primitive brain to make decisions about what food to eat, when to exercise, or how to prioritize our to-do list, we will be thinking with the same logic as “the ball equals 10 cents”.

We will make poor decisions without realizing it. We will not double-check to make sure we are on the right path, or question the consequences of our choices. This is a natural flaw in our genetic makeup, but one that can be easily corrected with a simple idea – becoming more mindful. 


Mindfulness is one of the most underrated skills in our society. Studies have shown that people who are more mindful of their decisions have: [4]

·      More happiness

·      More success in relationships

·      More success in school

·      More success in work

·      Less stress

·      Better physical health

·      A better ability to adapt to change

·      A better ability to deal with setbacks

The list goes on. The reason that people who are more mindful see this kind of success is because they use their modern brain for more of their daily decisions. They use the logic that the ball actually costs 5 cents when they decide what they will eat, what they will spend their money on, and what tasks require their attention.

Rather than being on autopilot, they have developed the natural ability to see problems through the lens of the modern brain, leading them to make better decisions.

This trait is powerful. Think about the fact that if you simply approach the bat and ball problem in a mindful way, you will have answered the question with more logic and reasoning than 50% of the people at Harvard! [1]

Powerful indeed. And, unlike Harvard, you won’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop this trait.


So how do we become more mindful and develop the natural ability to apply our modern brain to our daily decisions? 

Researchers have found 3 simple ways to train your brain to become more mindful.


Most of the time that we are on autopilot, our minds are completely lost in thought. We are thinking about what we’re going to do in the future, or reminiscing on something in the past. This means that our modern brain is lost in thought and not focusing on the present decision. So our primitive brain is called into duty.

Meditation trains the modern brain to be present. Practicing meditation for as little as 10 minutes a day will help develop your natural ability to focus and let go of the worries of the future or past. Simply by training the brain to be present in the decision-making process, you will naturally begin to think about the decision with your modern brain. [5]

To get started meditating, check out this article which will list all of the benefits of meditation and give you the step-by-step guide to getting started.


Something odd happens in our brains when we look at ourselves in the mirror. The part of the brain that would say "hey, that's me in the mirror" is not activated. Instead it is a part of the brain that says "I wish I was taller, skinnier, more muscular, etc." [4]

In other words, rather than seeing see who we are, we see who we want to be. This is not because we are shallow, it is because we all have an ideal self that we want to live up to. With this ideal self in our mind, we begin to think and act more like them. And, as you can probably guess, this ideal self is mindful and uses the modern brain to make its decisions. 

The best way to keep your ideal self in mind is through a process called Self-Monitoring. This involves keeping track of as much information on yourself as possible. Like with the mirror, you will look at the information on yourself and compare it to what you really want. This will turn on your modern brain and train it to take over in your decision-making process.

To get started, check out the list of ways to begin self-monitoring at the bottom of this article.


Ready for another puzzle? See if you can write down a list of all 50 states. When you have listed 10, see if you can continue writing them while also figuring out the answer to 17 x 24. 

Were you able to do it?

Both of these problems require our modern brain to solve. If I were to ask you to write the 50 states and do a simple problem like 10 x 5, you would have had no problem doing it. 10 x 5 is easy. It only requires the primitive brain to solve, so we can successfully multi-task.

The modern brain, however, does not like to multi-task. Because it requires a higher level of thought than the primitive brain, it works best when focused on one problem at a time.

The more you try to multi-task in your life, the more you are training your primitive brain. Despite your best intentions, you will unknowingly be applying the primitive brain's flawed logic to your multi-tasking.

So resist the temptation to multi-task and remain focused. This will train your modern brain and help you become more mindful. [1]


There is a big difference in the intelligence of our primitive brain and our modern brain. Our primitive brain is lazy. It wants to get things done quickly and does not stop to make sure that it is making the right decision. And 45% of the time, we are naturally using this part of the brain to make our decisions!

We can overcome this natural tendency by becoming more mindful. Simply by becoming more mindful of our daily decisions, we begin to use our modern brain. Our modern brain is intelligent. It applies logic, reasoning and questioning of possible consequences; leading to better decision-making.

By practicing meditation, self-monitoring and focusing on one task at a time, you can train your modern brain to become the dominant decision-maker. This will lead to better decisions, better habits and a better chance of reaching your goals!