How to Train Your Brain

Jeff Henderson is the pastor of Gwinnett Church, a multi-site campus of North Point Ministries based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Before serving at Gwinnett Church, Jeff was the lead pastor of North Point’s Buckhead Church, and prior to that spent seventeen years in marketing and advertising, most of which was with Chick-fil-A. You can read more from Jeff on The Gwinnett Church Blog or follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Has anyone ever taught you “how” to think? It might seem like an odd question but think about it for a moment. (No pun intended.)

Light Bulbs Sketched on Chalkboard - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #14314309

Photo courtesy of ©

We all think. We’ve all heard about the power of our thoughts. And we’ve all heard about positive thinking.

But have we ever been taught how? Have we ever been taught how to maximize this incredible God-given ability to think?

Several years ago, I was challenged by a friend with this truth: “Every problem has a solution. You must train your brain to find it. Your brain is like a muscle. The more you train it to think and look for ideas and solutions, the more you will find.”

The key is training. The key is understanding how to think and look for solutions.

It’s the secret to innovation. There is no innovation with innovative thinking.

That said, I want to share one way to train your brain to find and capture thoughts that will lead to more solutions and ideas.

The Ten-Minute Storm

This simple exercise has helped me tremendously in thinking and finding ideas and solutions. I call it the Ten-Minute Storm.

Here’s an example of how I used it: I was working on a message for a sermon series about finding God’s plans for our lives. I needed to create a memorable, catchy bottom line that I hoped people would remember. I had the content written, but not the bottom line.

I wanted people to be able to repeat what my sermon was about on Sunday if they were asked about it at the water-cooler on Monday. If you’ve ever given a talk, you know how hard this is. And that was my problem. So I turned to the ten-minute storm to help.

Here’s how it works.

You’ll need a piece of paper and a pen. (Sorry, no computer. It works best when you write by hand.)

You’ll also need a watch or clock to time the ten minutes.

At a precise beginning point, start writing anything that comes to your mind about the idea, problem, message, etc. Even if you can’t think of anything to write, simply write out “I can’t think of anything to write.” Keep going for ten minutes.

Don’t stop. I repeat. Don’t stop. Keep writing.

At the conclusion of the ten-minute brainstorm, stop and look at what you’ve written. Find patterns. Circle what stands out. See if you can find a connection.

Let’s go back to my sermon series as an example. Here are some phrases and words I wrote while trying to find the bottom line of my talk:

God created you. God’s thumbprints are on you. God has a plan for you. How do you find God’s plan for your life? God’s will. Do you know how you are wired? Do you know how you are created? God’s thumbprints are clues. God’s thumbprints connect with God’s plans. Clues. Thumbprints. Plans. You.

I wrote down phrases and words like that for ten minutes. Once the time was up, I stopped and began to circle the phrases that stood out. Suddenly, I saw the bottom line of my message:

God’s thumbprints on you are clues about His plans for you.

I gave that talk last fall. It’s been so fun hearing people come up to me and repeat that bottom line over and over again.

My point is this: Every problem has a solution. You just have to train your brain to look for them.

Question: How about you? How have you trained your brain to look for ideas and solutions? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Joe Lalonde

    Jeff, great post! I, too, feel that very few have been taught to train our brains. We’ve been taught memorization but not much else.

  • MusicPoweredStrategy

    Jeff, Thanks for the tip.  Will definitely give it a shot.

    Do you happen to have a blog post or video of the sermon you reference?  Would love to watch or read it.  Would love ideas on finding God’s plan for my life.

    Thanks again,

  • Jo Rae

    My brain works entirely the opposite. :-) Usually the title or memorable tag line comes first, especially when reading scripture. I have a background in marketing and sales, but I believe the titles, tag lines, etc. are given to me by God. Something in the scripture speaks to me and I see it in a different way. For example in the scripture where Jesus says, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. ” Luke 22:31-32, the title that came to me was “Satan’s Baking.” It’s the title that gives me the idea for the piece. 

    Your blog is informative and a joy to read! Thanks -

  • Cynthia Leighton

    Love that bottom line! Fabulous. Thanks!

  • Peter Paluska

    Brilliant! Reminds me of Earl Nightingale’s method. Thank you, Michael!


  • Alyssa Avant

    Love it.  And it is so true that there is something about pencil in hand and pencil to paper that works so well.  It’s unlike anything else. 

  • Abdullah Birdsong

    Excellent and thought provoking. I envision employing this technique for a variety of situations. For creative types like me, I would investigate adapting the storm. Instead of using words, maybe use small sketches.

    Abdullah Birdsong
    Lead Pastor
    Dunamis Church

    • Jeff Henderson

      Great idea Abdullah!

  • turner_bethany

    It definitely seems like the creative juices still work much better with pen and paper. Love the brainstorming idea. Can’t wait to put it into practice in the work environment instead of just the college classroom now. 

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  • Melissa – Mel’s World

    Love this idea Jeff…thanks so much for sharing…it’s great seeing how much God is stretching and growing you from when I met you almost 8 years ago at a conference…incredible! Will absolutely be doing this ten minute storm!

  • TNeal

    Excellent exercise. I just got back from a short-term mission trip with our church group. My main responsibilities, the things I did best, were devotions plus preach in a morning service and an evening service (two different churches near Amman, Jordan). Most of my travel time was brainstorming in preparation for the next speaking opportunity. By the way, Maxwell’s “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” provided exceptional, practical advice for connecting on all three levels–individually, small group, and large audience. Thank you for sending it my way. I finished reading it the day before boarding the plane for Tel Aviv.

  • Steve Schaefer

    The brain is wired to be a puzzle solver…thanks for the great tip to exercise our potential.

  • Carol

    This is great! Would also love to hear your series on finding God’splan for our lives. Any chance?

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  • Ritadiks

    really nice, i  have done it in very few occasions but never figured out what i was actually doing could be useful thanks for this new learning

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  • Ale

    =)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))) it is really work dear, i mean wow! tq and it is really good to c ppl think about brain.

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  • Jessica


  • needmathhelp

    does this work for finding solutions for math problems?

  • Dave

    I like your Train Your Brain ideas and have even developed a workshop around “How your mind works”.  My workshop focuses on first designing a short, concise vision (since training doesn’t do much good without an idea of what you are “training for”) and then understanding the tools we all have to improve our thinking (and our motivation).  I enjoyed reading your blog !
    d.Mark “Dave” (my new book on Training your Brain for weight control)