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Boomer Career Tip: Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Baby Boomers feeling a tad touchy about your declining mental sharpness (see: Decision Making Skills Peak at 53), all is not lost, least of all your neurons.

In a recent New York Times piece, How to Train the Aging Brain, reporter Barbara Strauch had some very good news for Boomers suffering TOT disorder (Tip Of Tongue.)

"If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can."
A ha, something Boomers have over Gen Y!
The challenge is how to keep your brain in shape. Strauch, author of the upcoming book The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain says it's a matter of pushing yourself outside of your very set and stable comfort zone. Forcing your neurons to think and ponder new ideas helps those vital connectors stay in good shape.

As Kathleen Taylor, of St. Mary's College of California explained to Strauch, Boomers would do their brain a favor if they "jiggle their synapses a bit" by confronting contrary ideas.

The Olbermann-O'Reilly Effect I'm thinking this could be a new marketing ploy at the partisan cable shops. You may not agree with me, but I am good for your brain. If you've got a conservative bent, opening yourself up to 30 minutes a day of Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow just might be the new apple a day. Tend toward a more liberal world view? Okay, then it's time to get cozy with Bill O'Reilly.

The experts Strauch cites took a less extreme approach; they recommend kinder, gentler neural exercises such as learning a new language, or driving a different route to work. (Turn off the GPS while you're doing it; it's good for your brain and you won't have to listen to the constant drone of "recalculating route.")

But the point is clear: Challenge yourself to learn something new, or contemplate a foreign idea and it will help your brain stay in shape. That's not only good for your general well-being, but it also has implications for your employment prospects, if you are planning to work well into your 60s or 70s. Venturing beyond your comfort zone today can impact how comfortable a retirement you end up with, if it helps you and your brain stay employable longer.

It Works for your IRA and 401(k) Too Stepping out of your comfort zone is a great investing tool as well. The smartest moves rarely feel good or easy when you make them: Buying when the market is low, selling when it is high. Questioning the conventional wisdom. But pushing yourself to go against the grain-contrarian investing-is what works. As Warren Buffett, one of the sharpest investing brains of our time so elegantly laid it out: "A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."