Manipulate Your Brain: 3 Principles to Upgrade Daily Life
TOP 3 POST INSIGHTS:
OUR MIND IS A COMPUTER, OUR SELF TALK IS THE PROGRAMMER.
FAIL OR FLY? YOU HAVE 5 SECONDS TO DECIDE.
BE A THERMOSTAT NOT A THERMOMETER.
The brain is the most powerful engine in our body, yet we never got the user manual for it.
From relationships, health, careers and happiness, our minds determine the quality of our lives.
Neuroscience, psychology, meditation and life coaching all aim to help us make better decisions. But that’s like a Volkswagen mechanic, teaching you to drive a car they've never sat behind the wheel of. They know their shit, but they don't exactly know your shit. So whilst a universal brain manual is near impossible, there are simple mindset hacks that we can personalise.
There's a wealth of information in the ether, so don't view the below as the be all and end all. For now, I've picked some stand out quotes from Jim Kwik and Mel Robbins. You could consider them as 'brain coaches'. They've spent the last few decades understanding the brain, so we can manipulate our mind and optimise our lives. So here's 3 principles to strengthen your mind to action connection:
1. OUR MIND IS COMPUTER AND OUR SELF TALK IS THE PROGRAMMER.
Our brains register anxiety and excitement as the same feeling. It's the same physiological arousal. So how can we learn to distinguish the two? It starts with self- talk. As lofty as that sounds, its how we frame thoughts that determine what energy it's converted into.
Jim Kwik, is known for his work in accelerated learning. As a boy, he suffered a brain injury which inhibited his ability to read. He noticed that we're all taught what to learn, not how to learn. He made it his life's mission to understand how the brain works in order fast track knowledge consumption.
One of the concepts he talks about, is our brain as a computer. Where our self talk is the programmer. Our brains are a piece of hardware that performs or crashes based on its told to do.
It's also a magnet. Think of a fortune teller, when she says your future husband/ wife will be wearing blue shorts, you'll be eye hunting every person in the country wearing blue shorts. With the billions of stimuli around is, we only pay attention to things based on our ideas, self worth and beliefs. It all starts with a seed of an idea.
Here's some scenarios that can benefit from self-talk:
- Change ‘I hate my job’ to ‘It's great to get paid while I figure out what my dream career is.'
- Swap anxious thoughts and amp yourself up instead. Think of Gary Vaynerchuck on your shoulder, or beating your chest with Leonardo Dicaprio and Matthew McConaughey. Shift from ‘I’m so nervous about this presentation,’ to ‘I’m so excited to show people how fucking smart I am. It’s about time they see I know my shit. I'm going to crush it.’
- Instead of ‘I hate my stomach fat’ think, ‘Good thing fat isn’t definite. At least I can work on my diet and exercise to change it.’
- Meditate and come up with a morning mantra. Close your eyes for 10 minutes and literally tell yourself 'I will close 2 clients today' or 'I will resist sugar'. You'd be surprised how influential your own voice is.
The best thing about self-talk is that no-one but you can hear it. It doesn’t matter how simple or ridiculous it sounds, just know that your mind is always eavesdropping. So make sure you’re treating yo’ self to some nice words.
2. FAIL OR FLY? YOU HAVE 5 SECONDS TO DECIDE.
“Your life is based on your decisions. If you can control your decisions, you can change everything.” –Mel Robbins.
It takes 5 seconds for our brains to register an idea (or impulse) and turn it into action. If you don't act within the 5 second window, the brain automatically kills that thought. Around 95% of our decisions are made by how you feel in the moment. If we can control these moments, we're more likely to make logical decisions. Science calls this ‘metacognition.’ The awareness of understanding our own thought process.
Mel Robbins introduced the '5 Second Rule' in her 2011 TED talk. It's saved her from depression, divorce, unemployment and others from suicide. She credits this hack to developing mastery over yourself.
"When you become more aware of your thought process, you can interrupt the bullshit that triggers you to do things that are inconsistent to your values."
We’re only one irrational decision away from a career setback, shitty relationship or another 5 pizza slices when we should've stopped at one. Yet we often let these 'emotional micro-moments' get the better of us. So what can you do?
Literally count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 when an impulse kicks in.
Sounds stupid but it can help you in situations like:
- Saying something hurtful instead of constructive to a colleague
- Texting an ex-boyfriend/ girlfriend
- Walking into the confectionary section
- Reaching for the Nutella jar when you're trying to eat clean
- Sleeping in when you've committed to a 6am boxing class
Each of our decisions lead to reward or regret. We're all human, so excuses, laziness, impulse behaviours are bound to happen every once in a while. But we can limit them. By taking 5 seconds to digest our thoughts before action. Only you can decide if you want to fly or fail.
3. BE A THERMOSTAT NOT A THERMOMETER
One lunch date, this super smart dude taught me about the difference between a response and a reaction. He said (and I quote based on loose memory),
“A response takes time and thought, a reaction is thoughtless. When we immediately react to every email, call or message, it's a thoughtless knee jerk reaction. It also sets the expectation that they can call or email you whenever they want. Instead, get back to her in an hour and tell her you will call her at 4pm. That way, you have time to digest all her annoying emails and a 5-minute phone call saves you 20 back and forth messages.”
Ah, wow. So simple yet so effective. Low and behold, that 5 minute call was the most productive act of communication I’d ever had with that colleague.
Jim Kwik uses the metaphor of being a thermostat not a thermometer. Don’t reflect the environment, don’t just mirror what is going on around you. Choose to be a thermostat and create the temperature you want. People will treat you the way you let them and only we can decide what mood we're going to be in. Sounds lofty, but here are some practical examples:
- If a car cuts you off in the morning, he’s an asshole. If every person you meet after that gives you grief, you’re the asshole. Learn to let go of the small things to avoid the negative snowball effect.
- Don’t respond to every fleeting email from your annoying colleagues. Choose a time to call them. Set communication expectations.
- Don’t start and finish your day on social media. Avoid allowing other people’s fake lives influence your day/ sleep. Begin and end your day 30 mins free of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter etc. Read a book, listen to podcasts or write a quick journal entry.
- Know the difference of being reactive vs proactive. Before you pounce on your friend's or colleague's shitty idea, think about how you can build or improve on it. eg. 'Knitting club sounds like a great idea Susan. Maybe that's something you and I could do together next week, as I think Edith and Edwina might want to do something more physically active as a group.'
As humans, we're the only mammals who can control fire. Giving us a degree of control over Mother Nature. If we can do that, surely we can set the tone within our own lives. We weren't given a brain more progressive than a monkey to passively wait for someone else to make us happy.
When Jim Kwik was a boy, a mentor asked him to write down his 10 dream goals. The mentor took the piece of paper and said "Jim, you know your only 8 inches away from achieving everything on this list." Jim was confused and didn't know what to make his words. Before he could say anything, the mentor then placed his fingers and pointed to Jim's temples and said,
“You're this close. Your brain controls everything in your life. It’s the key.”
I loved that story! Maybe because it's something my own father would've told me when I was a child.
Our lives are constructed by the decisions we make. Sure there's going to be shit things that come up in life. But our brain is the most malleable organ in our body. The more we strengthen our mind, the better equiped we'll be to make the right decisions. So practice self-talk, control emotional micro-moments and be the designer of your own world. Be the Lewis Hamilton of your own race.