Category Archives: Mental control

Get rid of your self-destruct buttons

One of the most annoying things about life is that it is littered with self-destruct buttons. In many cases, months of good work can be undone in the blink of an eye. When it comes to building a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life, this is a serious problem.

As a simple example, you can maintain a healthy diet for several weeks, but then undo most of this good work in an intense 30 minute snacking binge in front of the TV. The same goes for personal finances. Many people are penny-wise and pound-foolish: painfully stingy with the small stuff, but real suckers for flashy-but-unnecessary big ticket items.

Given how quickly a human being can self-destruct, it is critical to know what your personal self-destruct buttons look like. Once they have been identified, you can start to consciously devise dedicated button-avoidance strategies.

The best way is of course to completely remove that self-destruct button from your life. For example, if you have a constant source of emotional trauma in your life that drives you to regular self-destructive behavior, it may be time to bite the bullet and end whatever relationship, job or activity is causing this trauma.

In most cases though, you will just need to learn how to sidestep your self-destruct buttons. For me, I know that, if I allow myself to plop down in front of YouTube with an unhealthy snack after a challenging day at the office, it’s not going to end well. I therefore go out for a brisk walk whenever I feel this button-pressing urge.

Naturally, everyone’s self-destruct buttons are different and you’ll have to invest some introspection to properly ID yours. Once you know them though, you can avoid them much more effectively. This button-avoidance is critical to ensure that all the good positive work you do every day does not go to waste.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

How evolved are you?

One of the big challenges faced by our modern society is that our world is evolving much faster than we are. The enormous fossil fuel binge of the past century has changed everything – mostly for the better – but our brains have not managed to keep up.

In general, we are still stuck with our primitive mindset of scarcity, even though technological progress has created abundance all around us. This mindset triggers a primitive urge to grab and consume our slice of the global pie at almost any cost.

In the future, we will gradually evolve to a mindset of abundance. This more enlightened society will realize that we have enough pie for a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life. We will also find that the global pie becomes much bigger if we stop squabbling over the pieces and, instead, focus on baking more pie.

From this line of thought, I believe that our mental evolution can be directly traced to our consumption patterns. Particularly, whether we consume more or less than we produce and whether we consume more or less than our planet can produce. This gives four kinds of people in the world today:

Currently, that lovely green box in the top-left corner is a rather lonely place – especially in the developed world. We definitely need more people to migrate in that direction.

Speaking of migration, the box in which you find yourself at the moment is not so important. The important part is the direction in which you are moving. As long as you are heading to the green, you are on the right track 🙂

 PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Objective reality

Planning a journey requires two pieces of information: where you are and where you want to go. Most people have at least a rough idea of where they want to go (your personal constitution can help a lot in this regard), but few people ever acknowledge the objective reality of where they are at the moment.

For example, have you ever used a lifestyle calculator like those linked on the top left of this blog? For a mere hour of your precious time, these calculators can give a pretty good idea of where you stand on the subject of a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life.

Determining your true objective reality can be an awkward exercise. Ignorance is bliss, especially when it comes to long-term things like building wealth for retirement, maintaining a healthy lifestyle to avoid degenerative disease, and shrinking your environmental footprint to preserve our planet for future generations.

But anyone reading these words is certainly capable of evolving beyond such primitive denial. So, be brutally honest and find out just how happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable your life really is. How far are you from the ideal version of yourself? What needs to change for you to start moving towards that ideal?

Once you have this vital intel, the journey can commence. And trust me, the destination may be lovely, but the journey is even more so.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

My constitution

The previous post raised this curious idea of drawing up your own constitution.  As a simple example, this post will outline the constitution that has served me very well for several years.

Here goes…

I grant myself sole responsibility over this body-mind that I have been dealt. This responsibility includes protection, nurturing and development and shall be carried out within the confines of planet Earth.

We all owe it to ourselves and to society to look after ourselves. As an added bonus, taking good care of yourself invariably reduces your environmental footprint.

I grant myself authority over the labour of my body-mind. This labour shall be carried out from a clean and effortless mental state and there shall be no unjustified delays or unhealthy excesses.

One of the saddest things in our modern world is that most people are conditioned to chase happiness through consumption rather than creation. Getting control over your creative powers is key to living a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life.

I will maximize the quality of my human interactions, while controlling the quantity. Every interaction must fill the other person’s bucket, even if it is just a drop.

The bucket analogy comes from a simple little book by Tom Rath. It simply states that we should strive to impart goodness on everyone we interact with. This is a very good general rule for life.

I will employ a strict zero waste policy to cut out the self-destructive misuse of mental capacity. Every self-destructive mindset shall immediately be quashed with a WTF thought.

We only get a finite amount of mental processing power over the course of our lives. Using this processing power to generate valuable new ideas is optimal, spending it on stuff like routine tasks and entertainment is neutral, but wasting it on self-destructive thought processes is just idiotic. Such a waste of our finite mental capacity truly qualifies as a WTF moment and can be dismissed with a somewhat embarrassed smile and a shake of the head.

I will continuously accelerate my evolution towards the fully rational emotional being. Performance and experience enhancing emotions are strongly encouraged, but primitive self-defeating emotions will be gradually starved out.

Humans are undoubtedly emotional creatures. Unfortunately, several emotional responses that served us well over the vast majority of our evolution have become totally out of date in our modern world. If we are to live happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable lives, we need to eradicate the primitive emotional responses that make us depressed, self-destructive, financially irresponsible and environmentally unsustainable.

So, that’s it. Five simple points that keep me on the straight and narrow. What would your constitution look like?

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Who are you?

Imagine that someone randomly stops you on the street and demands to know who you really are. Not simple stuff like your name and occupation, but serious stuff like what you stand for and the principles by which you live your life. Would you be able to give a confident answer? Or just a blank stare?

During the busy day-to-day of the modern homo sapiens, few of us ever stop to consider such fundamental questions. This is a shame… Defining who you truly are and who you aspire to be can be the difference between being a ship on a steady course or a piece of driftwood randomly tossed around by the tides of life.

The best way I’ve found to answer these questions is to draw up your own constitution. A constitution is formally defined along these lines: “A body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.” It might not be self-evident, but a body of fundamental principles is a very cool thing to have in your life.

Why not give it a go? Take a piece of paper and write down about five fundamental principles according to which the ideal version of you would be governed. If this exercise really makes you think, you might even want to commit these principles to heart so that they are always at hand to keep you on track to the best version of you.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Overwork: Preventing burnout

Rules-of-ProductivityAs discussed in the previous post, overwork can easily lock you into a vicious cycle leading to complete burnout (even if it is related to a subject that really inspires you). Burnout is a terribly frustrating experience, especially if you are used to being highly productive. It destroys inspiration and natural interest and, if not properly dealt with, can lead to months of grinding below-par productivity. It is certainly to be avoided at any cost.

This post will therefore discuss a few ways in which you can build an environment in which burnout is automatically prevented. As with all other guidelines given on this blog, the central principle is constructing a micro-environment where doing the right thing happens automatically and naturally.

The first and most important guideline is to set up a range of relaxing activities which you have no choice other than to attend. Regular sports practices, music practices, poker evenings or family outings fall in this category. These are typical events which you might resist going to at first, but, when you are actually there, you suddenly become very glad that you actually went. A fixed schedule of such activities will give your mind a welcome (and automatically enforced) break from your primary occupation and will definitely have a significant positive influence on your productivity (and your general life satisfaction).

Secondly, it really helps to ensure that your immediate working environment contains some healthy distractions such as a musical instrument, a pair of free-weights or just a fairly quiet walking path where you can stretch your legs and get some fresh air. Whenever you feel like your focus is waning, it can be very helpful to take a break and make use of one of these distractions. And no, Facebook or YouTube don’t count as healthy distractions.

Finally, it is very helpful to ensure that your environment contains some opportunities for quiet time whenever your mind becomes overburdened. Just a few minutes on a quiet rooftop, in a quality massage chair or following a slow yoga routine can really provide a very welcome rebalancing of your internal chemistry after a period of sustained effort. Taking a few minutes to just decouple and take a step back can also lead to valuable productivity-boosting insights. 

I again have to emphasize that it is vital to build these guidelines into your environment. If you just make a new-year’s resolution that you will maintain a better work-life balance, but leave your environment unchanged, I can guarantee you that nothing will come of it. Invest the little bit of effort necessary to set up this intelligent micro-environment. It is definitely worth it.

Filed under: Mental control – Advanced control

Overwork: The vicious cycle

work-vs-inspirationThe vicious cycle of overwork is one of the biggest enemies of highly productive people. It goes like this: the more overworked you become, the less productive you become, the longer hours you feel you have to work, the more overworked you become. This is frustrating, demoralizing and unhealthy and can kill your healthy obsession before you ever get the chance to really produce something of note.

Breaking the vicious cycle of overwork is quite simple really (in theory): You simply have to realize that there exists an optimum number of hours you can work in a given week, month or year before your productivity (and various other areas in life) start to suffer. The less simple part is finding out where that number lies and sticking to it in daily life.

One thing that really helps in this regard is to actually work all the time you work. It is amazing how many people think that working and going to work is exactly the same thing. It’s not. Two people can be at the office for exactly the same number of hours, but have vastly different outputs, simply because the one allows himself to be constantly distracted by everything imaginable, while the other puts his head down, really gets into the job and then allows the brain’s natural interest in the subject to drive him forward, forgetting about time, forgetting about eating and never even thinking about the myriad of distractions that plague the working man of today.

If you really have found your healthy obsession, it will take only a few minutes of conscious focus to kick-start a long period of near-optimal productivity. In fact, this is one of the most natural tests of a healthy obsession. If you repeatedly fail to get your brain to naturally focus on the subject matter at hand, you really should carefully consider whether this really is your calling. And remember; you always have the option of shifting down instead of shifting up.

If you have truly found your healthy obsession, however, one of the best skills you can develop is the skill of recognizing the vicious cycle of overwork already at an early stage and taking corrective action regardless of how difficult it might be. Ignoring these warning signals can bring only grief and frustration. The next post will look at some strategies for preventing the vicious cycle of overwork and get out quick if it starts to suck you in.

Filed under: Mental control – Advanced control