Popeye is a weakling relative to most of us.
He has to pop a can of spinach to grow his muscles, but we have our worry muscles pumped ready to go.
The best feedback I’ve received this year from anything I’ve written was in response to Winning Like A Loser.
Wake up stressed. Fill your mind with overwhelm. Worry about everything. Go to bed at night feeling like you failed to get it done and looking forward to losing another day…
Plenty of people told me that they were ROFL reading it, before going on to tell me how much it resembled their days…
No Laughing Matter
Writing about the insane way we’ve been conditioned to live I was laughing all the way to the publish, but I was also shining a light on something serious.
Because I’ve spent decades ridding my head of the human condition I can never go back to “not-living” that way, but for plenty of years I did.
Back then I didn’t see a problem with it.
It was “normal” to wake up whining about my job (just talk to many people, even at Goldman Sachs), confused what my life was about, terrified it wouldn’t work out as I dreamed, worried about the utter lunacy of the world.
If you’d asked me I would have told you I was completely justified living that way, “it’s just how it is,” I would have said I was “happy,” but now I’d rather be the walking dead.
As I wrote about here, for most of my life I believed that when I was doing what I want I would feel amazing, but now I know we only feel as amazing as we train ourselves to feel.
Creatures of Habit
You have a standard routine for dressing in the morning. Maybe underwear first—not you, P—then socks, perhaps your pants or skirt before.
No matter your “process,” I know every time it’s the same.
You shower and brush in the same sequence too, because just about everything we do is habit.
And while this serves us in many ways—e.g. you don’t have to figure out whether your socks go on before your shoes—our habits of thinking tend to punish us the other way.
The data is astounding—each day we have somewhere around 60,000 thoughts, of which some 90% are redundant and 80% are negative.
It’s sad, but when you consider the nature of the human predicament, it’s obvious why it’s true.
We’re not built for happiness, but survival. Our brains aren’t set up to wander through predator-infested territory smelling the roses but to fixate on what might eat us.
Biologically we’re built with a negativity bias, and we live in a predatory society that feeds on our fears, which ensures many of us are world-class worriers.
To A Man With A Hammer…
His hands are often beaten.
And to a mind that has been feeding on worry, and developed a Popeye-sized worry muscle, there’s always something more to worry about.
See, the problem with muscles is that once you’ve built them you’ve gotta feed them, and indeed mental muscles do a nice job of feeding themselves.
And this means even if there’s nothing “real” in our life to fear—e.g. unlike our ancestors, no Neanderthals are predating us—the brain will find plenty of fake fear to binge on.
Sadly this means, once you’ve built these muscles, it’s near impossible to be happy, other than pretending to be happily-worried all the time.
You Are What You Practice
A client had spent years as a consultant to struggling companies, where being an Olympic-level worrier made her excellent at her job.
What if we can’t meet payroll? If we lose X contract, we are out of business. If the economy shrinks just one bit, this business is toast…
Were just some of the lines that she so expertly used to keep herself awake at night, and worried mostly all day every day.
For years she figured that when she was no longer in the business of course she would feel great, but guess what??
That’s right, she’d built her Popeye-sized worry muscle, so even once she was done in her career, that brain of hers would find plenty to worry about.
“I just don’t get it,” she said to me, “I have everything I could possibly want, but I just don’t feel how I expected to feel.“
“That’s right,” I said to her, “You feel exactly how you’ve trained yourself to feel.”
OK, So How Do You Change It?
First I would say, you have to believe you can change it.
As I wrote, back in the day it was “obvious” to me that when I quit my job and was doing what I wanted I would feel amazing…
And because I believed that how I felt was justified—e.g. “well I don’t like my job so of course I feel so-so”— I wouldn’t have believed it or cared to change it anyways.
But if you’ve evolved beyond that point, and simply want to feel more amazing with your life right now, then you want a training program.
Train The Mind Like The Body
One thing that took me a good 12 years of personal development to actually learn is that self-help isn’t about reading books and thinking you get it, but training your mind just like your body.
Of course none of us would believe that reading 4 million diet and exercise books will help us lose weight if we’re still eating and exercising the same, but when it comes to the mind we’ve been conditioned to believe that knowledge is power.
Knowledge has never been, and never will be power, but is merely the doorway for us to exercise our own power.
As I wrote about last week, to lose weight you watch what you eat and exercise more.
Simple, right? Even if it can be hard to do.
The mind is exactly the same, hence, you want to train it the same way too.
Make It Simple, Know-It-All
Often people tell me that I’m too deep down the rabbit hole and I need to stop trying to be such a “know-it-all jerk” and make this stuff super simple, and actionable.
So, here it is.
To lose weight on the body you watch what you put in and put out.
Of course to the many people who struggle weight loss is much harder—as is the mind—but for simplicity sake, let’s just say this is what matters.
Then, how do you apply the same approach to conditioning your mind?
1. Watch What You Put In
If Popeye eats spinach, his massive biceps pop out.
If you talk to many people, and certainly if you tune into the media, your fear, worry, and outrage pop out too.
Ask yourself, what good feelings come from tuning into the worst of the world?
It might feel good to get out of that habitual mind that is spinning some 50,000 crap thoughts a day by tuning into your daily dose of murder for entertainment, but what do you think keeps all of those scared thoughts turning?
Our media is so dripping in murder that they feed us one of their own perhaps being cut up alive by some hack assassins like it’s an episode of CSI.
If you feed your body with junk of course it feels less good, and if we fill our minds with toxic content and people, of course we feel less good too.
It’s obvious, right?
Yet, just like rubber-necking the latest freeway toll, our brains are addicted to a deeply repressed fear of death, and it can take some work to wean yourself off mayhem.
Think about this for a moment.
If you were to go on a diet from feeding yourself with awful stuff (and people) that fuels those habitual, redundant negative thoughts, what would you change?
Write it out, and get it done!
2. Watch What You Put Out
If you drop and do 25 push-ups every morning, you’ll be stronger.
And if you get in the habit of putting out good thoughts, you’ll develop your feeling good muscles too.
When my client somewhat proudly told me that she “Could teach a four-year degree on worrying,” I laughed and told her that’s already the super-major in every school.
Then I suggested that if she no longer wants to live in a brain that was drenched in fear and worry that she might want to change what she’s putting out.
Truth is, there’s nothing special about what I do for people, but it often leads to very special results, because simple changes can take you a long way.
I prescribed that she change her language to something like, “I used to be a good worrier, and now I’m really good at feeling how I want,” which I suggested she repeat 100 times a day for five days…
Of course that’s a very basic idea, and over time we went deeper into her mind and what was really going on, but that change alone massively shifted her neurology.
Quickly, just by stopping putting out junk, she began training her mind to burn off that mental weight.
I know it sounds super simple—because the truth always is—but if you’re trying to lose weight by stopping eating 8 cookies a day, it obviously helps to keep telling people how good it feels to be beyond that problem.
Again, if you’re serious about change, write this stuff out, and get it done!
Grow Feeling Amazing Muscles
Now, I’m not suggesting these two ideas as a complete solution—a more complete solution is in this free book where you build a training program for your Limitless Mind—but like dropping and doing 25 push-ups when you wake, exercising your brain differently can quickly drive massive results.
The coolest thing about training the mind is that because we are creatures of habit, good thinking habits too quickly take hold.
And instead of continuing to put energy into sustaining those old worry and fear muscles, simply by focusing on the thoughts and feelings you want, you quickly grow those too.
Do these two simple things for a few weeks and you can look back on Winning Like a Loser and not just have a good laugh, but laugh that other people still live that way.