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10 Simple Tricks To Make Your Brain Do What You Want

10 Simple Tricks To Make Your Brain Do What You Want

Do you feel as if you’re out of control? You need to take charge, and make your brain do what you want. Consider that your brain works like a computer. If your computer’s not doing what you want, you can change the programs.

Change the programs your brain’s running with some simple tricks.

1. Clear your mind by decluttering your life.

Do you feel confused or easily distracted? Your surroundings affect the way you think and feel. Moreover, when you throw away, or give away the things you no longer need, it’s a symbolic act. You’ll be amazed that you feel lighter, and more focused. Try it. Open a desk drawer, and tidy it up, discarding as many items as you can.

If you’re a hoarder, it can be a challenge to break this habit. Try this: decide that for every item you bring into the house, you will remove at least one thing.

2. Be healthy—eliminate food cravings by substituting natural foods for refined foods.

Researchers have discovered that when you give into food cravings, the chemicals released can change your brain. Our cave men ancestors craved nutrients like fat, sugar, and salt, and we do too. Unfortunately, today these substances are highly refined, so that we get more of them more easily than we could if we ate natural foods. When we give into our cravings, we get an endorphin high, and we can become addicted to the rush we get.

Trick your brain by substituting natural foods for refined foods. Eat unprocessed foods as much as possible, and use healthy sugar substitutes like stevia. Crave chocolate? Try carob as a healthy substitute. You’ll gradually eliminate cravings.

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3. Do it NOW. Conquer procrastination by using rituals.

If procrastination is a challenge, build a “do it NOW” habit by developing rituals. Rituals conquer inertia, and your moods will no longer control you.

Here’s an easy ritual to develop a healthy exercise habit. Schedule exercise at a specific time each day. When that time arrives, change into your exercise gear immediately, without thinking about it.

My writing ritual each day is to make a cup of coffee, and take it into my office. I’ve done this for so long, that when I walk into my office with my coffee, I’m in the mood to write.

Ensure that your ritual is a physical activity. Thinking about what you need to do leads to procrastination; be active.

4. Trash negative thoughts with music and movement.

Here’s a simple trick to feel more positive: turn on some happy music. Get up and dance. Within a minute or two, you’ll feel much more positive.

Try it the next time you’re swamped with negativity. Be aware of how negativity feels. Your body feels heavy. Turn on your music, and dance. Then consider how you feel: you feel lighter, don’t you?

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5. Practice gratitude so that your brain floods with norepinephrine, and you feel good.

What are you grateful for? Make a list of three things. Everyone has three things they love, and for which they feel grateful.

From an article by Rick Hanson, who’s a psychologist and best-selling author:

“Research suggests that when people practice gratitude, they experience a general alerting and brightening of the mind, and that’s probably correlated with more of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.”

6. Think the best of people and make more friends.

Harvey, film

    I love this quote from the movie Harvey. The hero of the movie, Elwood P. Dowd, has a best friend who’s a pooka, an invisible six foot rabbit. Elwood has a philosophy of life that’s very simple:

    Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

    Be pleasant. Not only will you make more friends, but you’ll also be happier. The next time someone is nasty, consider their action from their point of view. Maybe they’re just having a bad day.

    7. Expand time by increasing the input to your brain.

    Become actively involved in learning. Doing new activities, and learning new things tricks your brain into thinking that less time has passed. Time seems to expand. If you’ve always wanted to learn to cook, or to hang glide, or learn a language, get started; you have plenty of time.

    8. Use autosuggestion—“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

    Autosuggestion tricks your brain. French psychologist Émile Coué created the positive-thinking mantra: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”.

    Giving yourself positive suggestions tricks your brain into believing them. We’re all suggestible. If we weren’t, marketing wouldn’t be a billion dollar global industry. Look at autosuggestion as positive advertising you do for yourself. Autosuggestion can make a huge difference in your life.

    From the Wikipedia entry on Coué:

    Unlike a commonly held belief that a strong conscious will constitutes the best path to success, Coué maintained that curing some of our troubles requires a change in our unconscious thought, which can be achieved only by using our imagination.

    You can change your unconscious thought—your mental programming—by using positive suggestions. Try using them 20 times in the morning and the evening, as Coué recommended.

    9. Exercise to change your brain.

    Did you know that exercise produces changes in your brain? Who knew that exercise was such a powerful trick?

    A university study reports:

    In a study of 25 healthy adults, Dr Michelle McDonnell and her team found that the brain was able to more effectively rewire nerve connections – termed neuroplasticity – in the hand after 30 minutes of low intensity cycling.

    If you hate exercise, the study suggests that you don’t need to become a gym junkie to trick your brain into changing itself. Go for a daily walk instead.

    10. Do creative work when you’re tired.

    If you’re a creative worker, the idea that you can do your best creative work when you’re tired may be news to you.

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    Most creatives, such as writers, musicians and designers, schedule their creative work when they’re wide awake, fresh and alert. Alter your schedule and try doing your work when you’re tired. You may just trick your brain into being more creative.

    So, there we have it: ten tricks to make your brain do what you want. Try a couple of them, or all of them.

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    Last Updated on March 21, 2019

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

    You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

    But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

    To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

    It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

    “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

    The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

    In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

    Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

    1. Start Small

    The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

    Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

    Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

    Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

    Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

    Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

    It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

    Do less today to do more in a year.

    2. Stay Small

    There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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    But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

    If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

    When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

    I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

    Why?

    Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

    The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

    Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

    3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

    No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

    There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

    What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

    Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

    This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

    This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

    4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

    When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

    There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

    Peter Drucker said,

    “What you track is what you do.”

    So track it to do it — it really helps.

    But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

    5. Measure Once, Do Twice

    Peter Drucker also said,

    “What you measure is what you improve.”

    So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

    For reading, it’s 20 pages.
    For writing, it’s 500 words.
    For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
    For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

    Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

    6. All Days Make a Difference

    Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

    Will two? They won’t.

    Will three? They won’t.

    Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

    What happened? Which one made you fit?

    The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

    No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

    7. They Are Never Fully Automated

    Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

    But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

    What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

    It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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    The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

    It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

    It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

    8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

    Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

    Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

    When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

    The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

    Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

    9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

    The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

    Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

    You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

    But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

    So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

    If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

    This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

    The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

    Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

    10. Punish Yourself

    Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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    I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

    It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

    You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

    No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

    The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

    But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

    Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

    The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

    After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

    If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

    Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

    If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

    In the End, It Matters

    What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

    When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

    And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

    “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

    Keep going.

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    More Resources to Help You Build Habits

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
    [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
    [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
    [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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