Make your brain your ally, not your enemy.
Updated: Sep 24, 2021
With 86 billion brain cells and more than 100 trillion connections in the human brain, it's evident that our brain is so sophisticated we can grasp only a fraction of its potentiality.
It's also true that the way we use it greatly determines the way we live.
Mind, brain, and body are connected. We're holistic creatures. We can't thrive if we neglect, even for a tiny bit, to nurture and respect each of them.
Unfortunately, humans tend to conform to practices that endanger this balance in a way or another. Diet, exercise, sleep, meditation are just examples of practices that can sustain that balance or, when disregarded, break it. The reality is that in our society, we're too often distracted by the media that if we don't put enough effort into seeking and maintaining that balance, well, we are set for self-destruction. The good news is that we can avoid it. If you're not happy with your life, in any of the several categories you can split it, health and fitness, love relationships, career, emotional life, spiritual life, parenting, social life, financial life just to name a few, read on.
We are creatures that, consciously and unconsciously, follow routines. We're the result of our routines. Putting an eye on what we do during the day is a good way to understand what we need to course-correct. Therefore, tracking your habits is the first step to take to become fully responsible for your life. To do that, you need a habit tracker. As you can't see what you can't measure, keeping a tracker helps you build your self-awareness.
To make things easier for you, you can download the tracker I built for me by clicking here. It's a simple instrument that allows me to understand how my brain performed in the day and what I did to make it perform that way. Feel free to change it according to your needs.
The categories I always track are food, hydration, exercise, and sleep. By keeping track of what I ate, how much water I drank, how much exercise I did, and how much sleep I had the previous night, I can now predict the efficiency of my brain and my ability to be productive.
In my previous article, "Build a Super Brain With These 5 Habits," I covered the importance of food, water, sleep, and exercise for having an impactful and productive day. I want to add here that regardless of your starting point, all you need to do is set yourself on a path of continuous improvement. As James Clear wrote in his book "Atomic Habits," a 1% improvement every day makes you on the right path to achieving success in your life. In my article,
"Why you should familiarize yourself with the 1–60 rule to change the course of your life," I explain, with a simple example, the power that small changes can have on your long-term success.
Bad eating habits, a lack of hydration, sleep deprivation, and sedentary lifestyles will surely conspire against you as your brain won't sustain you. Instead, it will make sure you persist in that same status as it's wired to return to what it knows (unconscious bias).
The human brain is not there to accept big, sudden changes and therefore will try to resist anything too drastic you will think to do. It will throw at you many reasons why you should cease doing anything different from your routine. Tracking your habits, becoming aware of them, and applying a baby steps approach that you can consistently follow will bypass the resistance to change. That's not enough, though.
Tracking your habits and applying baby steps to change them for the better must accompany your understanding of WHO you're. Your habits impact your outcomes, but they're the consequence of who you believe you're. Your belief system has a significant role in determining the quality of your outcomes and the routines that cause them.
Once you start nurturing your brain and your body, once you take responsibility for what needs to be changed in your routines, and when you take action, you need to impersonate the new habits as part of the NEW you. If you want to participate in a writing contest, you don't wake up to write your novel every day. You do it because you're a writer regardless of the competition. If you want to play basketball, you train not because of the next game but because you're a basketball player. If you're going to lose weight, you don't eat healthy food and work out for the pounds you want to lose, but because YOU ARE healthy and fit. As you can see, the shift in identity makes the habits stick as they reflect who you are and indeed will reflect who you want to be.
When you start assuming this new mindset, miracles will start happening. Your brain will want you to do more of the good things. It will make you eat more veggies, more fruits. It will ask you to exercise more as it will find satisfaction through the dopamine fixes that exercise sparks. Water and sleep are foundational for having an efficient brain.
To wrap up:
1. Be responsible
2. Use an activity tracker for at least 5 weeks
3. Resolve to improve by 1% every day in the 4 categories (Sleep, Food, Hydration, Exercise)
4. Journal every day to track changes in your body as well as in your mood
5. Build a schedule for meeting your daily goals in each category
6. Condition yourself in a way you become who you want to be
What you'll very likely find out at the end of the 5-week challenge is that sooner than you expected it, you have built a system that can support your brain to support your best version of yourself.
One more thing that you need to be aware of is your stream of thoughts. Negative, disempowering thoughts have the same effect on you that junk food has on your body. You can track the nature of your thoughts as well and start seeing right in front of you the amount of negative or disempowering beliefs that condition your life every day.
In The Success Principles, Jack Canfield reports that according to research, we talk to ourselves 50,000 times per day, and 80% of the time, it's negative self-talk, and very often, we don't even realize we have a negative thought. Keeping track of them allows you to become conscious about your thoughts, kicking them out from your unconsciousness. Once you have identified recurring negative and self-sabotaging thoughts, use the RADSI model to get rid of them.
The RADSI model is a method I've developed to combat my own negative beliefs and self-sabotaging thoughts. RADSI stands for: Recognize, Attack, Describe, Stop, Investigate.
Recognize: First things first, I've trained myself to recognize when a limiting belief is operating. I recognize it because often when I feel sad, I instantly regret the quality of my thinking. The thing about negative thoughts and limiting beliefs is that they're very short phrases that you throw in without reason. You try to justify yourself for an imagined failure that often would pass unnoticed. "This meal is too salty; I'm bad at measuring ingredients; I always ruin what I cook." Even though these "failures" are only perceived, they still leave us with a sense of sadness, and that's a big red flag that there's a limiting belief in action.
Attack: What to do next? Get ready for a battle. Contradict your limiting and self-sabotaging thoughts; think about how much your kids, friends, or partner likes what you cook, for instance. Think of the events that demonstrate exactly the opposite and bring them up. Remember them, and smile while doing so.
Describe: Next, describe why you have the feeling that the cake should have been cooking longer or the meal should have been less salty. Say something like, "The new oven has a slightly lower heating power than the old one," or, "The salt is more salty than usual; at least I feel it that way today." By doing this, you're delimiting the causes of your perceived failure to very specific events. There's nothing immutable that is related to your abilities to cook.
Stop: Resolve to stop thinking negatively about what happens to you. Block the negative thoughts by thinking the opposite: "I'm a great cook," or "Everybody likes my cakes." You can also stop thinking and start singing a song or repeat to yourself how good you are or how much people like you. When you've got to face a stressful situation, such as an important meeting, an exam, or a presentation, the adage of "fake it 'til you make it" still applies.
Investigate: Ask questions about why you have that sabotaging thought. Where does it come from? Who told you that? What's the science behind it? When did you learn it? Is the source reputable, actual, honest, or skilled? The more you question a limiting belief, the easier it'll be to defeat it. Often, the answers to these questions reduce the importance of that belief. You realize that the source had no scientific basis, or that the knowledge on which you based the thought is no longer correct because new science has emerged on that subject. Ask, and you shall receive!
Once you've started tracking your habits and applied the RADSI process, you'll feel a sense of relief. You'll be in control of your life as never before. You're becoming a better version of yourself.
Try, you've nothing to lose. Talk to me about your experience.
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