How To Reprogram Your Brain [Activity]
This article is a 12 minute read.
If you have thoughts, mental patterns or feeling that you would like to change, this post is for you. If “something” is blocking you from doing the things you want in life, than this post is for you. If you ever wondered why smart people do stupid things, than this post is for you.
When clients come to me they are usually looking for help to make a change. Often it's something they have wanted to change for years but couldn't quite make it work. When they are unable to make a change that they really want to make it's usually because something is blocking them, preventing them from developing forward momentum.
I've seen it over and over again. After about 3 to 6 months of intense coaching, sometimes longer, a switch goes off in the clients brain, something changes and afterward everything becomes far easier. In this post I will explore how you can make a life changing breakthrough by reprogramming your brain.
What's blocking our progress?
While reading this post I'd like you to think about the root of personal change as “reprogramming the mind”. Think of your body, gut and brain as the hardware and your thought patterns as the software, which is where we will focus. Your thought patterns control your habits. Your habits create the trajectory that dictate your lot in life.
(You need physical energy to change your life. While the details are beyond the scope of this post it's important to note that sufficient high quality sleep, a healthy, non-inflammatory diet with plenty of pro and prebiotics will support the life changing activities mentioned in this post by ensuring that your hardware is working effectively.)
In the next few minutes we will explore some very simple and accessible ways to change your thought patterns which will then create a change in your habits eventually taking your whole life in a better direction.
Many of the programs that we currently have running in our mind are very old. We inherited them from our parents, who perhaps got them from their parents back throughout the ages. Some of our subroutines are imprinted on us by school, religion, politics, the books we read, the mass media we consume or our friends. We even share and recombine mental programs and memes between people as we learn from each other.
Have you ever wondered why smart people do stupid things? Some of our mental programs and subroutines are beneficial, others are not. Some move us forward, some are relatively neutral, some waste our mental efforts and others directly block our progress. A few could even be considered destructive mental viruses (see feminism). No matter how smart or knowledgeable we are unless we run the right programing our lives will be unsatisfactory and perhaps even disastrous.
We also need to run the correct programs for our specific human hardware. Some of the subroutines that will lead a man to success are wholly unsuitable for a woman. An extreme introvert will not be able to run all the same subroutines that an extreme extrovert finds useful.
If we don't have the life we want, it's certain that we are not running the right mental programs.
Assessing our current programing
Assessing our current programing, a big part of developing self knowledge, is the first step in adjusting ourselves. We need to know what programs we are running currently before we start making adjustments.
The typical state of the modern mind is one of chaos and conflict. We are running multiple, often opposed programs at once. We are overloaded with sense data and mostly useless information. We are often exhausted.
Many of my more intelligent clients are also prone to over using their brain. They never really shut off. Thoughts are constantly racing, even at night when they are trying to sleep. Even if we have mostly positive thoughts its not healthy to maintain such a state of high alertness 24/7/365 for years.
Some examples of negative programing:
“I am inherently a bad person and I do not deserve success.”
“I am inherently of low value.”
“Everyone in our family has X problem (or gets divorced or is crazy, etc.).”
“No one will like me.”
“If I try I will fail.”
“I cant become a responsible person.”
“I am basically lazy.”
“I am unavoidably fat.”
“I am incurably weak.”
“I have a bad memory.”
“Im always late.”
“No one wants me around.”
“No one really cares about me.”
“I cant be attractive.” (Or “I am ugly.”)
“My only worth is when I serve the interests of others.”
“I must obey authority.”
“I can't control my life.”
“All men (or women) are bad/dishonest/untrustworthy/etc.”
“My goals are not important.”
“I don't deserve love.”
“I am afraid to try.”
(Please share with me some of the negative programing that you have experienced.)
Generally, these are other peoples voices in our head, imprints of their negative programs, insecurities and attempts to control us. Even if a peice of simple programing is technically true (example “I am fat.”) its destructive to self identify with that negative aspect as it becomes self reinforcing.
Quiet Mindfulness Reflection (Activity)
Our ancestors lead simple lives. They had time to think deeply about one thing at a time. They had seasons of rest to refresh the brain. They were regularly in touch with the calming effects of nature. They got plenty of exercise and social interactions. In addition, the rules of life were simple.
Find a quiet place, preferably outdoors. Somewhere you will not be disturbed.
Bring a small notebook and a pen.
Get comfortable (depending on the location and weather you may want a seat and a blanket).
Close your eyes. What's the first thought that pops into your head? Write it down and then dismiss it out of your head, for now.
Close your eyes again. What is the next thought? Write that down and continue in this pattern until you have only your deepest thought remaining.
Note: Most people are unable to dismiss thoughts easily. (Dismissing a thought means to stop thinking about it.) Often a single thought sticks in your head, blocking an easy examination of the other “programs” that are running at the same time. Fortunately, by repeating this exercise you can gain more control over your thoughts. You can do it up to once per day for optimal results.
Thoughts can include feelings, physical sensations, worries, ideas, memories, etc. Whatever is in your head just at that moment. I'm sure you will be very surprised at your current cognitive load.
Examine your list, preferably with the help of a coach or therapist. Can you identify any mental viruses that need to be countered? Does the order tell you anything about your thoughts? Where did you get blocked? What thoughts were very hard to dismiss? What positive programs can be expanded on?
Once you understand your current programing, and that may take several sessions of reflection, you can begin to reprogram yourself.
The best way to remove unhealthy mental programing is to overwrite it with a new, stronger program that serves your interests. You can do this with carefully crafted affirmations, repetition and actions that support your new programing.
Your affirmation should be a very personal statement (positive) of the change you want to see in yourself. Ideally it should be exciting and build to a crescendo. You may even acknowledge why past attempts at change failed.
(These are examples, however you are better to write your own personal affirmations as they will have more meaning to you.)
For example, if your goal is physical fitness your affirmation might be:
I am a dynamic man of action.
I am stronger than anything that stands in my way.
I will do whatever it takes to become even stronger.
I will go to the gym, I will lift the weights I am scheduled to lift.
I will not become distracted, I will not make excuses, I will not quit, I will not surrender.
Because I am a man of action.
A key component of propaganda, marketing and even education is repetition. A few minutes before you need to get ready to go to the gym go to a mirror, look into your own eyes and practice saying these things with fierce determination. Repeat this mantra out loud 100 times. Keep getting louder and more animated. Emphasize the important words such as MAN and ACTION.
At first it's going to be uncomfortable because this new programing will conflict with your existing, negative programing. Concentrate on how repeating this mantra changes your feelings. Let it stimulate a rush of adrenaline. Let it move you to take real action!
An example for women, if your goal is to be a Fascinating Woman you might try this mantra before dates.
I am a fascinating woman.
I am beautiful, feminine and sweet.
I am calm and serene.
I will have fun on this date.
I will let him lead and be thankful for his leadership.
I will not complain. I will not judge during the date. I will not try to take control.
Because I am a fascinating woman.
While looking at yourself in the mirror, repeat the mintra in a calm, feminine voice. Smile when you say FUN. Breathe deeply and slowly. Enjoy the process.
You have had a whole life of previous programing and its going to take a while to overwrite it. Be patient with yourself and trust the process. At a certain point your new programing will become stronger than the old programing and something will click inside of you. After the switch is flicked, everything will change much more rapidly.
Many people have had success writing down their affirmation on sticky notes and posting them around their house, car and workplace to act as constant reminders of the changes they are working towards..
Act in accordance with your mantra
The affirmations are powerless unless you then act in accordance with them. This is where real, lasting changes happen.
Schedule time to perform your affirmations and the key efforts related to the changes that you want to make. Create mental and physical (usually visual) triggers for yourself that remind you of your affirmations.
When you are experiencing the effects of old, negative programing, notice it, call it out and then clear it from your mind. The previous mindfulness exercise will help you develop the mental skills needed to reject bad programing and unhealthy thoughts.
Avoid reinforcing negative programing
Any programing that runs contrary to your purposes is negative programing. We are surrounded with negative programing that will compete with your efforts to reprogram yourself.
It can come from friends, family, church, social groups, mass media, etc. If it's not fully aligned with your goals, distance yourself from the source of it. Be aware who is behind much of today's programing and that they do not have your best interests at heart. They seek to keep you weak and pliable, easy to manipulate and manage.
Avoiding negative programing is especially important in the early stages of your reprogramming efforts.
Run less programs
When you did the initial activity in this post, how many programs were you running at once? 10? 15? 20? Please comment with your number below as I'd like to hear more feedback on the number of simultaneous thoughts running through peoples heads at once.
Running many programs at once is very inefficient. Focus, which means eliminating all but the most important thought(s) until you enter a state of FLOW makes accomplishing goals much easier.
As much as possible offload your mental burdens to your calendar and todo list. Attempting to store too many things in your head creates unnecessary mental overhead.
The most important thing you can do while reprogramming yourself is to get help. You will need a coach or mentor plus a network of good friends who have your best interests at heart and the wisdom to help you examine your life.
Weight training is a unique mental and physical exercise that helps us to build powerful focus. When you are holding a couple hundred pounds over your face you will tend to think of little else.
Fasting can help you to focus your mind and achieve a new level of clarity. History and mythology is full of examples of fasting being combined with meditation.
Practicing things that are challenging such as learning an instrument or a language, learning to shoot a gun accurately or even martial arts can increase your ability to control your mental control.
The programs that run in your mind control your habits and actions which in turn dictate the outcome of your life.
Earlier I mentioned a switch that I've seen my clients make. The "switch" is when the client takes a new, higher level of agency over themselves. Its liberating and empowering to become your own master. You can only be your own master when YOU are in control of the programs running through your head.