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There are a lot of tricks out there, but these were my personal mindset hacks that have worked for me. This is a summary of them.
In order of most impact:
- Anti-procrastination trick
- Process of letting go, and grabbing something else
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
From the conversations I’ve had with friends, it seems like a lot of people have at least heard of affirmations. Some people practice lots of affirmations, while I know people who just think the idea is stupid.
For those who don’t know, affirmations are where you repeat a statement 10-15 times, for example “I, <name>, score 95% on the exam”, and it somehow comes true. It’s easy to have disbelief at such a notion, but there’s a surprisingly large amount of support for affirmations from 3 teachers who’ve each seen success from thousands of students.
A good starter problem to use affirmations on would be mindset problems, because you can almost immediately see a change in your mind from using an affirmation. Well at least I did, hopefully you can too. If you tried affirmations on an external like: “I, <name>, have a girlfriend/boyfriend”, you may not see as much of an immediate improvement as you would on a mindset affirmation.
One of the big problems I’ve personally suffered from is resentment, which is no good at all. One of my favorite “Mungerisms” (pithy quotes from Charlie Munger):
Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge and self pity are disastrous modes of thought
My affirmation was: “I, <name>, literally give zero shits about <XYZ>”. In the next 10 minutes, I started deleting URLs related to XYZ. Although I didn’t totally stop yet, the feeling of resentment did start going away. And I believe that soon, in a month or two, I won’t feel anything about it anymore.
Another really helpful affirmation I used was, “I, <name>, completely stop playing chess”. This was when I was temporarily paralyzed by the dumb addiction. Perhaps if you’re suffering from an addiction, you could try a similar affirmation.
This was probably the most useful anti-procrastination trick I’ve ever used (and I’ve read a ton, as wide-ranging as “Wait But Why” to the Silicon Valley VC Marc Andreessen to a Stanford professor). I hesitate to say this is a mindset hack, but it really does help.
The anti-procrastination trick uses action to overcome emotion. The trick is to get on a regular schedule: at the exact same time each day to do the thing you’ve been putting off.
Apparently the reason why it helps beat procrastination, according to Zig Ziglar who I learned it from, is that action will change an emotion while logic does not. A big cause of procrastination is the emotion “reluctance”.
Direct quote from Zig Ziglar:
Logic will not change an emotion, but action will! Call reluctance is an emotion, and it will not be overcome consistently by logic. Get into action, support the action with logic, and sales success is sure to be yours!
I go into much deeper detail in this essay on anti-procrastination.
Process of letting go, and grabbing something else
There were two similar ideas I’ve had that I merged into this one section:
- First is gradually replacing an addiction with an alternative habit that is meaningful to you.
- Second is the Sedona Method, a releasing process for letting go of emotions.
Replacing addiction with a alternative habit that is meaningful to you
I learned about this from a book called “How Healing Works”, by a doctor who writes about the placebo effect in medicine. The doctor claimed to have had success teaching the technique to patients suffering from a smoking addiction. The smoker replaced the habit with running. The key is that the activity must be meaningful to you — can’t be any random thing.
At the time, I was suffering heavily from a gaming addiction. It was one of the worst addictions I’ve ever had. You may think it’s funny if you’ve never had a gaming addiction, but it was pretty serious. I literally did nothing but game. I picked up the book “How Healing Works” to see if I could learn anything that could solve my addiction problem.
Reading about how the smokers broke their addiction gave me hope I could fix my own gaming addiction! OK so I needed to find a meaningful replacement activity. For me, incidentally, that was reading books. I started with just 1 page of reading in between games. Gradually, 1 page turned into 1 minute, turned into 5 minutes, turned into dinner break readings. This was very exciting progress. I could see light at the end of the tunnel now. The reading times became longer and longer until it consumed the whole day.
I had more or less stopped gaming for only a week when I read Taleb’s tweet about how to learn effectively. That led to the Turing Technique — probably the greatest essay I’ve written so far on this blog — and ended the crazyhouse gaming habit for good (Note: crazyhouse is a chess-like game).
So, my personal take: the technique works! Although it should be mentioned I also used affirmations throughout this whole process, before I even picked up the book.
Sedona Method, release process for letting go of emotions
It’s a terrible affliction to be mentally consumed by a single thought of something or someone, to the point where that’s all you’re thinking about. I’ve been there and I’ve met people who are clearly consumed. It’s probably more common than people think.
This Sedona Method was probably the most effective way I’ve used for releasing a terrible emotion that you are, in a sense, addicted to.
The original Sedona Method article is a super great read. You should read it. I’ve personally reread it many times. From that article, I’ll just excerpt the Sedona Method procedure here:
- Focus on an issue that you would like to feel better about, and then allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling in this moment
- Ask yourself one of the following three questions:
- Could I let this feeling go?
- Could I allow this feeling to be here?
- Could I welcome this feeling?
- No matter which question you started with, ask yourself this simple question: Would I? In other words: Am I willing to let go?
- Ask yourself this simpler question: When?
- Repeat the preceding four steps as often as needed until you feel free of that particular feeling.
I think this method can be even more effective when paired with affirmations.
The one slight change I would make to the Sedona method is that you should actually “move on” to something once you are ready, instead of endlessly repeating Step 5.
The most important thing I took away from this was living in the moment.
Have you read Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations yet? It’s really good. I learned about Meditations when I read about General “Mad Dog” Mattis would sleep with it while on duty in Iraq, so it had to be good.
Meditating and “Meditations” made a big impact on me a few years ago when I was in my head often.
The first draft readers of this essay are asking me to write on “how to do meditations”. All I did was read Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations”, but very slowly — as slow as just reading one epitaph a day, and then reflecting on the epitaph for the rest of the day. As you can tell, it took me many days to finish reading that book, even though the book is very very short. Each aphorism was very deep. Just thinking about it would shift my mindset into a different perspective on how short life is, so we should focus on the given moment because it’s all we have. And this perspective helped me think past my struggles at the time, which now seem very tiny and small.
Sorry if you wanted more concrete steps 😅. There are many, many different variations on how to do “meditations”. There might be better articles and approaches on how to do it, because it’s hard for me to describe exactly “how” I did it. All I did was read 1-10 epitaphs a day and think about the epitaph a lot, even in the shower or while eating.
- Surprising support of affirmations
- The best anti-procrastination trick I’ve ever used
- Turing Technique
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes