The Enemy Within

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The first thing I thought today when I woke up was: No way, today I have a tough training at the gym. I don’t want to go!

From that moment on, my mind started to bomb me with all sort of excuses about how to avoid the gym:

  • You worked late yesterday, you need a break!
  • Nothing will happen if you miss the training today.
  • It is already late, you better use your time doing something more productive.

Today I was lucky and using my brain training I was able to overcome my mind, go to the training and do the workout to the end. But some other days I’m not so strong mind.

On its quest to reduce the amount of energy expent by my body, my mind tries continuously to hijack my efforts. Every single day. It wants me to take the least resistance path. By taking this path, my mind knows that the energy consumption of my body will be minimum. To make me choose its path, it invents all types of excuses. And once it discovers the excuse that works on me, it will use it continuously to make me avoid some behaviors that it doesn’t like.

Your Worst Enemy

The problem I am depicting here is the same I always express in my blog: taking the least resistance path leads to the progressive reduction and finally destruction of skills.

Everytime you take the least resistance path, the following two things happen in your brain:

  1. Your brain reinforces the behavior of trying to find excuses for you, specially the excuse that worked last time. Then, the next time you want to do something hard (like studying, doing your brain training, cleaning your home) your mind will be an expert at convincing you of not doing it.
  2. Your brain peak level decreases. By not doing the activity that is tough for you, you are not training your brain at your limit, hence, you are training your brain to accept a lower level of performance. Consequence, your peak level becomes lower than yesterday.

Now, your mind is going to try all the time to make you choose that path. Doesn’t matter that you decided to do something that is good for you. It is like someone talking you on your top telling you how difficult it is to do what you want to do, how impossible or any other excuse that you may think for not doing what you have to do. Your mind will stay alert and propose you simpler choices when the moment of taking action arrives.

You cannot get rid of your mind. Your mind will follow you wherever you go. It will always be there, alert, waiting for your moves. That is why I say that your mind is your worst and most difficult enemy.

If you achieve to win against your mind, and silence it forever, you would be able to do whatever you want to do without having such resistance to do it.

This is the only battle worth fighting. The battle to conquer yourself.

Few people in history have achieved it, but it is at the reach of anyone. And contrary to what you may think, winning this battle is not a matter of willpower.

You Cannot Win To Your Mind Using Only Willpower

The main point to be learnt in this post is that you cannot free your mind of thoughts. It is not possible. Thoughts are always going to be there. There is a machine inside our brain constantly producing them. However, what you can do is to learn how to ignore them, that is, avoid any effect on you of what they say.

To achieve this ignoring behavior, you should not use your willpower to win your mind. Fighting against your mind constantly by using your willpower is like doing a brute force attack, that will have severe consequences:

  • In order to win by brute force you must me stronger that your opponent, and in any case, you will get hurt. In this case, the damage will be psychological.
  • Furthermore, you will get tired, since you will be using many energy to oppose the thought of avoiding hard work. If your life has other problems you may end depleted of energy and not doing some other important activities.
  • Additionally, if you fight against your mind’s thoughts you make them stronger. Observe that the key word is against. For some reason, everytime you confront a thought you make it stronger. Repressing behaviors makes them stronger.

Brute force does not work against your mind, because after each attack it becomes stronger. Then, it is actually possible to silence the mind?

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The Technique

The procedure to win the mind is by simply observing your thoughts and how them operate over you. This means that you become conscious of which thoughts you have related to the problem, and become conscious of what you decide to do. You must be conscious of the whole process.

For example, imagine that you need to clean your room. Then you start to hear the excuses of your mind for not doing it. Become aware of it by observing consciously the thoughts.

  • If your mind says that you are very tired for cleaning the room, say consciously in your mind ‘Now I am thinking that I am very tired to clean my room‘.
  • If your mind reacts becoming angry, just observe how angry you get, by saying in your mind ‘Look, how I am getting angry. Guau, I am really angry about that‘.

Do not try to repress your though or emotion. Just observe them. And observe them with curiosity like if you were a child exploring it for the first time. Do not repeat in your mind ‘I am angry‘ but instead something like ‘I see that I am angry‘. Being curious about the situation is like if you were watching a film about your thoughts.

Observing your thoughts, reactions and emotions has two effects on your brain:

  1. You will feel immediately that the strength of the thought decreases. It has a lower effect on you and it requires less willpower to overcome it.
  2. You will deflect the attack of the excuse, and train your brain to do that in future occasions. You will need many repetitions of this (thousands) but you are on your way.

The Workout

Here there is a simple workout that will help you decrease the effect of negative thoughts in your mind. Even if the workout is simple to understand and even to do, you will find that it is very difficult to apply it directly in your daily life. However, the more you practice this workout, the easier will be for you.

Perform the following exercise everyday for three months and observe how it changes your situation. Each week, you will have to choose an activity to monitor your thoughts. If after three months you feel like you are improving and need less willpower to do what you need to do, keep performing the workout with different activities. Otherwise, start from the beginning with the initial activity, and use your willpower to stay to the workout.

  • Identify one difficult of unpleasant activity that you have to do every day, but your mind does not want to, like for example going to the gym. This will be your target activity for the week.
  • Whenever you think about going to do the activity observe your thoughts as described in the technique above.
  • Freely decide whether to do or not the activity, but in any case, observe your thoughts about the decision.
  • Create a new thought in your mind that expresses how good you feel and how much you enjoy the activity you are doing/going to do. Dedicate one minute to create that thought including all the details you can of you enjoying the activity. Say in your mind, I do like to do xxx or I am enjoying doing xxx.
  • Next week, select a different activity and do the same exercise.

Conclusion

Become aware of your worst enemy, the enemy within you, your mind. And start working to win the battle against it, because once you win your mind you will be unstoppable.

Use your willpower while you learn how to defeat your thoughts. After that you will not need it. In the meantime, use the following video to turbo charge your willpower.

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

photo credit: Andreh Santos via photopin cc

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