Despite having a massive queue of books I’d like to read, I’m a sucker for the impulse buy. That means I’m easily swayed to read whatever looks nice and fancy on the “New”rack at the front of the library.
So that’s how I walked out of the library with Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave.
I’m a converted skeptic on the idea of hacking. I used to think of it as trickery, or shortcuts.
But I’ve come around on the idea of hacking certain things – like my morning routine, for example. I wake up and tell myself it’s going to be a great day, and it works. It’s a simple hack.
The book promises to help you hack your brain for the better in 21 days. Habits, for good or worse, can be developed in less time than that, but 21 days is a good length to really get something embedded.
Here’s why I mentioned the fact I hadn’t planned on reading this book: it’s largely a summation of a lot of other concepts, all rolled into a quick read with a workbook attached. Many of these concepts come from books on my to-read list.
It ties in meditation, for example. And gratitude journaling. Habit loops. Goal setting (and a variation of SMART goals, which marketers know well). And so on.
Here are my notes, and the basic breakdown:
A major source of issues with our brains is a growing inability to focus. Time isn’t a renewable resource,and attention is a valuable commodity. You can’t be in control of your mind if you can’t control your attention.
The author uses the example of your attention being like a proton pack from Ghostbusters. You can only point it at one thing at a time – multitasking is a myth.
He suggests a few hacks, like identifying when your mind wanders from the task at hand, and disabling e-notifications. Most familiar to me was the concentration game, wherein you sit quietly, relax, silence the mind and focus on your breath. I call it meditating. Same concept, at least in the sense of recognizing when your brain is fluttering away, and pulling it back inward.
Section two moves into loops. This is where I think the book really stands out. Loops are the process of emotion-thought-action that shape our beliefs and behaviors. There are negative loops (“I’ll never be a good writer”) and positive loops (“I’m a kickass writer”).
Build your brain around positive loops – things you want to achieve, not want you don’t want to do. Write them down (“It’s vapor until it’s on paper”).
Hargrave suggests creating your own loops built around five goals, then treating these loops like specific mantras.
- Feel (how do you want to feel? Be specific, use “I”)
- Do (what do you want to do?)
- Have (what’s something you’d like to own? Think of how it adds value to others, not just yourself – Even if that’s a beach house so you can invite friends over)
- Give (what do you want to give back to the world? Could just be smart offspring who aren’t insane)
- Be (what do you want people to remember you as being – the funeral speech)
Once you have your loops, put yourself in contact with them frequently. For example: Year before he was famous, Jim Carrey wrote himself a check for $10 million that he carried in his wallet, with the goal of being able to cash it out in ten years. He was faced with the check every time he opened his wallet, and ten years later was paid around $20 million per movie.
I personally use one of his suggestions, hanging my personal goals and the concepts from “How to Win Friends and Influencing People” by my computer monitor at work.
The mind has a mind of it’s own, and it will follow your lead – whichever direction you choose to take it. Things like repeating loops while smiling, writing things down, breaking things into actionable steps, setting up cues and rewards – your brain can’t help but follow along.
Take big goals and break them into subgoals, best identified through what he calls LASER: Limited, Achievable, Specific, Evaluated, and Repeatable.
And that’s how you hack your brain – build the ability to concentrate, set your loops and incremental steps to reach them, and keep pushing forward.
It’s a great concept, and Mind Hacking is worth your time, even if you’re familiar with a lot of the concepts. Hargrave gives so many good examples and specific practices you can try that I haven’t heard before.
Plus, the guy is funny. It’s damned hard to be in the personal development space and maintain a balance of preacher and comedian, and he manages to be more funny than preachy. It works quite well.