The human brain can be a real asshole sometimes, holding back motivation, social courage, or mental clarity right when it’s needed most. Somewhere inside your psyche is a version of you that will nail that presentation, approach that pretty girl, or snap your fingers and instantly get over a period of depression and ennui that’s holding you back, but something is holding you back from being that person.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to unlock all of your best qualities at will?
Below are three simple exercises that (weird as it may sound) can help you visualize your way into a more powerful mindset and unlock the best possible version of yourself. These exercises can only work if you truly invest in them and actually devote a few minutes to vivid imagination for each one. Try them out, and see if they work for you.
Exercise #1) The Switch
Choose someone you admire and respect, either a real-life mentor, a famous person, a historical figure, or even a fictional character. Let’s use Elon Musk as an example.
Now: close your eyes and imagine you and Elon Musk magically swapped bodies, resulting in two new people. One of these is in a bad situation that will end with SpaceX early adopters dying horrible fiery deaths, but forget about him right now.
What happens to the mind and soul of Elon Musk in your old body?
Chances are, Elon is not impressed with the situation he finds himself in. He gets up from the couch, brushes the potato chip crumbs from his chest and does a quick tour of his apartment, piecing together various aspects of his new life. He asks questions like:
- Is my living space clean, organized, and conducive to productivity?
- What does my body look like? What food is there in my fridge? Am I a healthy man?
- What books am I reading?
- Do I live in a city where I have opportunities to actually do something interesting with my life?
- What’s my cashflow situation? Do I have the financial cushion to pursue interesting new ideas, or am I broke and living paycheck to paycheck?
- What is the most important thing that I should be doing right now, to get my life back on track?
The purpose of this exercise is to make you look at your life through fresh eyes. Forget how you see your life, and focus on what Elon Musk would see. More importantly, think about what Elon Musk would do.
I can’t answer this question for you. Maybe it’s as simple as getting off the computer, doing the dishes, and going to bed at a reasonable hour. Maybe you just realized you need to save some money and get out of your Podunk town. Would Elon Musk be stressing over how long it’s taking some girl he hasn’t even met to message him back on Tinder? I don’t think so.
The point is that if Elon is reasonably impressed that you’re making the best of your current situation, you’re probably on the right track. If Elon (or whomever) is shaking his head at what a self-destructive twat you are… well, go ahead and ask your projected simulacrum what lifestyle changes he would recommend.
2) The Board Of Directors
Imagine sitting down at a table with your personal heroes. Living or dead, real or fictional – The sames rules apply as above. This is your board of directors.
Now: close your eyes and imagine explaining to them the pros and cons of an important decision you have to make. Prepare some notes and write out your arguments in advance, making the best case for each option. Try to imagine what each member of the board would say. What questions would they ask? Would they call bullshit on anything?
You can refer to the board and it’s members throughout your day-to-day life. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. Just take a few seconds to meditate on the imagined presence of people who inspire you, and consider how they would judge your actions and decisions.
The purpose of the virtual board of directors is to replace the negative social pressure of average people with social pressure from great men. No matter how well you structure your life, there will always be negative influences leaking into your mind from people and pop culture you interact with. The cliché response to this problem is that you should be your own man and answer to nobody, but ultimately this is a) impossible, and b) probably not desirable. Man is a social animal; it’s not healthy to fight that instinct. Instead, make it work in your favour – seek approval, but fill your life and thoughts with people whose approval is worth seeking.
3) Method Acting
Are you nervous when you approach girls? Approaching takes a lot of social courage, which most men simply don’t have.
But imagine you signed up for an improv acting class and the instructor told you that in your next scene, you have to play a confident and charming James Bond-type character. Not only would you be much less nervous about approaching girls in that scene, you would probably do a very good impression of how a confident man would act.
So: what’s the difference between doing an impression of a confident person, and actually being confident? Could you do an impression of a confident person every single day for the rest of your life? I bet you could. As an added bonus, developing the ability to perceive life as theatre is a good way to stop taking everything so damn seriously. In “real life” your ego is in control. On stage, there’s nothing to do but play the character you’re assigned and enjoy the show. You have the freedom to define every aspect of who you are and how you behave. There is no spoon.
Why Does This Work?
I don’t have a definite answer to this question, but I will speculate: most people are held back by feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome.
In hunter-gatherer tribes, lower-status men who aspire to be the top dog are swatted down hard, so we evolved a mental handbrake that keeps our ambitions in check. In the modern world, no one is going to rip off your testicles for trying to become a better man, but try telling that to your shitty brain. It’s like how morbidly obese people inhale sugary snacks out of a misguided terror of starving to death.
The exercises in this post bypass the self-destructive instinct to rein in your ambition, and reduce feelings of inadequacy. You may not feel like you deserve the life you want, but surely if Elon Musk had to suffer the indignity of building the best life possible from your current situation, he deserves all the good fortune as he gets. An imaginary board of directors mentoring you suggests that the tribe is deeply invested in your success, and so won’t punish your striving; method acting removes your ego from the equation and puts your actions in a context that allows ‘make-belief’ ambition.
An alternative explanation is that everything above is feel-good nonsense and Ev Psych just-so pseudoscience. Whatever the case though, I find these exercises helpful in finding motivation and clarity of purpose in my life. Take a few minutes, try them out, and let us know in the comments if they lead to any interesting revelations.