Overcoming Instinct.

Why?
I am writing this for myself, just as I am writing it for anyone else. I am an ape, a primitive being, and so are you. We all can be better, we all can improve, and when I clarify my thoughts by putting pen to paper, I fortify my belief in these thoughts. I make my understanding of what I think and believe concrete, and I further propagate this message deeper into my psyche; I want to embody what I write, I want it to become my core, molten, firey, possessing deep power. I want this message to embed itself in my DNA at such a fundamental level that my future children come marching out of the womb screaming OORAH!

OVERCOMING INSTINCT.
It is Human instinct to reach for the bag of Doritos over a banana, apple or mango. It is Human instinct to lay on the couch doing nothing. It is Human instinct to always prefer the easy way. It is Human instinct to choose fast-food over fresh-food. It is Human instinct to hit the snooze button rather than going to the Gym. It is Human instinct to choose the present over the future. It is Human instinct to be lazy, gluttonous and short-sighted. It’s your instinct, your destiny, to be fat, lazy and unproductive, only doing the necessary actions to keep yourself alive. Is this the life you want to live? A life of obesity, unfulfilled potential, unrealised dreams? A life of mediocrity, a life of instant gratification? Would you be happy dating someone like this, a lazy person who values the present over the future…someone who has and will never amount to anything other than a slave to their biology? If you’ve answered no to these questions, then keep reading; else, enjoy your mediocre life, filled with long-term pain and short-term pleasure.

WE ARE PROGRAMMED TO SURVIVE.
Humans are programmed to survive, and the instincts within us have kept the Human race surviving for roughly 300,000 years. Our instincts drove us to choose the caloric dense foods over the less dense foods (fat > carbs/protein, 9 kcal/g, 4 kcal/g respectively) for they offered more energy; foods such as nuts, avocados, and any other naturally occurring food possessing a high-fat content. Laziness meant we didn’t expend energy unless it was necessary, and in a world of caloric scarcity this prevention of unnecessary caloric expenditure was a line of defence from starvation and death. In a world where everything is trying to kill you and food is scarce, it doesn’t make sense to do things that aren’t directly tied with your survival, so why do the thing that doesn’t need to be done? In a world of uncertainty, a world where the future didn’t exist because the present was so demanding, instant gratification kept us alive.

In the modern day, these instincts, and I’m speaking primarily of the instincts regarding food consumption and default to laziness, hold us back. They stop us from self-actualising, they stop us from being fit, healthy, and they stop us from realising our dreams. They keep us rooted in the present; our instincts know not of the future, for the future exists behind a wall of haziness and uncertainty in our imagination. Those who succeed, those who realise their dreams, and those who do the thing…these people overcome their instincts. They overcome this intrinsic drive to do nothing and to eat Doritos and ice cream while watching Netflix, and periodically dozing off to sleep. We’ve all been there, let’s be honest.

Why should you overcome instinct?
Great question, I couldn’t have asked it better myself. The modern is challenging in new ways. We have not evolved to adapt to the conditions in which we live in the modern day. The industrial revolution, which resulted in the internal combustion engine and electricity (think anything that doesn’t use steam power or literal horse-power), has only occurred within the last ~200 years. Conversely, farming was first used ~14,000 years ago; comparatively, it is only a recent invention and one that radically changed our world in fundamental ways. This fuelled the scientific, technological, and information technological revolutions of the 20th and 21st centuries. It takes enormous amounts of time, literally hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Our biology is primitive but our world is modern. Our world is Wi-Fi but our biology is carrier-pigeon…we’re running an outdating operating system and we need a software update. If God is in charge of this homo sapien product line, the CEO, the board of the company best be firing him because this hardware is inferior to the environment to which it was deployed. We’re but moths to a flame…the modern world preys on our ability, or lack-there-of to overcome our instincts.

Why do I like fast-food so much? I’m very health conscious and athletic, but I’ll still enjoy a mean vegan potato scallop burger from my local takeaway shop, dripping in oil; the pre-diabetic diet. Why do I drive to the grocery store when I could easily walk? Why do I wanna sleep in and chain watch The Office? I’m a hardcoded lazy ape whose instinct makes him favour energy conservation over physical health and productivity. I wrestle with my instincts every day, and I’m gonna bet that most people do.

You are driving home from work. The image of a burger from McDonald’s flashes before your mind’s eye and you feel the delight from within. You can feel the pull toward the heart disease between diabetic buns, and you know this to be the wrong choice. What are you gonna do? If you submit to your instinct, your primitive impulse, you will have lost the battle. The battle in the campaign of your life and one battle may not seem like much, but you have committed a fatal error. Submission to instinct has now become an option, and this card is on the table available for play. You’ve lost. You’ve submitted. You’ve embodied the primitive Human…you’ve created negative momentum. Welcome to the jungle motherfucker. To overcome your instinct, you must not pull into the drive-thru and you must go home and cook sweet potato and vegetables, or whatever won’t callous your arteries and wreak havoc on your insulin sensitivity. To overcome instinct you must act in the opposite manner in which you feel compelled? Do you want saturated fat? Wrong. Carbohydrate. Do you want to quit? Wrong. Lean in, push on, do not give in. Do you want to check your notifications? Wrong. Keep working, stay focused and OVERCOME INSTINCT.

THE PROCESS.
Each time you choose to not submit to your instincts, you strengthen the mental muscle, you strengthen the neural pathway for that behaviour in your brain. The stronger the neural pathway, the easier it is to engage in that behaviour, therefore, the more you overcome instinct, the easier it becomes to overcome that urge in the future. Do it enough and it becomes automatic. Each time you choose GYM over SLEEP IN, you strengthen your neural pathway. Each time you choose SWEET POTATO over BURGER you strengthen your neural pathway. Each time you choose A BOOK over NETFLIX you strengthen the neural pathway. Your behaviour creates momentum, and this momentum is based on neural pathways, and this is why ROUTINE WORKS. If you want to succeed in whatever you desire, you must engage in repetition; For example, If you want to be healthy you must repeatedly eat healthily and exercise, and to do this you must overcome instinct. Overcoming instinct is a fundamental cornerstone of any success story. Win the moment by overcoming instinct and you will win your life.

SEIZE THE ADVANTAGE.
To overcome instinct is to get a leg up in life; a distinct advantage over those who succumb to instinct. Overcoming instinct means it is more likely that you will live the life that you want to live. It is because of this repeated self-overcoming (overcoming instinct), that you will be more likely to execute on the tasks that will move you toward realising your dreams. This continual self-overcoming fortifies your willpower, and this willpower will be the driving force in your life; you will possess the power in which to execute on your dreams. Do you want to be the best that you can be? Do you want to realise your dreams? If you want to level up, get an advantage in life, you must…

OVERCOME INSTINCT.

Life is but a moment.

People often think that success occurs at a singular point in time, as if it were an elevator; a sudden causal event on which all responsibility rests. This can’t be further from the truth. The same can be said for the descent into hell; not a cliff, but a slow descent into fire and brimstone.

Each day we make decisions about how our time is spent, who we subject ourselves to, and whether we choose a job or a career. All of these small individual decisions matter, and they impact to an almost unimaginable degree. What did you do today? How much time did you waste? Was this your ideal day? What would your life look like if this day were repeated for 1 year, 2 years, 10 years? Have you ever stopped to consider how the entirety of your life is directly affected by each individual decision that you make?

Now, don’t fret, your life isn’t over…yet.

There is still time.

Life Diagram.png

Look at this diagram, what do you see? How do your moments stack up? Right now, are you living the kind of life that you want to live? Will you reminisce with regret? unrealised dreams, dates not asked for, people not kissed; a life not well lived?

Fuck that.

You need direction, a goal, something to strive toward. Life is a journey and it’s a matter of loving the process, however, the process involves forward motion; how can you progress toward a way-point that is undefined? How can you go somewhere without knowing the destination? This would only result in aimless meandering.

Get some direction, set a goal, and write it down. 

Once you have defined a destination, direction or goal, you’re ready to march forward; the same as the as a nomadic hunter gatherer who walks toward the oak tree on the horizon of the savanna. Now, with this destination in mind, your end goal, your end point, you can develop a plan of attack…you can construct your days with your destination in mind.

What do you want to achieve today? How does this relate to your end goal?

Watch your thoughts, for what you think, you become. Each moment is but presence, thought, feeling or speech; watch each moment for the thoughts that populate your mind, for these thoughts determine the direction of your life. What you think, you speak. What you speak determines what you do. What you determines your habits. Your habits determine your character, and your character determines your destiny.

Master the moment, observe your thoughts and you will master your life. 

Exploring the Human Environment

Whilst travelling in India, I had the realisation that I was going to uproot my entire life and move to Wollongong. Why? Well, I was already a relatively disciplined and focused person, however, I felt like my environment, physical and social, were not aligned with what I wanted to achieve in my life. My mental health was suffering because of it and I knew I needed to make a change. So I changed everything. I decided that it would benefit me socially, financially and in my professional development efforts if I moved to Wollongong; so I did. This was one of the biggest leap-of-faith moments in my life, and it has worked out better than expected. My environment has now aligned with my preferred life, career and social trajectory. My train is on the tracks and it doesn’t plan on stopping. My life had dramatically changed for the better because I had changed my environment.
An environment conducive to productivity is crucial to the prosperity of ourselves, others, our nation and all nations. Your environment is a constant flow of subconscious information which influences your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. We are intrinsically connected to our environment, and it is for this reason that you must align your environment with your values and goals. Your environment includes things such as your room, your house, where you choose to study, who you socialise with, and the media you choose to be influenced by.
The structure of your environment influences you with or without your knowledge, so will you choose to utilise the power that order creates to your advantage? How productive do you want to be? What kind of life do you desire? Is your environment ordered, or is it chaotic? Are the people you are exposed to also pursuing the life you desire? I’m here to answer all those questions and encourage you to arrange your environment in such a way that is conducive to the life that you want for yourself.

Your physical environment
You are a student at University, and to be somewhat academically successful, you must study. If you do not have a desk (or flat surface of moderate height) you are less likely to study. Why? Well, where else will you study, the floor? For a moment, ponder why this is. The floor is not a likely productive environment for studying, for reasons such as pain whilst sitting for extended periods of time (unless of course your body is familiar with such a position), furthermore, it is difficult to keep your head up if you are in fact laying on the ground with your laptop. Your physical position isn’t optimised for extended academic productivity. However, I am sure there are exceptions to this rule. Now picture yourself sitting at a desk…your computer is there, and your reading timetable, calendar and class schedule are fixed to the wall in front of you. Your books are stacked to the left and your stationery to the right, and at a glance, you recognise this collection of seemingly unconnected objects as an area where your study takes place. Contrast this with your floor…do you see your floor in the same way? If you do, perhaps you don’t own a desk? Structure your environment in a way that is conducive to the tasks you want to carry out, and what you wish to achieve.

Your mental environment
Does your mind ever feel cluttered when surrounded by mess? Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, specific to both person and situation. However, as a general rule, cluttered space equals a cluttered mind. According to a study conducted by the Princeton neuroscience institute, you are more prone to distraction when surrounded by multiple visual stimuli. A cluttered environment is not conducive to the activities that you wish to engage in unless that activity is cleaning (ha-ha). If your environment is established in a manner that is conducive to your objectives, you are more likely to turn those tasks, such as studying at your desk, into a routine. By implementing routine, you are becoming more efficient as the mental load of decision making is not at play; you have increased your efficiency and in turn your effectiveness. And voila! You are on the path to becoming useful in the world.

First things first
The first thing that you do every day is important. So important in fact, that how you start your day sets the tone for it. If you wake up and make your bed, you will gain an immediate sense of accomplishment. In turn, this will reward your body with dopamine (the same chemical that is released when you drink coffee or have sex), and this effect is likely to snowball throughout the day (thanks, dopamine!).
You can get into good habits like this by leaving your moisturiser in plain sight so that you are more likely to use it daily. Maybe leave your diary next to your bed so that you are more inclined to write in it when you spot it. Charge your phone far from your reach, so that you are less likely to reach for it and become distracted, or position your lamp strategically so that you can easily switch it on/off when required. These are simple examples of ordering your room in such a way that is conducive to the tasks you wish to carry out. It is critical to structure your room so that the things you wish to achieve are linked to the order of your environment. Your environment is critical, don’t forget that. Listen to what your mother always said and “clean your damn room!”

The Social Environment
Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, once said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. This is wise, however, I prefer this version: “You are the average of the five people you are exposed to most frequently”. I like this version because you can be exposed to people through media, such as Youtube, podcasts, blogs or TV. Now imagine growing up in a household where discipline, routine and goals aren’t the status quo. You subconsciously adopt these values, thoughts, and behaviours of those around you; your mother, father, sister, brother, aunty and uncle.
Your family members do not have routine, discipline nor do they set goals. They don’t possess the mindset that they can achieve anything. You have unknowingly adopted their mindset, habits, and characteristics. Is this environment conducive to achieving great things? This may seem harsh but consider this.
Perhaps you want to be a writer, psychologist, bodybuilder, or even a successful businessperson. How can you expect to maintain routine, discipline and achieve goals if everybody around you has no routine, discipline and has no goals? Maybe they don’t encourage you, and maybe they even put you down (see: crab mentality). They cannot perceive a life different to their current circumstance. There are exceptions, but in my experience, this is the rule. Furthermore, I have personally experienced something analogous to this, and I have also personally experienced the powerful effects of an environmental shift. My environment became more aligned with my interests, hobbies, and values, and the improvement I experienced was exponential. Never in my life have I ever experienced such a surge of energy, discipline, focus, and hunger for success. The people that are included in your social environment matter more than you realise.

Media…who, and what are you choosing to influence you?
How much time do you spend watching Netflix or TV? What do you learn from this? Is this new-found knowledge edging you closer to your goals and dreams? When you are exposing yourself to media, you are programming yourself to think a certain way. For example: if you watch Fox News every day, you are more likely to be racist and bigoted (thanks, Bill O’Reilly!). Because you are constantly exposed to that narrative, an emotion is triggered and leading you to unknowingly adopt these views and feelings towards a subject. This is the same reason propaganda works.
Now imagine that you have the goal of wanting to be a successful person in some arena. You start listening to podcasts involving successful people within their specific disciplines to understand their mindset, their decision-making schema, in addition to their habits and routines. Every day, you are exposing yourself to the thoughts, feelings, and insights of people who have achieved so much in their life. Over time, you will begin to adopt their views, thoughts, feelings, habits, and routines- you are programming yourself for productivity. What media you choose to influence you matters, and it matters because you are programming your brain to think and act a certain way.
Your environment is all-encompassing, and it has a far-reaching impact. It influences your habits, routine, thoughts and emotions. This may be daunting; however, you are blessed with the power to change your environment. Modulate your environment in such a way that is likely to produce the results you desire. You are in control.

References
Kastner, S & McMains, S 2011, ‘Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex’, JNeurosci, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 587-697.

Mindset matters.

The thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that you possess toward a task, objective or goal subconsciously influence the outcome of that event.

If you begin a task with the mindset that you will not succeed or that you are not good enough, these thoughts will influence the degree of effort you apply, and the level of pain and suffering you are willing to endure. Furthermore, your mindset also affects how you perceive events and then dictates how you react (or don’t react) to them; this has a compounding effect on your mindset and in turn your character.

There are two types of mindsets, a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset. I learned about these in the book Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential, authored by Dr. Carol Dweck.

fixed mindset is when someone believes that their intellect, traits, and skills are fixed. They believe they cannot be improved, and they endevour to always appear intelligent and to avoid appearing dumb. This mindset results in people only undertaking tasks where they are confident they will succeed and avoiding things where they may fail.

growth mindset is when someone believes that their traits, character, skills, and intellect are not fixed and that they can improve every aspect of themselves through effort and persistence (discipline).

If you approach a task with a fixed mindset, when you experience setbacks and failures (which you will) you will become demotivated and you will begin to believe that you cannot succeed. Your mind becomes populated with thoughts of not being good enough, negativity and despair. You perceive challenges, setbacks, and failures as confirmations of your fixed level of skill, intelligence, and character. This mindset produces exponentially mediocre results.

However, by approaching a task with a growth mindset, when you inevitably experience challenges, setbacks, and failures, you know that to succeed you must persist in the face of adversity…you must ‘lean in’. Adversity drives you forward as you understand that the path to mastery is a persistent effort…so you dig in and push harder. This is the mindset of top-formers in any discipline. Nothing was ever achieved by giving up.

You gotta decide, are you a Wolf or are you a sheep?