Victus Spiritus


Hacking Minds: Leverage Your Habitual Nature

19 Nov 2009


Bad Habits

The world loves to dwell on our bad habits. Smoking, eating, drinking, drugs, and even sex. It's as if calling out our bad habits is a form of societal confession. Perception and action are too entirely different motive forces though, and it's arguable that paying attention to terrible activity only makes them more desirable (taboo) to young folks. What if we could leverage the addictive and habitual aspects of our psyche to positive activities?

Hacking Your Subconscious

I'll summarize, as the Wordpress iPhone client ate a few hundred words. There are a few techniques I've developed which have helped me couple habits and positive activities. My hope is by describing them here, you can benefit from seeing similar patterns in your own lives.

1) Walking

A number of years back a friend at work (thanks Johnny) got me to take a walk a few times a week. Over time I adjusted my pace and integrated walking into each and every day. Something about the methodic and low intensity exercise yielded positive effects on my mental and emotional state for many hours after (endorphins). A simple form of repetitive exercise had become a meditative trance that I could use to process difficult decisions or cope with extraordinarily frustrating days. Now I regularly walk 70-80 miles per week and use a smartphone to allow me to multitask with this time, without loss of the positive benefits.

2) Opening My Mind to Opposing Views

Somewhere in the haze of my forgotten youth (wee lad) I had formed a worldview where information was either 100% right or wrong. This view naturally deferred to my own ideas, and as I learned about the world a stronger vertical knowledge tower formed. This binary view on information is highly useful for certain activities, like rapidly prioritizing our business tasks (100% done or not). But when it comes to getting to the heart of complex issues, many opposing views are necessary to shift problems into purer, easier to understand forms. Now an ingrained habit of mine is to question my own assumptions, and critically inspect the motives of those who share information. Being open to opposing views is the secret sauce of my decision making theory, blog, and imagination.

3) Blogging/Writing

Any kind of writing has been a long time challenge of mine. At first I discovered the joy of writing my own website (, then disovered Squidoo lenses. From there I moved on to my own blogging platform. Parsing (slowing down) my thoughtflow enough to reasonably transfer foggy ideas into rational communication is the key. Regular practice is a huge help to any thought junky, who wants to share their ideas and make them more valuable. By fostering a habit of blogging, I've naturally incorporated writing practice into each day. I believe communication is the most powerful skill that anyone can develop in our modern world.

4) Reaching Out

In the world of Internet text, I quickly got over any hesitation (ty Dave) in reaching out to those I believe may benefit from my perspective, or may assist me with a decision. Commenting on blog posts and articles on the right blogs fires off great conversations. The more often I share my opinion, the more I learn how little I know ;), but the less biased my opinion becomes to false assumptions. Overusing direct contact of others is spammy behavior, and requires careful review. When you are building a community or network of any type you are likely to find many who don't get it. That's fine, the community of everyone is already full of members and their tastes are mediocre ;). Respecting people's privacy and attention is a vital aspect to successful communication. I still haven't sorted out how to deal with crowds I don't know. I suppose chatting with the nearest person works? It's much easier when I'm talking about a topic I have great passion for.