Set your Mind’s GPS

Did you ever set your GPS wrong? I know I have. It takes a little while, but I eventually figure out that something is wrong with the directions I am given. But if you set your mind’s GPS wrong, it can take much longer to notice.

If you are unhappy about the path of your life, you need to re-program your mind’s GPS. A simple way to do that is by saying affirmations. An affirmation is a compelling sentence that describes how you feel after reaching your goal. One of mine has been “I am happy and proud that I won the Best Speaker award.”

Design an affirmation and say it to yourself every day. You will find that it directs your mind to seek a way to reach the goal your affirmation describes. And yes, I did win the award I was looking for 😉

Choose Your Soundtrack

Movies manipulate your feelings. You can borrow the techniques of the movie industry to change how you feel. One of their tricks is the soundtrack. You just know that something scary is waiting behind that door – the music tells you.

Think about the soundtrack you want for your life. You might create several playlists for different moods. You can have one for starting work, one for winding down after your workday, one for getting ready for bed, and an extra energetic one for doing boring work around the house.

Your rational mind cannot directly affect your feelings. It doesn’t work to simply tell yourself to cheer up. But your rational self can select the right tunes and let the music do the magic.

Reprogram Your Brain

Are you using your brain right? As Daniel Kahneman showed, our brains have two thinking systems: A fast system and a slow system. The slow system is for carefully considering situations, and it uses a lot of energy. The fast system provides quick answers in routine situations and uses much less energy.

Our brains have evolved over thousands of years to automatically select which system to use. In every situation, the fast system gets the first try. In 98% of all cases, the fast system comes up with what it thinks is a good answer, and doesn’t even ask the slow system.

Fortunately, you can use the slow system to re-program the fast system. To change your behavior, think about a situation in advance and tell yourself what you want to happen. Your fast system might automatically say yes when your boss asks you to handle one more ticket today. Tell yourself that next time, you will say that you will do it tomorrow. Simply stating your goal reprograms your fast thinking system to select another response next time.

Save Energy Using Boxes

Every item in your field of vision costs you energy. Brain scans show that the automatic effort of filtering out irrelevant objects takes power, and the more items you look at, the worse your focus becomes.

You need to see fewer objects. You don’t have to throw anything out (though that is probably good, too). Simply take a number of items that have some relation to each other and put them in a box. 12 USB cables and 7 memory sticks become one object when they go into a box.

Throwing random objects into a box doesn’t trick your brain, however. Looking at a box you know contains random junk actually costs more energy, because now your brain is also thinking about the task of getting the stuff out of the box and sorting it.

Get out a box and remove some clutter from your field of vision. You’ll find that your energy increases. You just might even get around to that task you have been putting off for weeks.

Play the Minimalism Game with Me

You have too much stuff. The average American household contains 300,000 items plus whatever is in their storage unit. You might think that having too much stuff is harmless, but it isn’t. Every item you own is taking up a little working memory in your brain. Each item has to be stored, repaired, charged, cleaned.

If you want to make a change in your life, getting rid of some stuff is a good place to start. If you are up to the challenge, join me for a 30-day challenge invented by The Minimalists. The rules are simple: The first day you get rid of one item. You can throw it away, recycle it, sell it, or give it away. On the second day, you get rid of two items. On the third day, three items. You don’t have to do the math in your head – if you stick with the challenge for all 30 days, you’ll end up 465 items lighter. Who’s with me?

Are You Prepared?

This morning, the citizens of Ukraine woke up to the sound of a Russian invasion. After weeks of saber-rattling, some people were prepared and some were not. You might not live in a place where a Russian invasion is likely, but you can still be affected by natural and man-made disasters. Even if you are not consciously thinking about it, your unconscious mind is continually evaluating your risk.

The better prepared you are for the unexpected, the more your mind will be is at ease. The events of today are a reminder to find out how to prepare yourself. In Sweden, every household recently received a 20-page folder called “If crisis or war comes.” Find the official recommendation for emergency preparedness from your local authorities and prepare yourself a little better. It will calm your mind.

Don’t Let Your Devices Kill Your Brain

Have you outsourced your thinking to your devices? That’s not a good idea. Surveys show that spatial awareness and the ability to read a map are both declining rapidly as everybody uses navigation apps to go anywhere. Now Apple is offering to similarly damage your short-term memory with AirTags. Since you will no longer have to remember where you put your keys, your ability to remember will atrophy.

If there are parts of your brain you are not using, the brain will repurpose that capacity for something else. You might not need to store a lot of facts because they are available at your fingertips at any time. But you should not let your ability to remember and find your way around disappear. Your mind knows that you are no longer able to survive on your own, and it weighs on your self-image.

Try going a few days without your gadgets. You will find that it is harder than you thought. And you will experience a sense of primal accomplishment by being able to live your life unsupported by a smartphone crutch.