Have you ever been driving down the interstate when it occurred to you that a sharp turn of the steering wheel in either direction would send you and your cargo flipping to an early grave? Not a pleasant thought, but it is surprisingly common.
We all have these moments of recognition where we are reminded and possibly frightened by the immense power we hold. Perhaps you’ve had similar thoughts when holding a newborn or a ladder for a friend. For most people, these thoughts serve as a useful reminder about the focus required for dangerous tasks and are quickly replaced by hundreds of more useful and pleasant thoughts. Yet, for me, it was not always that way.
I had become convinced that just because I had thought it could come true. At the time I could be overwhelmed by a momentary impulse that ruined my life. This then would prompt an internal battle to prove that the subject of my terror could never happen. And with each of these episodes my sense of confidence about the ability to override a destructive impulse diminished.
On one occasion while driving from Fort Worth to St. Louis to see my parents for Thanksgiving, I became so terrified that I would lose control that I pulled over at a rest stop and walked until I had the confidence to get back in the car. The rest of the drive I coached myself home like Maverick talking to Cougar at the beginning of Top Gun.
When I was 19, I developed a form of OCD called pure O. My fears grew increasingly bizarre and irrational, far beyond what any logical person would dream possible, until they eventually encompassed every area of my life. It was called pure O, but the brand of my particular form of neurosis was completely arbitrary.
This was a manifestation of anxiety that developed as a consequence of adopting norms that went against my most fundamental needs. Having no concept of how to train my mind or understand my emotions, I grew a self-destructive pattern of response to anxiety that fed itself with each of my attempts to explain it away.
While I hid it well, anxiety consumed every experience. Doubt grew as I wrestled with myself in an attempt to force my mind into submission. Over the next few years, I’d pull my way out of anxiety by channeling that obsessive mind towards a study of psychology, philosophy, exercise physiology, nutrition, meditation, history, and the human experience.
I began eating better, exercising for health, and practicing mental training techniques that radically shifted my perceptions, expectations, and responses to the world around me.
As challenging as the experience with anxiety was, it proved to be the most instructive trial of my life. By funneling my energy into a passion for self-development I formed a balanced, interconnected understanding of self-mastery and the human needs. And oh, how misunderstood these needs are.
Treating Symptoms Versus Treating Causes
Today, experiences like mine are more common than you’d think. In fact, when I wrote a more detailed account of my experience I was shocked by how many people reached out to say they’d been living with similar issues. We all have something calling us to self-development.
Even if it isn’t anxiety, it is depression, being overweight, a bad temper, an unsatisfying relationship, or, more likely, a combination of many factors. Yet, our schools gave us no context to train the one thing that really matters in a changing world: ourselves. With no context for self-development, the normal route for creating change tends to follow a failed pattern.
“I’m overweight and unhappy. I’ll start this diet and sign up for a brutal one-hour boot camp class three days a week.” But there is more at play than just the body. The mental and emotional realms are equally responsible for your current state.
Even more, that calorie-counting diet sucks and, having very little background in training, the boot camp is far beyond what you will actually be willing to stick to. With no understanding of the principles behind these programs, the changes will only be temporary. These efforts are doomed before they even begin.
It is well documented that technology has allowed us to let our bodies go, but it is now promoting the loss of mental capacity and emotional intelligence that are equally essential to any of our goals. The information economy depends on marketers using the latest neuroscience to hack your subconscious and keep you scrolling.
Incessant advertising and pop-culture compound to create a culture obsessed with avoiding fears in favor of comfort and seeking possessions or “likes” to fix all internal strife. Our minds are programmed to focus on what is wrong, where we are slighted, and what material wants we “need” to improve our situation. All the cliches about how to live best are still common, but they have no bearing on the patterns that drive most people’s thoughts and actions.
With the development of the smartphone and social media, our mental and emotional stability have both been stretched to the max. Our attention is constantly pulled to a million distractions. There is always the ping of a work email and the demand for more pageantry and self-promotion to keep up with the Joneses.
The ability to converse and connect has, ironically, been shattered by social platforms that feed confirmation bias all the while compiling more data to make their advertisements even more irresistible to your specific psyche.
While training the body will assist in inspiring learning and creating a change in emotions, now more than ever, this is not enough. Furthermore, we are less likely to persist in our efforts to train the body if we don’t account for the mind and emotions too. For sustainable success, we need to do more and do less.
A Broader Approach to Training
Our environment is engineered to reduce your productivity and increase your impulsivity. It is engineered to create impulse, not fulfillment. More than ever, our training can’t be reserved for just the body. In fact, physical training is far less likely to stick if it doesn’t include mental and emotional training as well. These three things must be linked.
Amid this world, most people will feel a sense of dissatisfaction, finding life isn’t what they wanted and so they are told to go workout for an hour a day. There are a couple of problems with this, however:
- An hour a day of what and why an hour? For most people that’s really too much to start with.
- The body is a portal to training the other things in your life, but you should also be training the mind and emotion or none of the changes are likely to stick.
We have to train mind, body, and emotion. Societies have always known this but we lost it in the pursuit of pleasure and comfort. Now more than ever this is the case because transformative benchmark challenges and rites of passage are not typical in our development.
Now more than ever we need physical, mental, and emotional training because an industry exists hell-bent on manipulating our emotions and pulling us into sedentary entertainments that preclude the use of mind and body. We’re allowing new technology to fill the needs our mind and bodies once filled and this, more than anything, is crippling our emotional well-being.
At IHD, we’ve long professed the power of three core habits—physical exercise, nourishing self-education, along with gratitude and meditation. These present a daily dose of training in mind, body, and emotion. But as nice as this sounds, the devil is in the details. How do you implement this approach?
In an attempt to improve your life, you could quickly overwhelm yourself spending hours each day going through every life hack of the successful all the while wondering if you’re doing it right. I picture a life-hacking junkie tweaking out in the corner of a room as they try to rush through more affirmations and calm themselves with more essential oils.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the scope of our goals or the immense number of ways we could go about trying to improve. The paradox of our immense number of choices is that this abundance of options has actually been shown to make us less likely to do anything. Paralysis by infinite analysis.
Train Your Body, Mind, and Emotion
In an effort to simplify this process and help you create change that can actually stick, Justin Lind and I have created the 30×30 Challenge. It is a clear, stress-free program for daily training in mind, body, and emotion.
There is nothing to plan or research and the steps give room for expansion, but won’t make you bite off more than you can chew. All you have to do each day is turn on the video and follow along as we lead you through 30-minutes of transformative self-development that progress over 30 days to hardwire willpower, create empowered perceptions, and stoke a personal sense of purpose to fuel your days.
The power of physical exercise, gratitude, meditation, and nourishing education are well documented. But finding time for all that can be overwhelming. Changing any one behavior is challenging enough, particularly when you are just trying to change one action without accounting for the principles that underlie that behavior.
All training must be supported by mental, physical, and emotional realms. All three are always present, but we typically train one while ignoring the other two. The 30×30 Challenge respects the whole of training and combines each element in a coordinated mutually supportive program where each realm enhances the others. In other words, our program features three core habits, but because of how we’ve structured it, 1+1+1= 5.
The 30×30 Challenge is the challenge that can actually create lifelong change by going to the core understandings that underlie lasting success. The challenge becomes available on September 15th, 2019. You can get on the list for a pre-sale discount now, by heading to the 30×30 Challenge page.
You Can Make The Change
We’ve always known that we have to train the mind, body, and emotion, but it is harder than ever to actually do it. Of course, the difficulty we have getting started is the only evidence of how much more important it is now than ever before.
Make it easy on yourself. Commit to thirty days of 30 minutes and challenge a friend to join. That commitment will kickstart awesome changes.