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  Lesson 3 - Understand How Your Mind Functions

Expanding on the idea that imagination is more important than willpower when you want to change a habit.

When you heard this in the video it probably sounded weird. How can imagination determine you behavior more than willpower does?

To explain this, let's use an example all men can relate to...watching porn. Let's say you want to stop watching porn. It's probably one of the hardest habits to break and most of us fail miserably when we try.

It happens like this:

One guy decides to stop watching porn. He goes a week without it. But then as he's working on the computer, he starts imagining a clip in his head - a porn scene that was memorable to him. As he's remembering that scene he thinks: "Oh man I'd really enjoy watching something like that again". At that point be gets a strong urge to go on a porn site.

But he said he'll stop. So he resists the temptation. But then a few minutes later he imagines the scene again. He daydreams about it for two minutes getting completely immersed in that feeling. He may even get an erection. When he wakes up from that, he uses his willpower one more time to resist. A few minutes later he imagines it again and then again and then again until finally his willpower runs out and he goes on a porn site.

When willpower and imagination go head to head, imagination always wins. That's because the images in our mind guide our impulses.

If the image of what we don't want to do dominates our mind, willpower can't do anything to stop us because we don't know what we want to do instead. We feel the urge to do what we see ourselves in our mind doing.

In this example, to prevent us from watching porn, we must change the erotic images in our mind as soon as they appear! Don't fantasize about how much you'd enjoy the habit you decided to quit - porn, smoking, video games, social media, etc. The more you allow those images to run in your mind, the more you'll feel like doing them.

For example, I really like the video game Assassin's Creed and the TV show Game of Thrones. Right now if I start imagining how I played AC a few months ago and really get into that feeling, I'm going to want to play today. Or if I think about my favorite scenes from Game of Thrones and I clearly imagine the sounds and the music, I'm going to want to watch them again on YouTube.

My pespective right now is that the secret to self-discipline is controlling your thoughts, not stopping yourself from acting on what you don't want to do. If you never think about what you want to stop doing, you won't feel like doing it.

We must think about what we want to do instead. Only if we replace the images in our mind can our willpower prevent us from falling back into the habit.

So if you want to stop watching porn, or playing video games, or watching TV series, next time you think about them don't allow yourself to get immersed in those thoughts. Replace what you think about as soon as possible. Think about the project you're working on instead. Or imagine yourself studying, imagine yourself lifting weights, imagine yourself giving a speech, imagine something that you want to do that day.

This insight was really valuable for me. If you don't allow yourself to daydream about something distracting, you'll be able to focus on your goals instead.