When you expose yourself to the right kind of intellectual input, you will excel. But feed on the wrong stuff, and you will atrophy.
In short, you become what you feed your mind.
Learn why we are so tempted by mental fast food, and how we can learn to consume only what nurtures us.
- Why You Must Choose the Right Input
- Why We Struggle With This
- How To Feed Your Mind Properly
There is an almost magical correlation between what you feed your mind and the results you get in life. Whatever you expose your brain to, your life trajectory adjusts to.
A few examples from my own life.
When I was 16, I got really into playing the guitar. For the next four years, all I did was practice, study music theory, and listen to records. Despite lacking any musical talent, I ended up in bands with much more experienced musicians than me.
When I was 23, I discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Again, I completely immersed myself. I went to every class, watched instructionals for hours, and studied the matches of the great. This eventually led to me getting my BJJ black belt and teaching martial arts for a living.
When I was 27, I got fed up with monogamy. So, I made it my mission to find other free spirits to date. I read every book on the subject, talked to thousands of strangers, and went on hundreds of dates. The result was several highly rewarding ENM relationships.
I am not saying this to brag. My point is exactly the opposite — provided the right stimulus, almost anybody can achieve anything. But feed yourself the wrong input — social media, the news, Netflix — and you will stagnate.
You become what you feed your mind.
Why You Must Choose the Right Input
There are three reasons why we must carefully choose our input.
1. Stronger Resolve
Wherever our mind turns to, the rest of our existence follows. It’s like a general commanding their troops.
For example, if you are obsessed with running an ultra-marathon, your body will find a way. If all you think about is writing a novel, at some point, you will reach for a pen.
But to create that persuasive vision, you need the right input. Books, videos, and teachers will all help to strengthen your resolve.
2. More Flashes of Inspiration
If you always feed your mind the right input, you prime it for better ideas. Your unconscious mind will keep mulling the problem over, even when you are not staring at a book.
For example, when I write an article for this blog, I always do research first. I will google articles, consult books, watch videos, etc.
Then I just let it simmer. I just know that my mind will soon come up with an idea that I can use (usually during a walk or in bed). I gave it the right fuel, and now it will do the rest.
3. Better Opportunity-to-Win Ratio
When you constantly feed yourself ideas on the same subject, your perception changes.
We have all experienced this phenomenon — when you are thinking of buying a certain car, you suddenly notice this car everywhere.
This heightened sensitivity will give you an edge. You can see this with great salespeople. Because they conditioned their mind for it, they will sniff out every opportunity to make a deal.
Why We Struggle With This
Nobody doubts the importance of proper nutrition. We know that to be healthy and strong, we need to put the right fuel in our tanks.
Yet, when it comes to our minds, most of us indulge without a care. Whatever we happen to come across online – the news, cat pictures, barely clad influencers – we swallow it whole.
Why is that? Why do we keep consuming mental fast food?
There are two problems.
The first problem is that mental fast food is just as addictive as the real thing. Sensationalist news, celebrity gossip, porn — we crave these quick dopamine hits.
Expose yourself to these inputs for long enough, and you won’t be able to do without them. Like any junkie, you will choose short-term pleasure over long-term health.
The second problem is that we don’t grasp the cause-effect relationship.
Just like with food, the bad consequences set in much later. You don’t eat a donut and get diabetes right away.
Feeding your mind the wrong input is the same. Your success curve doesn’t immediately drop. It happens over a long period. For that reason, it is easy to downplay the effects.
How To Feed Your Mind Properly
You become what you feed your mind — but how do you put that into practice? Here are five ideas.
1. Never Check Your Phone First Thing in the Morning
Checking your phone right after waking up is a terrible idea.
Messages, alerts, news — the content on your phone is designed to distract you. Give them your attention, and you will never get around to your most important work.
Also, mornings are when you feel the most rested; by checking your phone first thing, you are wasting this mental prime time.
Finally, how you start your day sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you give in to temptation right away, you will continue to do so throughout the day.
Therefore, make it a rule to never reach for your phone after waking up. Instead, read something educational or inspiring for at least 5 minutes.
The momentum you get from this uplifting input will carry you throughout the day. It will lead to better choices.
Bonus tip: Place your phone on the other side of the room the night before. This way, you can’t instinctively reach for it first thing in the morning.
3. Gradually Ramp up Your Efforts
To nurture your mind, you must gradually wane yourself off bad input and expose yourself to more good input.
We already talked about not checking your phone first thing in the morning. Now gradually push back the time when you first do.
For example, when you usually get up at 8 a.m., don’t check your phone until 8:30 a.m. Do this for two weeks, then go up to 9 a.m. Keep going. Eventually, you will spend the better part of your day without any digital distractions.
In the same way, gradually increase the time you expose yourself to good input. Start with 5 minutes in the morning right after waking up. Then increase to 10 minutes, to 15 minutes, and so on.
The trick is to make these changes so tiny that they hardly register. If that means going in 1-minute increments, so be it. Nothing is won by being overambitious and then dropping the habit.
4. Establish a Reading Schedule
The prime source of your input should be books.
There is a density to books that you cannot get from other types of media. That’s because the written word can be refined indefinitely.
With a good book, what you read is never what the author originally put down. It is the result of numerous iterations, not just by the author, but also by several editors.
Other types of media are aimed at the short-term, the quick clicks. A book is aimed at the long-term. It needs to sell for years.
5. Surround Yourself With the Right People
“You become what you feed your mind,” doesn’t just refer to the media we consume. It also applies to the input we receive from people around us.
If everybody around you is constantly working out, so will you.
If you are surrounded by people discussing inspiring books, you will read them too.
If all of your friends are successful entrepreneurs, you will likely join their ranks.
Gather the right people around you, and they will pull you up.
The challenge is to find these high achievers. Since they already are more successful than you, they have no incentive to hang out with you.
The solution is to offer them value first. If you are an accountant, offer to do their taxes for free. If you do web design, redo their website. Pay into your social account.
6. Think Long-Term
Feeding your mind is an exponential curve. For a long time, not much happens. But then, suddenly, your results go through the roof.
Likewise, not feeding your mind results in exponential decay. You might be okay now, but 10 years from now, your life will take a sudden downturn.
Let’s say Max is trying to make it as a content creator. He starts putting out YouTube videos every day. This is on top of his already stressful 9-to-5 job.
Meanwhile, Max’s friend Donovan is out partying every weekend. While Max is slaving away, he is getting hammered and hooking up.
But one day, Max will wake up and have thousands of subscribers eager to buy from him. And Donovan will wake up broke and with a substance abuse problem.
This is what you must wrap your head around — feeding your mind the right input will make you superhuman. Just not right away.