I had the pleasure of meeting Kasper van der Meulen. He is the author of “MindLift: Mental Fitness for the Modern Mind”. A book about mindset, motivation, focus, personal growth hacks, food, breathing and physical fitness. All applied to himself. He was an overweight bloke with an unheathly lifestye, going nowhere. Now look at him. He uses all the techniques in the book to become an author, successful entrepreneur, public speaker and musician.
Here is what I picked up (and it is random)
1. Your body remembers. Painful experiences influence our well-being, behaviour and even the chemical composition of our blood for years to come. You need to overwrite that memory, and the book gives the tools to do that.
2. Your brain is amazing. No entertainment centre even comes close to the intense, three-dimensional, multisensory experience that our brain offers us every second of the day.
3. As long as your frontal lobe, the conscious decision-maker can remember what you had determined to be important. And can filter all other, less important impulses, you can consciously control and inhibit your reaction to those distractions, and thus stay focused. You can switch on the internal spam filter.
4. Attention is one of our most valuable assets in life. If you can decide what you want to pay attention to, you can direct your own behaviour. Manage your attention, not your time.
5. The mind is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. But it is still a tool. You are not your mind. You are not your thoughts.
6. Suppose we can learn to combine the power of child-like enthusiasm with the strategy and planning of the developed adult mind. In that case, we can access limitless learning, development and self-expression and truly live from the heart with our mind as a helpful guide instead of a dominant master.
7. Wake up to the fact that there is an awesome amount of life to be lived in every single second.
8. What you practice is what you get — and you are always practising something. Regard whatever you are practising not as a means to an end, but as a way to allow your beautiful brain to develop mental fitness. There is nothing better for your brain than learning new things, and there is no better feeling than noticing that your practice pays off. If you continue to practice, and actually enjoy it, you will automatically get better, and the end result is the cherry on the cake. Nothing is better for your brain than learning new things. Your mind is like a muscle that has to be continuously challenged; otherwise, there is no reason to remain fit and strong.
9. Your mindset is your attitude, the way you perceive things, and the lens through which you view the world.
10. Focus on activation instead of motivation. One of the disadvantages of our intelligent, modern brain and the ability to imagine things is that we often spend more time thinking about action than taking action.
11. The smaller the step, the larger the chance you will actually take it.
12. Repetition is the key to change. When you take a small step every day, you will also get a reward every day — and this way you wear that neural pathway strongly into your brain.
13. Focus on simple instead of easy.
14. Focus on what you want most instead of what you want now. For example, do I want high grades (most) or to watch cat videos on YouTube (now)? Do I want to finish my to-do list (most) or to check my Facebook (now)?
15. Each time you invest in your good habit, each time you spend those five minutes with what you really want, you are adding a tiny wire to your rope.
16. Focus on empowering instead of on positive thoughts. Many times, keeping a positive outlook on the reality of the situation (which is helpful) is confused with creating a positive delusion and convincing yourself that it’s reality (which is not helpful).
17. Focus on curiosity instead of scepticism
18. Focus on enlarging your comfort zone instead of being out of it. See 8.
19. Get Comfortable with the uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling you have when you approach the end of your comfort zone is, in a way, a signal that you have reached the most instructive, and therefore the most valuable, part.
20. Defining routines and systems is more effective than relying on self-discipline. I think self-discipline is overrated.
21. Measure. Steps. Heart rate. Sleep. Food. Blood. Mood. Etc.
22. Try something for at least 30 days (in small steps).
23. Nowadays you can learn anything, anywhere and anytime you want. The limitless access to new information makes for great opportunities for the learning brain, but also grand challenges. It’s a matter of using 20% of your time to read your source and the remaining 80% to go online and binge on Google and YouTube, let the ADHD out. Allow yourself to jump from one place to another. Look at videos of other people explaining, exhibiting, succeeding, failing, wondering, and elaborating on what you are learning. Get the big picture, and you’d be surprised at how much you can learn in a short time.
24. Get to know your brain.
25. Learn to play a musical instrument. Learning and making music is a kind of full-body-brain workout where your whole brain has to work together to process different streams of information in superfast and complex sequences. If you start to regard learning music as a way to improve your brain, meditate and develop creativity, you can detach the result from the exercise and just have fun with it. If it accidentally happens to sound good, that’s a bonus.
26. Meditation is like strength training for your brain. Meditation is about managing the internal factors. It is simply the practice of not reacting to and not judging the internal and external incidentals of existence by not paying attention to them. If you spend twenty minutes in the gym practising picking up heavy objects, daily life is going to feel lighter. If you spend twenty minutes every morning practising to consciously direct your attention, you are going to be more in charge of that attention in your daily life.
27. Master your breath. Read “Breath”.
28. Stop complaining.
29. We very often use technology to replace our natural abilities instead of enhancing them. Combine the best of both worlds. Choose to go and reconnect to our primal survival systems and use them to optimize our mental and physical abilities, all the while enjoying the luxury of modern life.
30. Take cold showers.
31. Sit quietly in the woods.
32. Restore your circadian cycle. Our body is designed to react to the natural cycle of day and night.
33. Lift something heavy. Strength training with free weights is not just a good way to develop muscle mass, strength, and circulation; research has shown that it even can improve your memory.
34. Eat healthily. Read the ingredients of everything. Become aware of the world of nutrition. But be warned. You can’t unlearn what you will learn, and you will never look at food the same again.
Many more ways to lift yourself
I picked 34 out of the book, but there are many more. Any there are better books on any of the topics that Kasper is writing about. But the book is an excellent starting point. It worked for him. Casper turned his life around, and Kasper is now a shining example of practising what you preach. Here is his website.
The key message. The techniques do not matter. Begin. Pick the one you want to work on the most. Pick the one thing you read that you found most inspiring, feels easiest and is closest to where you are right now. Pick the one thing that is the most difficult, scariest, and furthest outside your comfort zone. Pick the three things that stood out to you the most. Pick the three things that seem most calming or de-stressing to you.