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How To Escape Negative Feedback Loops And Stop Being A Plant

“Just five more minutes”

“Just five more..”

The first sign that something is wrong in my life. I – literally – freak out (as I should) in times like this. I kick away my blanket, stretch and rotate out of bed until my bare feet hit the cold floor.

Made it…  for now..“, I say to myself. (not really – but I might have mumbled it in my semi-zombie plant-state in the morning ;))

Anyway.. for me hitting the snooze button is far worse than “just sleeping five more minutes”. For me it means the beginning of a negative feedback loop.

What are negative feedback loops?

Some examples:

  • People who constantly indulge in fast-food are rewarded by their brain with copious amount of endorphin’s which makes them more likely to eat fast-food which makes them indulge even more into fast-food…
  • People who drink alcohol so they can get away from their life neglect their work and in turn makes them more likely to want to escape their life since it became even worse and therefore more likely to drink…
  • People who spend tons of money on their appearance and possessions and are rewarded with a short feel-good burst of emotions by praise from others makes them more likely to buy those things which makes them more likely to receive praise. When they don’t get it, they feel like they need to spent even more money…

See the pattern here?

It’s what’s I call a “negative feedback loop”. Negative behavior being perpetually rewarded (subconsciously/consciously) which literally rewires the neural patterns of your brain which sends your life quality in a compounding, downward spiral.

Here’s some truth;

We’re constantly rewiring our brain.

Every.
Waking.
Second.

Even whilst you’re reading this line.

The behavior that gets rewarded is the behavior that will get repeated.

So the question is; What behavior are you rewarding?

————————————————————-

Progressing Or Regressing?

negative feedback loop choice
Cheesy Picture.jpg

Today I see people around me literally wasting away valuable years of their life that will have contributed zero amount of value; Chasing women any chance they have, video games, junk-food, sleeping in, tv, fast-food, …

People that are stuck in these negative feedback loops lead themselves further and further down the rabbit hole with each repetition they reward.

Conversely, the person who;

  • Eats healthy has more energy and can sustain more willpower which allows him to be sharper and make better decisions and choose the food that will support him, which leads him to be even more sharp and make even better decisions…
  • The person who networks and reads books will become loaded with cool insights which allows him to meet new interesting people that give him even greater insights which allows him to meet more interesting people…
  • The person who invest his money in assets which generate deposits and returns over time has more money in time to invest which yield more returns over time..

Anyway, I hope you get the picture by now.

It goes up, and up, and up.. (or down and down and down)

The rich definitely get richer and the poor definitely get poorer – in terms of the mind this is.

Mental momentum compounds. So be careful which direction you’re going. (edit: Essence of this post)

LITERALLY every decision we take in life is either getting us closer to where we want to go in life or moving us further away.

Progression or regression, there’s no “maintenance”

And do you want to know what really sucks about this?

You’re drawn to the negative feedback loop by default!

Are You In Control?

Like I said: We are constantly in the process of rewiring our brains by linking our actions to pain or to pleasure.

Let me ask you; are you control of your brain?

Yeah, Offcourse I am! Why wouldn’t I be?

Are you really?

Here are some examples;

  • Ever ate something you actually shouldn’t and regretted it later?
  • Ever slept in whilst you promised yourself you’d work on that project you wanted to work on?
  • Ever thought you weren’t good enough for a certain girl, job position or anything else?

Chances are you have.

Why is this?

Our default thinking (and mine) hasn’t adapted to our modern day-and-age and therefore our thoughts are divided

Humans have always been designed for survival. It’s our sole instinctive purpose on this planet.

We weren’t made for crazy athletic pursuits, high job functions, space technology and all that other cool stuff. Our brain just does NOT want to exert anymore energy after our basic needs are fulfilled. Read my posts on;

We are plants by default.

That’s all our brain inherently cares for and that’s probably how it’ll be programmed for still a long time to come.

Here’s the only two things your brain cares about;

  • Fulfill basic needs
  • Preserve energy

Yet in this day and age we’ve constructed a whole system around satisfying these basic needs and therefore we blindly chase high sugar/high fat foods, don’t dare to partake in activities that can expand our brain capacity, are nervous and stifled in social interactions, submit to conformity and all that other stuff which potentially (most likely) ruins your life

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I don’t Simon. I have great control over my actions.!

You Don’t Own Your Thoughts!

You are born with this negative-feedback-chasing-crap brain by default. If you don’t actively pursue an upgraded version, it’s exactly what you’ll stay stuck with for the rest of your life.

Everything that marks (almost everything) success in my opinion goes against our normal, biological conditioning.

Our brain has an incredibly difficult time linking up what I callsuccess-habitsto rewards.

The speed in which you link these two is dependent on;

  • The speed of your rewards/consequences after the action (Which in success-behavior is slow since you’ll most likely get long-term benefits instead of instant gratification)
  • Complexity of behavior (The more complex the activity, the more difficult to condition the behavior)
  • Biological predisposition (speech, motor patterns, avoidance of pain/fear are biologically easier to learn then speed-reading, networking, public speaking, eating healthy,…)

But great health? Creating a business? Dating gorgeous women? Waking up early? Reading? High Self-Esteem?

How about no..

negative feedback loop brain
“héhé”

Here’s the thing;

Your thoughts are divided.

Your default brain is telling you to stay at home, watch tv, don’t bother to read books, don’t go out to approach women, don’t think to highly of yourself and all that other bullshit that is ruining your life. Which is rewarded in these negative feedback spirals of death.

Yet it IS NOT YOU.

I love the way Steven Pressfield put this in his book “Do The Work”

There is an enemy at work.

 

There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us.

(referring to the thoughts your default brain regurgitates in your mind)

He goes on;

This enemy is intelligent, adaptive, relentless, inextinguishable, and utterly ruthless and destructive.

 

It’s aim is not to obstruct.

 

Not to hamper or to impede.

 

It aims to kill.

 

And if you let it, if you let this malign force work its power.

 

It will kill you.

 

It will spread…

 

It will grow…

 

And eventually… it will kill you like cancer.

It knows you better than you know yourself and works continuously and subconsciously.

And worst of all: It knows exactly what to say and how to treat you in order to destroy your life.

But it’s not you..

If you’re interested, you can read more about this here: (How To Rule Your Mind And Destroy Bullshit Thoughts).

My point being: Don’t identify with these thoughts of your default brain since they are not you. Because if you let them, they’ll drag you down – literally – into self-destruction.

Here’s what “going soft” will feel like;


“Going soft”

negative feedback loop slope

It starts slowly..

You start to rationalize it’s ok to skip your gym session today since it’s raining outside, it’s ok to not go out this weekend because you’ve been facing countless rejections, it’s ok to sleep five minutes more today since you worked hard yesterday, It’s ok not to read today since you don’t have enough time.

Overall you’ll start to “let loose” a bit more.

But you’re slowly rewiring your brain…

neural pathway after pathway.

Slowly but surely, incrementally destroying your chance to live life the way it was supposed to be. Gradually joining the immense crowd of plant-like-stimulus-seeking zombies.

At this point you aren’t alive, but a state of pre-death preparation at best.

And then, one day, you wake-up.

Finally,

You reach a breaking point and realize that your life turned to shit: alone, depressed, overweight, stuck in a job you hate, married to a woman you’ve grown distanced from, children that hardly know you.

Your only means of escape being tv, alcohol, food, video games, internet porn, sleeping or any other sort of stimulation or sedative.

JUST SO YOU CAN GET AWAY

Just for a moment..

Just for one single moment..

But you can’t take it anymore, you realize there’s something wrong.

You try again, you try to fight it… But you fall down again..

It’s MUCH more difficult this time around…

You’ve created backwards momentum. The rock you used to push uphill is rolling backwards and is slowly crushing you. Incrementally dragging you deeper and deeper into despair.


This feeling of losing grip on your life – the feeling of losing traction on the world.

I hate it, it’s the worst. It destroys people.

Avoid it! AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS.

Only a few are able to escape it once they’ve been in one. Those are the “transformations” you see. Prevention is in my opinion the best option (although emotional pain is probably the single most powerful motivator there is)

So, how to avoid it?

How To Avoid Negative Feedback Loopsnegative feedback loop header

Now you know these loops exist, you’ll be able to avoid them. Ever heard the saying: “To See the cage is to escape it?” – well it definitely applies today.

You’ll start to wonder; “Is this thought I’m having my default brain telling bullshit or is it this new brain which knows better?

There’s 5 things you’ll need (besides awareness) for avoiding these negative feedback loops. Those are;

  • Time
  • Energy
  • Focus
  • Action
  • Reward

Time & Energy

Primarily you’ll need time and energy (these are the foundation). Without energy you won’t be able to generate enough willpower necessary to escape the gravitational pull from your default brain and therefore won’t be able to rewire it. You can get more energy by getting your diet in check, exercising and sleeping well.

If you don’t have the time to spend on the things that are actually important there will – obviously – be no change.

I believe money = time. When you don’t have to chase a meaningless job endlessly you’ll have the freedom to focus on what really matters.

Focus

Without a clear direction of where you want to go with your life it’s all to common to fall into the trap of conformity. You just go with the flow..

Here’s how you can focus on what really matters

Action

Secondly, take continuous action, no matter how you feel about it. Consistency will lower the resistance you’ll have to face over time by rewiring your brain.

You can look at rewiring your brain as clearing a pathway trough a forest. At the beginning it’s very cluttered and obstructed but the more times you walk that path, it’ll get clearer and cleared and easier to traverse.

(so in effect, you’ll require less willpower). How to stay motivated and overcome resistance forever

Reward

Thirdly, reward the constructive actions you take frequently (and immediately). Our brain literally draws neural patterns from actions to rewards. If you want to read more, exercise more, sleep less, approach more, make more money and all that other good stuff.

Reward the actions (not the results) that you take for that asap, and don’t reward the ones that don’t!

It will strengthen the desired pathways and change your default thinking.

It can be simple/stupid stuff like; Eat a piece of fruit, listen to a song, take a powernap, take a warm bath, take a short break, eat something you like, watch a cartoon or a meme you enjoy,…

Over time it will become easier and easier until it becomes a habit. It compounds and grows like I mentioned above.

The Tipping Point

When you repeat this cycle, eventually you’ll reach a tipping point and the momentum will start to work for you instead of against you. (You’ll have rewired your default thinking and make this “new way of thinking” your new, default-mode)

This happens when you’ve actually gotten to the point you are getting these long-term benefits like; increased cash-flow, great physique/strength, interesting contacts, dating extremely attractive women,… (or whatever you define as success). Then you won’t be needing these short-term rewards any longer.

Imagine yourself pushing a boulder uphill. Once you get it rolling it’s easier and easier to maintain and when you reach the top it becomes self-sustaining whilst rolling downhill and crushing all your goals in its wake. (upward spiral)

Essence

Stay in control of your life at all costs. Don’t settle for complacency, don’t cope with mediocrity;

expand, grow, create yourself.

Freak out at the first sign of regression and destroy it before it starts to spread. Most negative habits form slowly and degrade your life quality over time and you won’t even notice.

Mental momentum compounds. So be careful which direction you’re going.

Just like the quote I shared most recently; “The chains of habit are to weak to be felt until they’ve become to strong to be broken”.

But it compounds until you reach a breaking point – don’t let it ever get that far.

Stay in control. Prevention is better than curing it IMO

You can see those people in the street who have “their shit” together. You can clearly distinguish the ones who are in the upward spiral of life and the ones that are destroying their own mind and life.

They don’t just merely walk.

They stride.

Determined, focused, obsessive even. You can almost see the glint in their eye that signifies the fire that’s burning inside of them.

They are in total-life-control.

That’s the person I want you to aspire to be. That’s what I want you to create yourself into.

So now I’m going to ask you:

“Are you in an upward spiral or a downward spiral?”

And if you are in a downward spiral;

“What’s your plan of getting out of it?”

This post was a bit more personal and emotional since it see almost everyone going in this downhill pattern. It’s disturbing and difficult to get them out of that situation because their brain literally can’t see it anymore.

Avoid death spirals, before the gravitational pull draws you in.

——————————————————————-

If you feel like this post can help anyone out that you know, feel free to share it with your friends or send it in a mail to your mom! It helps me out a lot! If you’re having any thoughts or questions on this topic, feel free to share those with me in the comment section below.

Take care,

Love,

Simon

Tags : downward spiralfailureforwardgraduallymomentumnegative feedback loopssuccessupward spiralzombie

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23 Comments

  1. thanks for this. this literally summarize what i’ve been experiencing this whole time. i’ve fallen alot before, and im going try again, thank for writing this.

  2. I’ve been looking for an article that relates to my situation and this is exactly it… thank you. I’m going to turn my life around. I can’t stand what I’m doing to myself. Thank you so much, and I’d love to get some more advice from you on this.

  3. thank you for making me realize this before it’s too late to do something about this, I’m so glad I even got on your blog.

  4. Hi Simon,
    I really like your posts. All positive and eye opening stuff. I really enjoy chatting about these things in life. Keep up the good stuff!

    1. Hey Jack,

      Glad you like them man.

      I think it’s essential we talk about these things – I believe it should be talked about in schools instead of regurgitating the same useless crap we’ve been taught for decades.

      Anyway, take care & happy holidays!

  5. Hey Simon,
    I found your blog through your guest post on Start of Happiness and I’m glad I checked it out!

    I’m in an upward spiral, as I’m taking control over my life. I’ve become self-employed in January 2014. Since then I’m continually working on my skills, aiming for being the best version of me.

    I found that willpower is like a muscle. The more you use it, the harder it gets – yet the more it grows. That’s why I perform the most important tasks and the tasks with no instant gratification in the mornings. And whenever possible I automate tasks with no instant gratification, so that I have no excuse of not doing them.

    Keep up the great work!

    Jan

    1. Hey Jan,

      Great story man, there’s a lot of power in these rather simple concepts.

      You look young – What age are you?

      Prioritization and habit formation are also extremely powerful like you said. I like the muscle metaphor.

      Thanks man, I appreciate that you like my content – I will definitely do that, you too!

      Take care

  6. The upward spiral or the downward one. That’s a good question. it all seems to start with rationalizing behavior. “It’s ok to miss a day at the gym, I can make up for.” or something similar to that. I’ve noticed that one crack starts to become bigger and bigger. Before you know it, you’re rationalizing several days off in a row. That’s a sing you’re not moving up, but actually regressing a bit.

    1. Yup, destroy it before it starts to spread. Doing a regular self-analysis is critical IMO – We often don’t spot the incremental changes in behavior but they do compound over time.

      Take care Steve,

  7. Obsessive? Calling names is a naughty habit Simon.
    “Prevention is better than curing it.” – THAT’s the essence of this post.
    Unfortunately it seems we need to feel the pain at least once before befriending with prevention.

    Coumpounded upward or downward move in life is the central theme of “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson. He called it curve, not the spiral. You can see how he illustrated it on my blog:
    http://expandbeyondyourself.com/slight-edge-in-action/
    BTW, I answered your questions in that post.

    1. Haha, IMO “obsessive” is a compliment, or at least that’s the way I see it. It’s a sign you’re actually doing something instead of being a spectator in life.

      I think the essence depends on your familiarity with the topic. You’ve probably heard it before ;)

      Yeah, it’s similar (if not identical). Maybe what’s different about spirals is that one negative choice leads to another negative choice (as chain reaction)

      whilst the curve is just a 1% decline over time.

      I’ve read it! Nice job on turning your situation around and buying that house! Keep up the good work man!

  8. Subtle and bang on the target point! Well written article Simon! This masterpiece conveys the hazards of procrastination,mediocrity and negativity so well.
    A brilliant article with motivational dopes to avoid your brain getting into negative spirals.
    A treat to read over weekend is all I can say!

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