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How to Hack Your State

Introduction

Are you comfortable being uncomfortable?

Take a moment to answer that.

I’ll wait.

Upgrading your physiological state quickly isn’t comfortable, but exposing yourself regularly to healthy stress helps you perform better at work, at home, and in life.

Maybe you’re comfortable being uncomfortable in one area of your life and not others. Maybe you’ve mastered your craft at work so well that whenever an urgent issue lands in your land, you’re unfazed. But maybe, you can’t handle a hard relationship discussion or an intense workout or walking outside in the cold without a jacket.

For me, I’m comfortable fighting in a ring with almost anyone, but the best fighters in the world would make me uncomfortable. Still, I’d step in the ring. That’s being comfortable being uncomfortable — stepping into the ring of life.

After I wrote the sleep speech/article recently, I stumbled upon a Tony Robbins concept called state-story-strategy (google search, Robbins podcast) and realized I’d used a similar process for years. Hacking your “state ” is similar to the “physiological reset” I described in that speech. To sleep better, reset your body and mind after work by exercising, walking in the sun, taking a hot bath, etc. Hacking your state applies more broadly than just sleep.

When people ask me, “How do you work out non-stop? Why are you always in a good mood? How do you always have ideas for problems, speeches, coaching?” I could answer cardio beats fighting, a good story, and creative practice respectively. But I feel like I’m cheating. I start with the right state.

State Explained

Most people create a strategy/problem-solve in a poor physiological state leading to poor solutions and a vicious repeating cycle of negative stories, worse strategies, and a downward-spiraling state.

“I’m no good. I feel like junk. I can’t fix this.”

Most people

The best put themselves in the right state, tell themselves a positive story, and create better solutions. Athletes are an easy example. The best fighters in the world are over-confident. You need that uber-positive story to combat the constant anxiety of stepping into a ring with someone who might maim you. Fighters have dozens of tricks to put themselves in the right state of mind to fight. Their prefight warm-up is the same every time. They listen to the same music before the fight. They eat the same food at the same time. They walk out to the same entrance song. They show the same mannerisms in the ring as they’re announced.

If you want more creativity, better solutions to your problems, a little more optimism in your life, upgrade your state. Telling yourself a better story might require a therapist but if you can answer “what’s the story I’m telling myself” without hesitation and without beating yourself up, you may pass. After you master those, exercise your creative muscle with Daily Idea Practice to generate better strategies.

Why Hack Your State?

Because you’ll feel better. You’ll be more effective. You might even change your story.

The person who’s comfortable being uncomfortable lives a deeper life. You upgrade your state. You upgrade your story. You upgrade your life. Problems melt not from magic but confidence, creativity, and persistence. My story is, “There’s nothing I can’t endure. You can’t outwork me. I have my body, my mind, and time. That’s all I need. I may fail. I will learn. I will run another experiment. Whatever the challenge, I’ve got this.”

What’s your story?

What will your story be after you upgrade your state day after day after day after day?

Send me that story. It belongs in The Book of the People We All Want to Meet.

The Challenge

We wake up every day. We do the same things. Slightly different. Mostly the same. Sometimes, we go on vacation and feel great. What was it that made us feel better? The relaxation? The adventure? The change of pace? Maybe, all three. You can inject these same feelings into your regular day. It requires one decision.

Will I learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable?

  • If so, drop to the ground and do push-ups for thirty seconds. — How do you feel? Oh wait, you didn’t do it. Change comes from action, not reading. Push-ups? Thirty seconds? Your choice.
  • If not, stop reading. Or keep reading because it’s more comfortable to finish reading what you started and you’ve already decided to stay comfortable.

For my uncomfortable brethren, your spirit-animal for fighting back against the comforts of everyday life is WALL-E, who helps save us from human dystopia. When I get too comfortable, I imagine myself as the pajama-wearing, barcolounging, soda-drinking, tv-watching, waistband-bursting doughman from that WALL-E clip. That image reminds me. I can skip coffee. I can drive in silence. I can fast for a day or two or three.

Our state-change spirit animal

State Hack – Video

Watch a six-minute speech describing my top three state hacks from the list below.

State Hack – My Top Five

These five techniques I use repeatedly, day-after-day for the last five-plus years. They work for me. They may work for you. Read on to learn how to implement them. The rest of the list you can research on your own or contact me with questions.

#1 Cold Shower man in shower
#2 Meditation yogi cross-legged
#3 Trigger Song musical note
#4 Power Nap man lying on bed
#5 Speed Walk man walking

Cold showers might scare you. Then it’s too cold. Try turning the dial to halfway cold for the last thirty seconds of your shower. Still too much? Try a quarter. You shouldn’t have a heart attack. You should feel invigorated. Feel free to skip your coffee. You’ll be more than awake.

Meditation is not easy to learn. Don’t worry about that. It’s not a competition. The goal is not to do it right or wrong. Just do it. Don’t worry about sitting like the yogi pictured above. Just sit in a chair. The quickest/cheapest way to learn the basics is using a guided app. Try the Headspace Basics program. It’s three minutes per day. It’ll teach you what to do. It’s free. Pay attention to that feeling right after you open your eyes. It won’t happen after the first day or even the first week. After months of even semi-consistent practice, you start to experience the world more clearly. Priceless.

Trigger songs aren’t just for the pros. How do you feel when you hear the theme song to Rocky? Like you want to shadow-box? That’s a trigger song. Add your own entrance song to your workday. Pick a song that pumps you up. Download it. When you’re five minutes away from work, play that song. Play it loud. You will have a better start to your day. Bonus – whenever you have a big speech, a big presentation, a big interview, play that song and step up to the plate a little more confident.

Naps upgrade attention, memory, alertness in a half-hour or less. My goto nap is ten to twenty minutes with legs elevated above my heart. I’ve seen experts at my office nap in their cars in the parking garage. If you’re riding the struggle bus, give yourself a break. Trade ten to twenty minutes for greater effectiveness for the next eight hours of your day.

The best ideas come on walks. The best workout is walking. The easiest state change is a walk. Every couple of hours so I take a ten-minute walk. When it’s cold out, I take a shorter walk. When I’m stuck on a problem, I take a long walk. When I’m frustrated, I take a walk. Walk fast or walk slow. When you’re sitting all-day, speed walking is a great state change-up pitch. Walk it out.

State Hack – The Full List

Imagine you had all the tools below in your toolbox to upgrade your state, any day at any time. How would you feel? I feel like I’m taking legal performance-enhancing drugs. I feel great.

Don’t be intimidated by the size of this list. Mark off one or two hacks you want to try. Look them up. Learn them. Experiment. Expect to feel uncomfortable. Whatever you pick, experiment with it daily for a week. Then keep it or stash it in your toolbox. You can always pull it back out.

Stretch

Exercise

Move

  • Fast walking
  • Random sprint
  • Walk and bounce a ball

Rest

  • Nap
  • Sleep an extra hour
  • Sit outside in the sun
  • Go to bed early, wake up early

Hot/Cold

  • Cold shower
  • Heated seats
  • Ice pack on back/neck
  • Hot Epsom salt bath
  • Turn the thermostat up or down

Eat/Drink

  • Eat a healthy meal
  • Coffee or tea
  • Fast

Listen

  • Trigger song
  • Nature walk
  • Turn the music up loud
  • Jocko

Feel

  • Put bare feet on grass, dirt, sand
  • Give someone a massage
  • Pet a dog

Vocalize

  • Sing loud
  • Scream like a wolf (explanation required 🙂 )
  • Hum it out

Smile

  • Watch a comedian
  • Compliment someone
  • Take care of a child

Breathe

Situational

  • Sauna
  • Swimming
  • Run in a new place
  • Long walk after a long drive

Quarterly/Yearly

These two require more time. Practice the shorter hacks and with enough time, these become easy. That’s the power of state change.

  • 1-hour meditation
  • Fast 3+ days

Do you have other state hacks you love? Send me your best.

The Final Hack

Your final mission should you choose to accept it is…

Stop all the hacks.

  • Stop drinking coffee
  • Turn off the radio on your drive to work
  • Trade your normal workout for walks
  • Skip the music, podcasts, audiobooks
  • Stop drinking alcohol

If a quieter, stimulant-free, depressant-free existence scares you, high-free existence you are an addict. So am I. Welcome to the club.

The good news is: you don’t have to quit fun permanently. Quit for a week to remind yourself – you are master of your domain. Knowing you can thrive under any circumstances is liberating. You are all you need in life. Everything else is a bonus.

  • My wife is a bonus
  • My baby is a bonus
  • Good coffee is a bonus
  • A beautiful song a bonus

But I’m okay without them all. When I’m left with my own mind, it’s not so scary. Thought experiment: how would you cope if left alone on that desert island? Although I’d like a good book to read, another person to talk to, and a pen and paper to write, I’d be just fine…I think.

desert island
You don’t scare me.

Take the test with me. Remove all external things for a week. We need food and water and we need to keep our jobs. Outside of that, skip everything else. We can go to a park. We can exercise as much as we want. We can still talk to people. No desert island challenge. We can look for nature. We can walk and walk and walk and walk. We can put away our phone and tablet and tv. We can listen. We can feel. We can smell. We can talk. We can do all those things that make us feel good but aren’t as shiny. We can come back to those things later. With a strong appreciation for ouir inner spirit, our relationships, and the world around us. Going forward, hack life when appropriate. And unhack from the matrix with confidence.

If you want to try the final hack, let me know. Happy to unhack with you.