The Power Of The Mind: Harnessing the Power of Your Mind for Success and Conquering Burnout
The importance of the mind and how to master it.
What if I told you that the key to conquering burnout and unlocking your full potential isn't in how much you sleep, rest and manage your stress, but in how you control your mind?
Our mind plays a much bigger role in our lives than we think: our mind is the control center for everything we do and can be our greatest ally or our greatest enemy.
If you’ve ever felt like your mind is working against you, rather than for you, you're not alone. Most of us struggle with some aspect of our mind, but the good news is, there are steps you can take to harness the power of your mind and achieve your goals.
In this newsletter, I’m talking about what the mind is, the importance of the mind for our life, and how to control it and master it.
What is the “mind”?
Let’s first define what the “mind” is. If we look at the definition, the mind is:
“the complex of faculties involved in perceiving, remembering, considering, evaluating, and deciding”and “an aspect of reason and consciousness that manifests as a combination of thought, experience, memory, emotion, will, and imagination, along with all subconscious thought processes.”
“The term mind is often used in relation to the thought processes of reason and is seen in a subjective light as a stream of consciousness.”
This is the professional definition, but personally, I found the best explanation of what the mind is in the book Way Of The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman where Socrates, a fictional character that guides the author on his life journey explains that:
“‘Mind’ is one of those slippery terms like ‘love.’ The proper definition depends on your state of consciousness. Look at it this way. You have a brain that directs the body, stores information, and plays with that information. We refer to the brain's abstract processes as ‘the intellect.’ Nowhere have I mentioned mind. The brain and the mind are not the same. The brain is real; the mind isn't.
"’Mind’ is an illusory reflection of cerebral fidgeting. It comprises all the random, uncontrolled thoughts that bubble into awareness from the subconscious. Consciousness is not mind; awareness is not mind; attention is not mind. Mind is an obstruction, an aggravation. It is a kind of evolutionary mistake in the human being, a primal weakness in the human experiment. I have no use for the mind.
“The brain can be a tool. It can recall phone numbers, solve math puzzles, or create poetry. In this way, it works for the rest of the body, like a tractor. But when you can't stop thinking of that math problem or phone number, or when troubling thoughts and memories arise without your intent, it's not your brain working, but your mind wandering. Then the mind controls you; then the tractor has run wild."
The importance of the mind
Our mind is a very powerful tool: it can solve the world’s biggest problems, create atomic bombs, top-end technology, and artificial intelligence, but it can also create problems, and sickness, and can turn hell from heaven.
Although Western philosophy believes there’s a duality between the mind and body and that the mind is more of a brain and intellect, on the other hand, Eastern philosophies strongly believe in the non-matter of the mind and in the mind-body connection - that the mind and body influence each other.
No matter how you prefer to look at it, the truth is that our mind controls our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which influence our physical, mental, and emotional state and how we perceive and operate in the world.
Our mind doesn't run on reality, it runs on your perception of reality - that’s why our experience of the world is highly subjective and that’s why most of us are prisoners of our own minds.
Because we’ve never been taught how to control and influence our minds, we think we are living an authentic life, but it is often an illusion: a reality created by our own minds from our thoughts, emotions, past experiences, memories, traumas, will, imagination, subconscious processes, and perception of reality.
The Mind and Burnout
As I’ve said many times before, what makes burnout so tough and challenging is the fact that it doesn't affect just the physical health, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
When you experience early signs of burnout or when you're burned out, the mind freaks out. The Ego, which is an evolutionary product of our analytical mind, wants to protect us, to keep us safe and alive.
Because burnout is a very stressful, challenging, and traumatic experience your mind and ego go hail wire and produce fear, anxiety, worries, and a lot of mental unease because they think you're going to die and want to protect you. That’s partly why I think that with burnout you experience so much anxiety and fear: The mind and ego produce them hoping they will stop you, force you to slow down and take a step back, rest, and recover, so you won’t die.
But at the same time, this puts you in freeze mode, which is the mode between Fight or Flight and Rest and Digest where your body is producing stress hormones but can't either fight it off or rest and recover, which creates even more problems.
Go to war with your mind
In recent weeks I watched a lot of videos, clips, and podcasts about David Goggins who also released his second book:
If you don’t know who David Goggins is, he’s a retired Navy SEAL and one of the most inspiring and motivational people in the whole world. What made him so popular and influential weren’t only his physical and fitness accomplishments - among other things, he ran eight 100-mile races back-to-back and holds the Guinness World Record for pull-ups completing 4,030 in 17 hours - but also his ability to control and conquer his mind.
Goggins was ruled by his mind from a young age. His mind was preventing him from succeeding in life, losing weight, becoming fit, growing, and reaching his potential.
I really like his spirit of “going to war with your mind”: the mind can be a very tough opponent to break and tame, and the stronger your mind is and more problems it gives you, the harder you have to battle it.
How to control the mind and master it?
To conquer burnout, become our best selves, and live an authentic life, we must shake off the shackles of the mind, strap away its reality and live with the soul.
We should aim to have our mind proactive rather than it being reactive: you want to be in control of how you react to things rather than allowing the mind to react to things and let it drag you along.
Our mind is like a horse: we have to be in control of it and steer it in the direction that we want, otherwise, we’ll end up being a slave of it and a passenger being dragged to a random and awful place.
Like Tim Ferris explained excellently in his best-selling book The 4-Hour Workweek:
"Lacking an external focus, the mind turns inward on itself and creates problems to solve, even if the problems are undefined or unimportant. If you find a focus, an ambitious goal that seems impossible and forces you to grow, these doubts disappear."
If you want to become the master of your mind, here are some strategies that you can use to tame your mind and steer it in the right direction:
Cultivate Mental Toughness: Don’t allow the outside world to affect you so negatively: don’t let yourself react and let outside stimuli affect and influence you.
State Shifters (Uppers): Our physiology affects our mental state, and we can use physiological state shifters to positively affect our mind. There are two types of state-shifting activities: Uppers and Downers. Uppers are things that bring you up, activate your central nervous system, elevate your mood and bring you up from low vibration and low energy. Some of the Upper state shifting activities are:
Breathing: quick, rapid, shallow breathing (Wim Hof Breathing, The Tumo, The Breath of Fire, …)
Cold and Hot: cold showers, cold baths, sauna
Physical activity: working out, training, HIIT, weightlifting, etc.
Music: energizing music (heavy metal, gangster rap)
Shaking and Dancing: an exercise where you let loose and shake your body and release any physical tension and stress that has been accumulating.
Screaming and Shouting: an exercise where you let out anything that you’ve been accumulating, repressing, and bottling and has been negatively affecting your mind.
But at the time, going hardcore all the time shouldn’t be your only strategy of how to control the mind and become a master of it.
Here are some strategies that you can use to shift your mind in a more gentle way:
Affirmations: Repeat affirmations, truths, and how you want to operate in the world daily or even several times a day either mentally or in written form (journaling)..
State Shifters (Downers): Downers are things that bring you down, from high activation, Fight or Flight or Freeze mode to relaxation, Rest and Digest nervous system mode. Some of the downer state-shifting activities are:
Breathing: slow, deep, belly relaxing breathing (box breathing, 4-5-7 breathing, double inhale breathing, pranayama…)
Cold and Hot: mildly cold showers, hot baths, sauna
Physical activity: movement, stretching, yoga, light physical activity (running, jogging, …)
Music: Relaxing music calm, relaxing, meditation music and
Flow state: engage in activities that bring you into a flow state where your mind shifts and quiets down.
Vision and Belief: envisioning what you want to be, have, and become and believing that you can achieve it.
Cultivating a sense of joy, mission, passion, and purpose
Know When To Go Hard And When Soft
The mind is a tricky thing: It’s sometimes hard to know whether signals, whispers, and intuitive feelings that we get are coming from our analytical, egoic mind or from our soul, spirit, psyche, or higher self - whatever you want to call that deeper, higher and truer part of us.
It’s especially hard when you’re dealing with burnout. It’s difficult to know whether the feelings of tiredness and fatigue are coming from Resistance and Ego that are trying to keep you safe and thus preventing you from growing and becoming better - or if feelings of tiredness and fatigue are coming from your body’s wisdom and trying to tell that you’re really tired and you really need to take a step back, rest and recover.
At the beginning of a burnout journey, it’s really hard to differentiate between the two. Still, with time, exploration, and experience you start to learn the difference between the two - mostly in how they feel.
Things and signals that come from the analytical mind and the ego feel more like a push (“I have to do X”) whereas things and signals that come from the soul feel more like a pull or calling (“I wish to do X”).
The voice of the Ego is usually louder and has a stronger energy charge with a dopamine effect, whereas the voice of the Soul is more peaceful, and has a calmer energy charge and a more serotonin effect.
You can also know the answer in the stillness when the mind quiets down.
You can achieve stillness with the following practices:
Slow, deep, belly, relaxing breathing
Wim Hof Breathing
DMT or shamanic breathing
Yoga and Savasana
Floatation (Sensory deprivation tanks)
Music: calm, relaxing, meditation music and binaural beats
Dance: Ecstatic dance
Once we realize the importance of the role that our mind plays, we can start learning how to take control of it and become the master it, instead of being its slave.
It's not an easy fix, but often a lifetime task - but it's the one worth pursuing.
What about you? Do you struggle with your mind from time to time? What are some of the things and practices that help you the most in controlling you mind?
Let me know in the comment below! 😊
Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek, p. 291
I see managing the mind on a par with managing your physical health and at the intersection of these two is sleep and rest.
I separate sleep and rest on purpose. Rest during the day helps the kind settle and gives your brain room to think and create. If we end up on treadmill without that rest our mind tires, we turn off and burnout starts.