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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Athene: Real Answers (part 1 of 2)

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For being 35 years old, people say that I have achieved a lot in my life. I dont

really see it that way. The past, to me, is a source of knowledge. And not being too attached

to it allows me to see it for what it is.

At 18, I was one of the youngest electedfirst successorsin Belgium. I managed to spark

a great deal of discussion around discrimination with my decision to participate in Big Brother.

I wrote a book when I was 21 years old and started a protest movement around mandatory

voting in Belgium at the age of 25. I became a world-record-breaking professional gamer

when I was 26 and capitalized on this with online videos that made me one of the first

successful gamers on YouTube. At this point, YouTube was in its infancy and monetization

was not yet possible. So I got into poker and turned 5 dollars into more than $300,000

in the course of one year. This was the result of persistent

dedication, playing 16 hours a day, 24 tables simultaneously and at one point even managing

to set the world record of playing one million hands in one month. I made several documentaries

which reached millions of people and started my efforts on charity when I was 31, raising

more than $20 million for children in need. This led to my appearance on many media outlets

such as CNN, Fox, TheWall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV and others. I realize this can

look impressive, but I do not derive any sense of identity from these accomplishments, because

I know that if it was not for my environment at those specific points in time, I would

be an entirely different person.

This book won't change your life but applying the insights will.

Chapter Zero

Later on in the book, you will get a better understanding of why I wrote Chapter Zero.

The state you are in while reading this book highly influences how you experience and interpret

it. This is the case for a lot of things in life. How efficiently you study, for example,

is strongly dependent on how focused you are at that moment. Writing this book, I made

everything very concise. If right now you are in a state where you find it easy to absorb

and reflect upon new information, taking small breaks from reading on a regular basis can

help maintain focus. If you arent fullyin the zone’, I would advise to pick

up the book at a later time.

Chapter I: Do We Speak The Same Language?

When we speak, we subconsciously assume that the thoughts and emotions we evoke in others

are similar to those that are unique to our own experience. This misunderstanding is exacerbated

when we use loaded concepts such as God, love or truth. As a result, people often have endless

conversations where they talk past each other and end up disagreeing on things they dont

disagree on at all and vice versa.

That is why I wanted to address this early on in the book. Depending on how good I am

at writing, I can avoid miscommunication. But since English is not my native language,

I wanted to explain the mechanisms so you can also be part of this process. The best

way to understand what someone is trying to say is by first listening without bias and

by trying to see things from the other persons perspective. Being aware of this in conversations

can also enable you to explain yourself more clearly, as youll tend to use the other

persons framework to get your ideas across. Applying this every day and always seeking

to adapt and improve when it comes to putting thoughts into words can drastically impact

your social and professional life as well as expand your self-knowledge. This is a skill

that takes time and practice as thoughts always start off as vague and abstract. Being able

to put thoughts into words defines how we present ideas and beliefs to others but also

how we give structure to our own thinking. Sharing ideas by using relatable examples

can help and is often one of the better ways to get your points across.

Chapter II: Questioning Our Truth

It can be profoundly confusing to grasp the concept that there is no such a thing as an

absolute truth. It is impossible to know whether your experience of reality is a simulation,

a dream or a hallucination since seeing a 3rd partys point of view as an objective

truth is an assumption within your frame of reference. This can sound counter-intuitive

at first but the world you experience would not exist without you. Fully understanding

this concept can restructure the brain to be less attached and more capable of rationally

evaluating different beliefs.

The problem with seeing even our own existence as an absolute truth is that we have to assume

that time and space objectively exist. Surprisingly, this is a point of quite some debate in science

and there are phenomena that violate our intuitive understandings of them. When there is strong

evidence, scientists consider a theory to be true, but only within our current knowledge

or understanding of it. [1] You dont have to to take my word for it, questioning everything

I bring up in this book is a good mental exercise that will help you correct flaws within socially

conditioned beliefs.

I try to be very empirical and construct logical arguments that are based on the assumptions

I deem likely, such as what I read in reliable scientific papers. Emotionally, it is very

appealing to believe in absolute truths and most people tend to avoid or reject confrontational

ideas because their gut feeling tells them to do so. But erroneous certainties can hold

people back or lock them into beliefs that may be illogical or even harmful. Unfortunately,

these beliefs are most often created by rationalizing around conclusions and decisions after theyve

already been made.[2] And even though these automatic mechanisms are natural, we also

have the ability to override them with self-awareness.[3] Some might wonder why that even matters if,

either way, there are no certainties without absolute truths. But instead of thinking with

certainties, it is more accurate to think in probabilities. This is perhaps the most

important insight I have learned from how scientists approach the smallest building

blocks of our world. Our entire universe is made of quanta such as electrons and photons

that all behave probabilistically rather than deterministically. Ultimately, anything is

possible and answering any yes or no question withthere is a chanceis actually factually

correct. As much as wed love to believe in absolute truths, real answers will always

lie in probabilities and approximations. Chapter III: Conditioning: How Deep Does The

Rabbit Hole Go?

When people think about conditioning, the overall perception is that it influences our

actions but we are still in control.[4] We have the tendency to ignore the impact of

our environment when we look at ourselves and take many processes that have been fundamental

to our development for granted. This ranges from the language we speak to how we define

concepts or even the emotions we experience when we think about things. This then translates

into our body language, our intonations and ultimately the culture we feel part of.[5][6]

All these processes are in one way or another conditioned and being aware of this can highly

increase the control we have over ourselves.

There is an endless number of examples that can be given in relation to this topic and

many of these can sound mind-blowing and hard to believe at times. Yet, these dynamics define

our everyday interactions and decisions more than our own perceived level of control. Most

of our actions and thoughts happen subconsciously and conditioning lays down the foundation

of these processes as we grow up. We accept them as part of our identity and personalize

them so we feel unique and special. Our sense of self has little to do with how we perceive

it and more with how we have been moulded by our environment. I found that neuroscience

provides the best framework to master the self. Expanding on this, the following five

chapters will be more scientific and less personal.

Chapter IV: The Brain & Neuroplasticity

The human brain is a network of approximately one hundred billion neurons.[7] Different

experiences create different neural connections and these bring about different emotions.

Depending on which neurons get stimulated, certain connections will become stronger and

more effective while others may become weaker. This is referred to as neuroplasticity.[8][9]

Someone who trains to be a musician will create stronger neural connections that link the

two hemispheres of the brain in order to be musically creative.[10] Virtually any sort

of talent or skill can be created through training. Rüdiger Gamm for example, who was

a self-admitted hopeless student, used to fail at basic maths and went on to train his

abilities to become a famous mental calculator, capable of performing extremely complex mathematics.[11]

Rationality and emotional resilience work the same way, these are neural connections

that can be strengthened. But this also applies to negative thinking. It's possible to have

two elderly people who may have had similar lives, yet one person is perfectly happy while

the other is very unhappy and has a negative view on the same things. Everything depends

on which neurons they have been stimulating throughout their lives. Whatever you are doing

at any time, you are physically modifying your brain to become better at it.[12]

Since this is such a fundamental mechanism of the brain, being self-aware can greatly

enrich our life experience.

Chapter V: Social Neuroscience

Specific neurons and neurotransmitters such as nor-epinephrine, trigger a state that can

be described as having anactive egowhen we feel that our own thoughts have to

be protected from the influence of others. If we are then confronted with differences

in opinion, the chemicals that are released in the brain are the same ones that try to

ensure our survival in dangerous situations.[13] Sometimes debates go on endlessly because

people keep expressively resisting differences in opinion. When we're in a defensive state,

the more primitive part of the brain interferes with our rational thinking and the limbic

system can even knock out most of our working memory, physically causing narrow mindedness.[14]

We see this in the politics of fear, the strategy of poker players or simply when people feel

defensive and stubborn in discussions. No matter how valuable an idea is, the brain

has trouble processing it when it is in such a state. On a neural level, it reacts as if

our life is being threatened, even if the threat comes from harmless opinions or even

facts that we may otherwise find helpful and could rationally agree on.

But when we express ourselves and our views are appreciated, these defense chemicals decrease

in the brain and dopamine neurotransmission activates the reward neurons, making us feel

empowered and increasing our self-esteem. Our beliefs have a profound impact on our

body chemistry, this is why placebos are so effective.[15] Self-esteem or self-belief

is closely linked to the neurotransmitter serotonin. A relative imbalance of it often

leads to depression, self-destructive behaviour or even suicide.[16] Social invalidation is

the primary cause of this while validation has the opposite effect: Social validation

increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain and allows us to let go of emotional

fixations and become self-aware more easily.

Chapter VI: Mirror Neurons & Consciousness

Social psychology often looks at the basic human need to fit in and calls this the normative

social influence. When we grow up, our moral and ethical compass is almost entirely forged

by our environment, so our actions are often a result of the validation we get from society.

But new developments in neuroscience are giving us a better understanding of culture and identity.

Recent neurological research has confirmed the existence of empathetic mirror neurons.

When we experience an emotion or perform an action, specific neurons fire. But when we

observe someone else performing this action or when we imagine it, many of the same neurons

will fire again as if we were performing the action ourselves.[17][18][19] These empathy

neurons connect us to other people, allowing us to feel what others feel. Since these neurons

respond to our imagination, we can experience emotional feedback from them as if it came

from someone else. This system is what allows us to self-reflect.

The mirror neuron doesn't know the difference between it and others and is the reason why

we are so dependent of social validation and want to fit in.[20] We are in a constant duality

between how we see ourselves and how others see us. This can result in low self-esteem

or a craving for attention as well as feeling that no one understands us or the urge to

act against our own intentions for the validation of others.

Scans show that we experience these negative emotions even before we are aware of them.[21]

But when we are self-aware, we can alter misplaced emotions because we control the thoughts that

cause them. This is a neurochemical consequence of how memories become labile when retrieved

and are restored through protein synthesis.[22] Self-observing profoundly changes the way

our brain works. It activates the self-regulating neocortical regions which give us an incredible

amount of control over our feelings. Every time we do this, our rationality and emotional

resilience are strengthened. But when we're not being self-aware, most of our thoughts

and actions are impulsive and the idea that we are randomly reacting and not making conscious

choices can be instinctively frustrating. The brain resolves this by creating explanations

for our behaviour and physically rewriting it into our memories, making us believe that

we were in control of our actions. This is called backward rationalization[23] [24] and

it leaves most of our negative emotions unresolved and ready to be triggered at any time. They

become a constant fuel to our confusion as our brain will keep trying to justify why

we behaved irrationally.

All of this complex and almost schizophrenic subconscious behaviour is the result of a

vastly parallel distributed system in our brain. There is no specific center of consciousness,

the appearance of a unity is in fact each of these separate circuits being enabled and

being expressed at one particular moment in time.[25]

Our experiences are constantly changing our neural connections, physically altering the

parallel system that is our consciousness. Direct modifications to this can have surreal

consequences that bring into question what and where consciousness really is.

If your left cerebral hemisphere for example were to be disconnected from the right, as

is the case in split brain patients, you would be able to speak, talk and think normally

from the left hemisphere while your right hemisphere would have very limited cognitive

capacities.[26] Your left brain will not miss the right part, even though this profoundly

changes your perception. One consequence of this is that you can no longer describe the

right half of someone's face.[27] But youll never mention it, youll never see it as

a problem or even realize that something has changed. Since this affects more than just

your perception of the real world and also applies to your mental images, it is not just

a sensory problem but a fundamental change in your consciousness.[28]

Chapter VII: Our Will is in The Neurons

Each neuron has a voltage, which can change when ions flow in or out of the cell. Once

a neuron's voltage has reached a certain level, it will fire an electrical signal to other

cells, repeating the process. When many neurons fire at the same time, we measure these changes

in the form of a wave.[29]

Brainwaves underpin almost everything going on in our minds, including memory, attention

and even intelligence.[30] As they oscillate at different frequencies, they get classified

in bands called alpha, theta, beta and gamma, each associated with a different task. Brainwaves

allow brain cells to tune in to the frequency corresponding to their particular task while

ignoring irrelevant signals in a similar way as a radio homes in on different waves to

pick up radio stations, since the transfer of information between neurons is enhanced

when their activity is synchronized.[31][32] These mechanisms also give rise to cognitive

dissonance, the frustration caused by simultaneously holding two contradictory ideas. Our will

is merely the drive to reduce dissonance between each of our active neural circuits. [33]

Evolution can be seen as the same process, where nature tries to adapt or resonate with

reality. By doing so, it evolved to a point where it became self-aware and started to

question itself. When a person faces the paradox of wanting purpose while thinking that human

existence is meaningless, cognitive dissonance occurs. Throughout history this has led many

to reach for spiritual and religious guidance, challenging science as it failed to give answers

to existential questions such as why or what am I?

Chapter VIII: Who or What Am I?

The left cerebral hemisphere is largely responsible for creating a coherent belief system in order

to maintain a sense of continuity towards our own lives. New experiences get folded

into the pre- existing belief system. When they don't fit,

they are simply denied.

To counterbalance this, the right cerebral hemisphere has the opposite tendency. Whereas

the left hemisphere tries to preserve the model, the right hemisphere is constantly

challenging the status quo. When the discrepant anomalies become too large, the right hemisphere

forces a revision in our worldview or belief system.[34] However, when our beliefs are

too strong, the right hemisphere may not succeed in overriding our denial.[35]

This can create a profound confusion when mirroring others. When the neural connections

that physically define our belief system are not strongly developed or active, then our

consciousness, the unity of all the separate active circuits at that moment, is going to

consist mainly of activity related to our mirror neurons. Just as when we experience

hunger, our consciousness consists mainly of other neural interactions for consuming

food. This is not the result of a core self giving commands to different cerebral areas,

all the different parts of the brain become active and inactive and interact without a

core. Just as the pixels on a screen can express themselves as a recognizable image when in

unity, the convergence of neural interaction expresses itself as consciousness. At every

moment, we are in fact a different image, a different entity when mirroring, when hungry,

when reading this text. Every second we become a different person as we go through different

states. When we are mirroring, we may construct the idea of identity. But if we observe ourselves

with our scientific understandings, we see something completely different.

The extent to which our neural activity brings about our consciousness, which creates our

sense of reality, goes far beyond our current concept of the self. The separation we perceive

between our environment and ourselves is only a conceptual practicality that we use to make

sense of things. This is not a hypothetical philosophy, its a logical consequence of

how everything we experience, external or internal, takes place within our consciousness

from a neural activity point of view. Seeing the concept of the self as merely yourself

excluding the environment is a misconception. This is even reflected in our super-organismal

features through evolution, where our survival as individual primates relied on our collective

abilities. Over time, the neocortical regions evolved to permit the modulation of primitive

instincts and the overriding of hedonistic impulses for the benefit of the group. Our

selfish genes have come to promote reciprocal social behaviours in super-

organismal structures, discarding the notion of survival of the fittest.[36] The brains

neural activity resonates most coherently when theres no dissonance between these

advanced new cerebral regions and the more primitive ones. ‘Selfish tendenciesis

a narrow intellectual interpretation of what self-

serving behaviour entails wherein human characteristics are perceived through the flawed paradigm

of identity instead of what we are, a momentary expression of an ever-changing unity with

no center.[37][38] The psychological consequences of this as

a more objective belief system allow self-awareness without attachment to the imagined self and

brings about dramatic increases in mental clarity, social conscience, self-regulation

and whats often described as being in the moment.

The common cultural belief has mostly been that we need a narrative to establish moral

values. But with our current understandings of the empathic and social nature of the brain,

we understand that a purely scientific view with no attachment to our identity or 'story'

yields a far more accurate, meaningful and ethical paradigm than our anecdotal values.

This is logical since our traditional tendency to define ourselves as imaginary individualistic

constants neurally wires and designs the brain towards dysfunctional cognitive processes,

such as labeling and the psychological need to impose expectations. Practical labeling

underpins most forms of interaction in our daily lives.[39] But by psychologically labeling

the self as internal and the environment as external, we constrain our own neurochemical

processes and experience a deluded disconnection. Growth and its evolutionary side-effects,

such as happiness and fulfillment, are stimulated when were not being labeled in our interactions.

We may have many different views and disagree with one another in practical terms, but interactions

that accept us for who we are without judgment are neuropsychological catalysts that wire

the human brain to acknowledge others and share ideas without dissonance.

Stimulating this type of neural activity and interaction alleviates the need for distraction

or entertainment and creates cycles of socially constructive behaviour in our environment.

Sociologists have established that phenomena such as obesity, smoking, emotions and ideas

spread and ripple through society in much the same way that electric signals of neurons

are transferred when their activity is synchronized. In a sense, we are a global network of neurochemical

reactions and the self- amplifying cycle of acceptance and acknowledgment,

sustained by the daily choices in our interactions, is a chain reaction that defines our collective

ability to overcome imagined differences and look at life in the grand scheme of things.

Chapter IX: Free Will & Quantum Mechanics

Through quantum mechanics, I have learned to see reality differently and approach all

things as probabilities instead of certainties.[40] In a mathematical sense, anything is possible.

As well as in science as in our daily lives, the extent to which we can calculate or figure

out probabilities is determined by our intellectual ability to recognize patterns. The less biased

we are, the clearer we can identify patterns and base our actions on reasonable probabilities.

Since its in our nature to deny ideas that do not fit into our current paradigm, the

more attached we are to our beliefs, the less able we are to make conscious choices for

ourselves. By observing this process, we can expand our awareness and free will.

It is said that wisdom comes with age, but with openness and skepticism, the key principles

of the scientific method, we dont need a lifetime of trial and error to sort out

which of our convictions may be improbable. The question is not whether our beliefs are

right or wrong, but whether or not being emotionally attached to them will benefit us.

It is hard to speak of a free choice when you are emotionally attached to a belief system.

The moment we are self-aware enough to realize this, we can let go and calculate the real

odds of what will benefit us the most.

Chapter X: What Now?

The insights in this book are based on current research and just as much as our understanding

of the world has changed throughout time, these insights and understandings that determine

our actions can also change through time. With the Internet, it is easy to scrutinize

the information presented. This is important as it keeps you adjusted to reality and allows

you to calibrate towards the better version of yourself. I like this metaphor, because

having your best self as a framework is a very practical and realistic measuring tool

to compare yourself with. It is unique to each person without having to generalize what

is best for people to do. Ideally, you want to align your actions with the best version

of yourself at any time. It is better to define this best version based on scientific findings

rather than emotional attachments. For example, if you dont mind smoking, yet you know

it is better for you not to, then you could acknowledge that a better version of yourself

wouldnt smoke. The same would apply to other habits you would consider to be bad.

The extent to which you can overcome these bad habits will greatly define your personal

growth.

Chapter XI: Where Do I Start?

Gaining control is a process that takes time and practice, just as getting in shape requires

you to work out. Changing your state of mind to being more rational and present requires

regular stimulation of the neural pathways responsible for bolstering reason.

How to go about it most effectively varies from person to person, so this list is more

of a guideline. What is most effective is not always what works best on paper, but rather

what works best for you. From my personal experience, the habits that require the least

effort are the ones that are adopted the quickest. The easiest one I can think of is taking the

right supplements. All it takes is ordering them and taking them regularly. Vitamin D3

at times when you dont have a lot of exposure to sun can help a lot.[41] Other supplements

that are good to take include omega-3[42] and vitamin B-complex.[43] This is what has

worked best for me, but shouldnt be seen as a universal example. The effect of supplements

and food is different for each person.[44] I also take noopept, a popular nootropic,

in combination with citicoline, which has highly improved the quality of my sleep. Depending

on your lifestyle, these supplements might be more or less effective. Drinking coffee

on a regular basis for example can greatly diminish the effects you experience from stimulating

supplements.

Next on the list is working out, probably the most important one when I base myself

on the feedback of my viewers.[45] I know that healthy eating habits and a well-balanced

diet can have an even bigger impact, but I am mainly looking at the habits that have

the best chances to ripple throughout all aspects of your life. Everyone for example

knows that eating healthily is good for you, yet it isnt something many people are aware

of in their daily lives. Working out, on the other hand, has proven to be a great stepping

stone towards an overall healthier lifestyle. That is why I mention it so early on, it helps

you be more in control as it produces a better blood flow to the brain, resulting in mental

clarity and increased self-confidence.[46]

I know many might not have the will to go out and exercise even if they would want to.

If you cant find the energy to do so, finding a friend to do it together with can help.

If you cant think of anyone, my suggestion would be to use the Internet. If you live

in the U.S. for example, you have websites like exercisefriends.com that allow people

to connect for these types of activities. Working out is a big catalyst for a lot of

other positive lifestyle changes and that is why, for people who dont work out, the

chances of taking up the advice is lower than for those who do.

Next up is surrounding yourself with people that inspire you rather than inhibit you.

Not everyone has this choice, but the extent to which you are able to do so can have far-reaching

consequences throughout your life. Some people go through the biggest life changes by just

not hanging out with the wrong people anymore, which can be more impactful than any other

advice I could give you. It is important to be aware and remind yourself that your environment

is a big part of who you are. If you still live with your parents for example, becoming

financially independent so you can live by yourself can be a big step towards intellectual

independence. The majority of people grow the most the moment they have to make their

own decisions and take responsibility for them. If you are still young and moving out

is not possible yet, compromising in order to keep the peace while you are in this phase

of your life would be my general advice.

Next up is eating habits. Avoiding consumption of refined sugar is one of the most impactful

steps I can think of.[47] This relates to soda, cookies, candy or even fruit juice.

Drinking mainly water and avoiding alcohol, coffee and especially sugary drinks will be

hard at first but as you get used to it, your quality of life will improve significantly.

Same applies to the consumption of meat or dairy products. Most of this advice is supported

by, among others, the World Health Organization and doing your own research into these topics

can help you understand more of the dangers and benefits. Be aware that all gut flora

is different and whether a specific diet is better or worse varies from person to person

and the examples I have given so far are quite general. Eating food that is easy to digest

can also help as well as preparing the food with fresh vegetables and taking your time

when eating. I learned that proper posture and taking my time has taken care of many

of my own stomach issues due to my high paced lifestyle. I do know this is not applicable

to all settings but to me it was definitely worth it. Even if it required me to adapt

my eating habits, it has made me more effective as it helps me feel better and think more

clearly.

Next up is the importance of making time. I just mentioned it when it comes to diet

but, when applied to all aspects of your life, it can clear up a lot of mental clutter. Self-reflection

and meditation can also be useful in these regards.[48] For many people I know, meditation

has changed their lives. Apps like Buddhify, mainly the gratitude meditation in the sleeping

category, set me at ease before falling asleep. These mental noise reduction habits add up

in the long run when practiced regularly. They require already some level of awareness

and that is why I havent mentioned them earlier.

Last but not least is ensuring quality of sleep.[49] Although this one ends up falling

into place when adopting all these other habits that lower stress.

There are many self-help books that explain how to motivate yourself in doing all of this

and while they sometimes work, I decided to focus more on the underlying dynamics that

give you control.

Chapter XII: Why Do You Want What You Want?

We live in a heavily consumption-focused culture where having more and more is associated with

success. So when people think about what they want, a lot of the time they want more than

what they already have. You can wonder to which extent this is your own free choice

if what you want is heavily conditioned by your environment. Analyzing the concept of

freedom and evaluating how much it applies to us rather than letting it be defined by

our conditioning allows us to reflect on our actions more consciously. But as long as we

feel entitled, we have a hard time seeing our choices for what they are.[50] We will

more easily backwards rationalize to make it fit within our current paradigm since our

will is mainly the drive to reduce the dissonance within our neural activity. Depending on what

neural networks are active, your needs change all the time. A good salesman for example

knows exactly which parts in our brain he has to activate to make us want something

we dont want at all. This is just one example of how our perception of free choice is something

we tend to rationalize afterwards. Self-awareness allows us to put our decisions in a larger

context where our needs are perceived through a wider lens, allowing us to make more accurate

decisions. This is probably one of the more powerful insights in this book. For example,

there is no wealth in the world that you could want that would be more valuable than what

you already have. Realizing this may make you value what you have a lot more.

This is quite present in spiritual beliefs such as eastern philosophy and can still be

relevant in today's society. Not taking what you have for granted will benefit you more

than the excitement from acquiring superficial things and will result in a more fulfilling

and minimalist lifestyle. We still have more luxury than kings or queens a thousand years

ago so it is just a matter of perspective. That is one reason why the gratitude meditation

is so helpful to me. As times change and society gets more and more wealthy, the real richness

comes from within.

Chapter XIII: What Do I Genuinely Want?

When you strip your self from all the noise and replace your concept of identity with

a clear view on your core self, you achieve a state of clarity with little conflict that

I could best describe as a choiceless awareness.[51] What matters at that point is merely what

makes sense and becomes similar for everyone. It may express itself differently from person

to person but as the laws of physics are the same for all of us, they also equally underpin

the processes of our biology. This can be illustrated by how two individuals growing

up together are able to learn the same language. We are very alike and that is why applying

reason to shared knowledge brings about similar action. In the end, what we really want comes

down to understanding what we are. And most of these answers can be deduced from our biology.

The urge to reproduce, for example, evolved into our need to find a partner. Figuring

out how to connect our biological purpose to our actions is what matters. And since

there is a clear line to be drawn from stardust evolving to us we just need to follow up on

that to understand our design. It explains why we are here and is wired into every single

cell. These are the same patterns that allowed stardust to ultimately question itself. When

looking at these existential questions such as the meaning of life, we do so through our

own subjective lens. We come up with personalized answers just as we come up with rationalizations

to understand our emotions. But it is only by having perspective and looking at ourselves

from a bigger picture, a grander scheme, that we can really pinpoint the answers. Understanding

this will bring about a clear and scientific moral compass with values that transcend esoteric

and spiritual beliefs.

Chapter XIV: Practical Application

If we apply logic and reason to our insights in order to determine our actions, choiceless

awareness arises. You simply do what you have to do. This can sound confusing but when considering

all the input that reality presents to us, determining the best course of action is a

process that becomes very linear. Even when presented with different choices that are

similar, choosing one rather than being stuck is more effective. These choiceless moments

are omnipresent in our life but we dont experience them as such because we take them

for granted. A mother taking care of her child for example, or having to go to the store

to buy food are things we do naturally every day. Your actions flow out of your mindset

without being paralyzed by the abundance of choice. Because if we look at things rationally

and efficiently, much of the choices fade away. Acting upon common sense and adjusting

these actions based on reality is a very simple mechanism we have lost track of, due to the

overwhelming presence of distractions. You can see this with people in remote villages

for example, who experience very little distractions as life is very simple to them. This then

translates to more mental clarity and being in the moment.

Understanding the brain has been a big leap forward for humanity, however it takes time

to propagate through society and to shape our psychological understandings of who we

are. A lot of the insights in this book are based on recent studies and if it wasnt

for these, I wouldnt be the person I am today. Nurturing your brain to be able to

put these insights into practice is vital. The mind-body relationship I talk about in

Chapter XI is an important stepping stone and knowing the importance of this relationship

brings about quite some activities that people can start with today. What is even more important

than knowing what to do is whether or not you will act upon it. The distance between

knowing and doing can be substantial and it can take time for people to get there.

Chapter XV: The Right Mindset

While it might not be clearly defined, when we take a moment to think about it, we all

have subconscious core values that we feel most connected to. Core values differ from

person to person and can range from freedom and family to money or religion. As these

subconscious beliefs define our actions, having a foundation that is factually accurate will

automatically result in more mental stability and consistency. That is why having 'making

sense' as your core value is the essence of this book, since reason is what gives us control

over our otherwise impulsive decisions. It originates from the mathematical patterns

that govern our reality and gives rise to the complex neural structures required for

our thoughts or feelings to exist. That is why aligning our beliefs with these mathematical

patterns creates a paradigm with little contradiction. Since all we need to do to reduce our inner

conflict is find out how to make sense of it within the context of our reality. Understanding

that on a fundamental level it is not you who is flawed but rather your beliefs leads

to a high level of mental clarity and relief as all our fears and uncertainties suddenly

become logical since we have the ability to explain them using neuroscience. We then either

take action or come to acceptance with our dissonance rather than do what we usually

do: beat ourselves up over it or create dysfunctional beliefs. This makes sense when we don't know

that neurally emotions emerge before we can become aware of them. That is why applying

reason to our knowledge is essential for making more sensible neural connections and why working

out and eating healthily is so important. Defining the right mindset in a universal

and accessible way has always been a big challenge for me. And what has worked best so far is

boiling it down to adopting a simple belief wherein 'making sense' becomes our core value.

This has to happen on a subconscious emotional level as this is where it replaces our current

impulsive drive with an intuitive urge to make sense instead. Wiring this subconsciously,

which is possible for everyone, turns making sense into a primal desire and has been the

defining factor and common thread through all my achievements.

The Description of Athene: Real Answers (part 1 of 2)