For being 35 years old, people say that I have achieved a lot in my life. I don’t
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 elected ‘first successors’ in 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.
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 aren’t fully ‘in 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 don’t
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 person’s perspective. Being aware of this in conversations
can also enable you to explain yourself more clearly, as you’ll tend to use the other
person’s 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 party’s 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.  You don’t 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
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 they’ve
already been made. And even though these automatic mechanisms are natural, we also
have the ability to override them with self-awareness. 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 with “there is a chance” is actually factually
correct. As much as we’d 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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 an ‘active ego’ when 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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  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.
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. 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. But you’ll never mention it, you’ll 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.
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.
Brainwaves underpin almost everything going on in our minds, including memory, attention
and even intelligence. 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. 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. 
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. However, when our beliefs are
too strong, the right hemisphere may not succeed in overriding our denial.
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, it’s 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. The brain’s
neural activity resonates most coherently when there’s no dissonance between these
advanced new cerebral regions and the more primitive ones. ‘Selfish tendencies’ is
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. 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 what’s 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. 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 we’re 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. 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 it’s 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 don’t 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 don’t mind smoking, yet you know
it is better for you not to, then you could acknowledge that a better version of yourself
wouldn’t 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
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 don’t have a lot of exposure to sun can help a lot. Other supplements
that are good to take include omega-3 and vitamin B-complex. This is what has
worked best for me, but shouldn’t be seen as a universal example. The effect of supplements
and food is different for each person. 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
Next on the list is working out, probably the most important one when I base myself
on the feedback of my viewers. 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 isn’t 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.
I know many might not have the will to go out and exercise even if they would want to.
If you can’t find the energy to do so, finding a friend to do it together with can help.
If you can’t 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 don’t 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. 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
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. 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 haven’t mentioned them earlier.
Last but not least is ensuring quality of sleep. 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. 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 don’t 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. 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 don’t 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 wasn’t
for these, I wouldn’t 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.