The Deep Change Project: A Year-Long Adventure in Brainhacking
The realization started when out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of my then 3-year-old holding a giant pair of scissors. The next thing I noticed were clumps of golden brown hair strewn around her like little piles of hay. For a split second my brain desperately wanted to push the get-the-#$@&%*!-scissors-out-of-her-hand panic button. But I also felt something else that pushed pause on my panic, and a thought popped into my mind: “What do you want her to learn from this?” My brain’s alarm bell – the amygdala – never actually rang and I calmly sat down next to her and we chatted about her misadventures in haircutting. By the end of our conversation, she had not only internalized the lesson of how we always have someone else cut our hair, but she was loudly announcing it to everyone in the house. As I stood back up to finish the dishes, I thought, holy cow, it works! My nine months of daily meditation with my trusty app, Headspace, was actually rewiring my brain.
This one fact – that our brains can rewire themselves through neuroplasticity – has been my obsession for the last fifteen years. After pouring over the research, I’ve started to believe that the brain comes wired with its own 1.0 default operating system – its own internal logic. It’s a good system for keeping us alive. It’s a bad system for helping us thrive. Rewiring your brain to a 2.0 upgrade – of going from survive to thrive – is something that I’ve also come to believe is both possible and takes more time than we want to give it. We know from the best science, for example, that it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit – for the neural change to stabilize – a far cry from self-help’s long-touted 21 days.
All this has made me wonder – with enough effort, applied in the right way, for a long-enough period of time, could I become a fundamentally better version of myself? If I focused on six traits – one every ~66 days – could I wake up as a new me by the end of 2019? I now believe this is answerable. Harnessing the explosion of neuroscience, the power of personalized big data, and the emerging sector of Braintech, I’m going to spend 2019 as a brain-hacking-guinea-pig to find out. As they say, science-help is the new self-help.
If you were to reinvent yourself – your strengths, your habits-of-mind, your traits – what would the best possible version of you look like? Who would you become if you could become anyone you wanted to? This is what going from “brain by default” to “brain by design” would look like for me:
January & February: Stressed (1.0) → Mindful (2.0)
The brain has a hard time changing under conditions of chronic low-level stress – the kind most of us live under day in and day out. So my first two months will be about dialing my stress down and my mindfulness up. From using the most cutting-edge brain tech (Vital Neuro, Apollo Neuroscience, Muse, Spire, etc.) to experimenting with amino acid therapy to taking a course on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, I’ll be doing everything I can to press “reset” in my body and brain.
March & April: Distracted (1.0) → Focused (2.0)
Next, I will experiment with what it means to be focused in a distracted world. I will use the best productivity hacks, supplement my brain’s health with “nootropics,” and use the latest in productivity and sleep tech (FOCI, Oura, etc.) to help me access and maintain states of flow.
May & June: Negative (1.0) → Positive (2.0)
Then, it’s time to take positive psychology seriously. Psychologists know our brains pull toward the negative. So instead of automatically seeing what went wrong, too easily being willing to criticize, and focusing on what I didn’t get checked off my to-do list, with the aid of tech like Happify, I want my brain to automatically filter for the good – to see what went right, to see the good in others, and to focus on what I did get checked off that to-do list.
July & August: Logical (1.0) → Creative (2.0)
After that, I want to use the science of creativity to turn my brain into an idea factory. There has been a surge in understanding how creativity works, how to harness your “default mode network,” and get in the driver’s seat of your inner muse. While schools and universities have trained our brains to be logical, I want to unschool my brain and give it the freedom to flex its fluidity. To do this I’ll use a series of tools, including “transcranial direct stimulation.”
September & October: Fearful (1.0) → Fearless (2.0)
Then there’s fear. Fear is great, if you’re actually in danger. For everything else, it’s a waste of time. The trick is convincing your brain of that. That gnawing, gripping, powerful emotion gets in our way and holds us back. This will be my journey out of attachment to others’ opinions, letting go of the need to control, and doing a bunch of crazy (possibly dangerous) things to get there. These two months scare me the most.
November & December: Self-Oriented (1.0) → Other-Oriented (2.0)
Finally, I’ll be attempting the big one, the great quest, the life-long journey of almost all world religions – dissolving the ego. The biggest challenge of human nature is to transcend the limits of self. To see from another’s perspective. To feel and understand as they do. This one’s ambitious…I know. But even if I get a glimpse, a taste, a new seedling of less me and more we, I believe it will be worth it.
These are the traits that matter to me – the things I’d like to fundamentally rewire in 2019. What do you want 2019 to look like for you? What traits do you long to develop? What new you would leave you feeling inspired? If you want a dose of inspiration about how to unlock your own dormant potential, join the Deep Change community and come design your best self. Become the creator of who you’ve always wanted to be.