Tag Archives: Self-Discipline

A Simple Mind Programming Exercise to Break Bad Habits

When we think about motivation, what comes up in our minds is positivity, energy, and feeling good. Think about a mascot and cheerleaders cheering up a whole stadium of sports fans.

There’s also a dark side of the motivation, which involves all kinds of negative emotions such as fear, anger, and disgust to encourage high performance or to discourage unwanted behavior. Think about a sports coach screaming at their team to fire them up with anger.

The dark side of motivation can be a useful tool to quit unwanted behavior. The feelings of fear and disgust are powerful motivators.

I used the dark side of motivation to quit occasional smoking. To do that I used the dreadful imagery of cancerous organs on cigarette packages and on the Internet. Today, I will go deeper into this topic and share another powerful exercise.

A Simple Model of Our Minds

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that your mind consists of two parts, conscious and unconscious. In this model, you can think about your unconscious mind as a powerful, active, but dumb person. Contrary to that, your conscious mind is weak, lazy, but intelligent.

The properties of our conscious and unconscious minds remind me of David and Goliath. In this model, our conscious mind is David, and the unconscious mind, Goliath.

Unconscious Mind / Goliath

  • Powerful
  • Active
  • Dumb

Conscious Mind / David

  • Weak
  • Lazy
  • Intelligent

The Relationships between Our Minds and Behaviors

Due to its powerful and active nature, our unconscious mind determines our behavior most of the time. The unconscious mind is also where our habits reside.

Our conscious mind has limited direct control over our behavior. However, we can use that limited control to program our unconscious mind.

Our unconscious mind works with associations and motivated by emotions. Pleasure is a strong motivator for our unconscious mind.

Quitting Strategies That Fail

Imagine your unconscious mind associated your Internet addiction with pleasure. Your conscious mind is fully aware of the negative consequences of Internet addiction. So, there’s a battle between your David and Goliath.

If the battle is based on power, who would win in the end? Goliath, of course. This is how we are approaching our bad habits and addictions most of the time. This is the reason we are failing at eliminating them.

However, David has an advantage, intelligence. We can use the intelligence of our conscious mind to reprogram our unconscious mind to break unwanted habits and addictions. Let’s see how we can do that.

A Strategy That Works

Why does our unconscious mind engage in bad habits and addictions? Because it associates them with good feelings. This is the psychology of addictions. How can we change that behavior? By replacing those positive associations with negative associations.

An example of this method is associating smoking with the images of cancerous organs. Now, let’s learn another method that uses the principle of pain and pleasure.

An Effective Method to Eliminate Bad Habits

Take a sheet of paper. Turn it sideways so that you have it in landscape mode and divide it into two parts vertically.

On the right-hand side, write the addiction that you want to quit at the top. Then write down different manifestations of that addiction underneath it in bullet points.

Don’t write in long sentences and paragraphs, just a few words for each bullet point. In this exercise, we want to keep things as simple as possible, because it’s designed for our unconscious mind. Remember, Goliath isn’t that bright.

On the left-hand side, write the consequences of your addictions in bullet points. Again, keep things simple. These consequences can be the ones that you have already experienced or the ones that you’re afraid of. Ideally, both.

Get into the Negative Feelings

Once you prepared your paper, it’s time to reflect on it. Look at the left-hand side and get into the feeling of psychological pain. That might be fear, anger, disgust, or any other negative feeling for you.

Once you feel the pain intensely, look at the right-hand side, feeling the intense pain until it subsides. Then, repeat it again. Spend as much time as you want doing this exercise.

Repeat the exercise at least once a day, at least for 30 days. During the transition phase, if the urge comes up, remind yourself of the consequences.

If you do this correctly, the next time you think about indulging in your addiction, you’ll feel such an intense pain that you’d rather skip it. It’s an intense, unpleasant, but a powerful and effective exercise.


Our habits and addictions reside in our unconscious mind which is powerful, active, and dumb. Our conscious mind can’t overpower our unconscious mind due to its weak nature.

Our unconscious mind works with associations. It associates habits and addictions with good feelings. We can use our conscious mind to break those positive associations and replace them with negative ones.

To do that, we need to prepare a paper with our addiction in detail on the right-hand side and the consequences of our addiction on the left-hand side.

The exercise involves feeling the pain of consequences and then reading the details of our addiction when feeling those negative emotions.

If you keep doing this exercise daily for at least 30 days, your unconscious mind will start to associate your addiction with pain and won’t be as motivated as before to indulge in it.

Eliminating Bad Habits with the Dark Side of Motivation

Yesterday, I shared the psychology of addiction. In summary, our personality consists of various independent subpersonalities. They get activated at different times and take control of our psyche.

When you’re going through the cycle of addiction, two programs get triggered in turn. First, temptation takes over us and causes us to engage in the addictive behavior. Second, regret sets in when the activity is over.

At the beginning of the activity, the first program is active and the second program is in a latent state. Toward the end of the behavior, the first program loses its intensity, and the second program gets activated.

Our goal is to trigger the second program whenever we feel the first program getting triggered. Moreover, we need to increase the intensity of the second program to the extent that it overpowers the first program.

Quitting Smoking

This is an example from my own experience. I used to be a severe smoker in the past. After a while, one of my subpersonalities, my rational mind, decided that it was time to quit because this habit wasn’t sustainable.

Nevertheless, I didn’t quit 100%. Even though I was fully aware of the hazards of smoking, I kept smoking here and there without overdoing it. Every time I did that, I regretted it afterward because of the harm I did to my body.

I needed to find a program to overpower my urges to smoke. I found that program when I discovered pictures of cancerous mouths, throats, and lungs. Those pictures caused intense feelings of disgust that overpowered my urges to smoke.

The Practice

It’s not sufficient to find a dark motivation to quit your addiction. You have to practice it in advance so that you can instantly trigger it whenever you feel the urge.

The best way to do that is to practice when you’re feeling good without waiting for an uncomfortable situation when the urge is too intense.

First, trigger the urge to engage in your bad habit. You can do that by thinking about your habit. Once the urge is there, immediately trigger the second program and increase its intensity so much that it overpowers the first program.

Practice this at least once a day for a month and whenever you feel the urge. Our goal is to get to the level of unconscious competence with this practice. That way the second program will be triggered automatically whenever the first program is triggered.

You need to make some conscious effort to get to the unconscious competence level. So, practice it every day for at least a month without waiting for the urge to appear.


Addictive behavior consists of two phases. In the first phase, temptation takes over our psyche and makes us engage in the bad habit. In the second phase, regret sets in and makes us feel bad.

We can eliminate our bad habits by consciously triggering dark emotions such as regret, disgust, anger, or fear whenever we feel temptation.

This isn’t easy to do in the heat of the moment when an intense urge hits you. If you want to use this method, you need to practice it in advance, when you don’t feel any temptation at all.

The Psychology of Addiction

“Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain.” Eckhart Tolle

Most of the time, we engage in an addictive behavior to escape an uncomfortable emotion. Sometimes, it’s boredom. Sometimes, it’s fear. Sometimes, it’s anger. And the list goes on.

When the addictive activity is over, we feel even worse than when we start. A heavy emotion of regret sets in.

We’re disappointed in ourselves because of the calories we consumed, the time we wasted, or the harm we did to our bodies with tobacco, alcohol, or other recreational drugs.

When everything is over, we look for ways of overcoming our addiction. We make promises to ourselves.

We study new techniques to get over our addiction. And we become hopeful again that we’ll be able to eliminate that addiction from our lives. All of that lasts until the next time we feel the urge, and we repeat the whole cycle again.

Today, I want to share my understanding of the psychology of addiction. I believe that it will be helpful to understand yourself and to quit your addiction.

The Psychoanalytic School

When it comes to the human personality, I subscribe to the psychoanalytic school that asserts that one’s personality is composed of numerous, independent subpersonalities.

As a software developer, I like to call those programs, because that term is more comprehensible and less creepy to me.

At different moments, different programs are triggered and executed in our psyche. Those programs can be complete opposites of each other.

Think about a parent who is loving and kind to their child most of the time, but once they get angry, they act as if they’d hurt their child. Those two programs are the opposites of each other. Yet, they inhabit the same person.

The Analysis of Addictive Behavior

Even though the theory of independent subpersonalities sounds weird, they’re pretty much a reality of our psychology. And sometimes, one of those subpersonalities become so strong that they overpower the rest, including our rational mind. A subpersonality takes the control of the whole person. As a result, we act in a way that we regret later.

Once the addictive behavior is over the related subpersonality loses its grip on us. Other subpersonalities such as the critical subpersonality start taking the control again. And we feel regret, guilt, and shame.

You might be going through this vicious circle over and over and wondering what’s wrong with you. You might be wondering how come you repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with you. This is a part of our human condition, and the psychoanalytic theory explains the addictive behavior very well in my opinion.


The lesson we can learn from this discussion is twofold.

We should stop blaming ourselves when we act irrationally or give in to temptation. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the responsibility. That’s something else, but blaming ourselves and feeling guilty make the problem only worse.

Second, we should expect those programs to get triggered again and learn how to manage them so that they don’t take over our whole psyche again. I’ll share a technique to do that in tomorrow’s post.

Letting Go of Habitual Thoughts for More Mental Clarity

In my mental clarity experiment, my goal was to reduce my mental and physical habits to increase my mental clarity.

By mental habits, I mean reducing my Internet usage. Letting go of habits such as checking Facebook, Instagram, news, and my MailChimp stats, listening to pop music and podcasts, and participating on Steemit. Reducing the frequency of checking email, Twitter, stock and bitcoin prices, and watching YouTube.

By physical habits, I mean reducing the daily calories and caffeine I consume. I also pay attention to increase the duration and quality of my sleep. All of these adjustments contributed to my mental clarity.

One Step at a Time

When I look back, I haven’t made these changes overnight. I made them over a period of more than a month. The first time I came up with the idea, I more or less knew what I had to let go of. I tried to let go most of it at once. This wasn’t a good idea.

It’s human nature that we want immediate results. Going for immediate results is more likely to result in failure than success. A better idea is to put one step in front of another, trying to make these changes one by one. I have already explained this concept in a previous blog post.

By making 1% improvements every day, we make 3800% improvement in a year. All of those daily 1% improvements compound to 38X yearly improvement. That is not 38%. That is a whopping 38 times improvement. And we all have those 1% improvements in our lives.

You can take that 1% improvement idea and apply it to any area of your life you want to improve. Do you want to improve your self-discipline? Improve it just by doing something that requires 1% more self-discipline every day.

Do you want to improve your courage? Improve it just by getting out of your comfort zone 1% every day. The same is true with mental clarity.

As I put one step in front of the other towards more mental clarity, the next step appears in front of the other. I don’t need to know the whole journey in advance. All I have to know is the final destination and the step in front of me.

Habitual Thoughts

As I determine the external factors clouding my mental clarity and let them go, I start to figure out the internal factors that are interfering with my mental clarity. One of those internal factors is habitual thoughts. Those habitual thoughts don’t add any value to my life.

You probably have habitual thoughts too. We humans like to play the same records over and over in our minds, day after day, year after year.

Sometimes, they seem to be harmless, but sometimes, they trigger heavy emotions that interfere with our mental clarity, our wellbeing, and our performance. Even if they are harmless, they just waste our mental bandwidth, which we can use more productively.

We not only need space in time and in using our attention, we also need space in using our mental bandwidth, to use it productively, to come up with good ideas, and to see opportunities in our lives.

The Next Step

Letting go of habitual thoughts is harder than letting go of physical habits or external habits such as checking social media. If you are just starting your mental clarity journey, you might want to start with physical habits, like reducing your caffeine consumption, or other external habits.

Once you reduce your physical and external habits, it becomes easier to take control of your mind. The first step is to determine what your habitual thoughts are.

We all have them. Most of us play the same records over and over in our minds almost every day. Just determine one of those thoughts and commit to letting it go.

Whenever it comes up acknowledge the thought, take a deep breath, and let it go when exhaling. Just don’t pay any more attention to it. Don’t invest any more mental energy in it. You can do this. It requires some willpower at the beginning. But with time, you get used to it.

There is a mindfulness analogy that I’d like to mention here. Think about those thoughts as bubbles rising up and you’re popping those bubbles just by touching them.

The sooner you become aware of those bubbles and pop them, the better. Soon, you’ll pop those bubbles as soon as they form and eventually they’ll stop forming.

The Emotional Charge behind the Thoughts

David Hawkins explains this concept very well in his book Letting Go: the Pathway of Surrender. We are addicted to those thoughts, because they have an emotional charge. We are not addicted to those thoughts, but to the emotions they bring with them.

Our goal is to let go of our addictions to those emotions. The effect of those emotions is similar to the effects of substances that we can consume, such as caffeine. Those emotions aren’t some abstract concepts. They have the same effects as physical objects such as coffee.

David Hawkins suggests letting the thought go and staying with the emotion behind it, without trying to change it or investing more energy in it. That way, the emotion will run its course and subside. As you keep repeating this practice, the frequency and intensity of those thoughts and emotions will diminish.


When you are aiming for mental clarity, don’t try to achieve it overnight by letting go of all of your habits and thoughts. Adopt a 1% improvement approach. Just pick one habit that you want to let go of and focus on that for a week.

As you let go of one habit, the next habit to let go becomes obvious. Then you can let that habit go, the next week.

As you let go of your external habits, you become aware of your thinking habits. It is possible to let them go as well, even though it might be more difficult. The trick in letting go of the thought habits is to let go of the emotions that come with those thoughts.

As we let go of our external habits and habitual thoughts, we free up more and more mental bandwidth that we can use more productively and creatively. That in turn increases our performance, wellbeing, and the quality of our lives.

What Are the Benefits of Mental Clarity?

Two days ago, I started a 30 day mental clarity experiment. Before the mental clarity experiment, my strategy for high performance was to drink coffee and cultivate intense emotions such as anger. Such a strategy leads to stress, exhaustion, and eventually reduced performance. The alternative to that is mental clarity.

What Is Mental Clarity?

I define mental clarity as the lack of intense emotions, irritating thoughts, and distractions. As a result, a greater percentage of one’s mind becomes available to be used consciously.

When I have mental clarity, my awareness increases. I have a better sense of what’s going on in my life. I can see what the issues are, what their causes, what my options, and what the possible outcomes are.

My awareness is far from perfect at the moment, but I’m trying to improve it with the mental clarity experiment.

Perfect Awareness

I define perfect awareness as being able to detect possible problems and opportunities in advance, being able to determine possible options to address them, and being able to process possible outcomes of each option.

If you have perfect awareness, you can come up with a decision fairly quickly and act out on that decision as soon as possible.

Perfect awareness would be a superpower since discerning truth from falsehood is a fundamental skill for success in life. Imagine a life where every decision was a breeze. Imagine if the next step to take was obvious in every situation, how easy would our lives be?

I know that perfect awareness is impossible, but we can strive towards it. Sure, it comes partially with life experience. Life experience isn’t gained with years only, but also how you spend those years. Getting out of your comfort zone as much as possible adds to your life experience.

Life experience isn’t the only factor in higher awareness. Mental clarity also plays a role in it.

Increased Concentration

When I have higher mental clarity, I can concentrate more. I can stay concentrated longer and I can concentrate deeper.

Mental capacity that is wasted on intense emotions, irritating thoughts, and other distractions is freed up. I can allocate that extra capacity on the task that I’m working on.

There’s a catch though. I eliminate distractions not only when I work, but also during my free time. When I distract myself with a YouTube clip in my free time, that clip plays back in my mind while working.

The same is true when listening to catchy pop songs. Therefore, we need to minimize distractions not only during the working hours, but also during the free hours.

Peace of Mind and Joy

You might object that last sentence, but give it a try. At the beginning, it can be boring, but when you get used to it, you get a different sense of joy from lack of distraction.

You feel peace of mind. That doesn’t mean you have solved every issue in your life, but they don’t scare you as much.

When you get used to that kind of peace of mind, you despise distraction. Instead of looking for distraction, you run away from it. You want to stay in silence without getting distracted and enjoy it.

When I’m in that state, I feel gratitude. The issues that bother me in my daily life don’t bother me anymore. Sure, they need to be dealt with, but that doesn’t interfere with my feelings of joy.

New ideas flow in that state. That is definitely important if your goal is to increase your performance. The quantity and the quality of your ideas increase.


When we think about high performance, we think about long stretches of caffeine and stress-fueled work. Those stretches have their toll on our bodies and minds and they result in reduced performance.

This time, I plan to go the opposite direction, which I call mental clarity. The benefits I expect are higher awareness, improved analytical and decision making skills, longer, deeper concentration, peace of mind, and joy.

Mental Clarity Experiment

After a nonstop working streak of a few weeks fueled by caffeine and intense emotions, I decided to give a break yesterday. My working streak not only included my day job, blog, and Steemit account, but also a cardio or weight training six days a week.

Yesterday, all I had to do was not to drink any coffee and my mind and body shut down. I had to take a long nap in the afternoon. When I woke up, I had great mental clarity. I took my time to hang out in the nice weather outside.

I was relaxed. I knew that I had to solve a few problems in my life, but I wasn’t stressed about them. There are a few problems to be solved in any human life. I was able to enjoy myself outside. When I came back, I could work without having much stress.

There are a few problems to be solved in any human life.

My experience yesterday inspired me to cultivate the same mental state more often in my life. That mental state can be best described as mental clarity, or a lack of any intense emotions or irritating thoughts.

Benefits of Mental Clarity

When I have mental clarity, I can see the big picture of my life. I’m able to think holistically without getting obsessed about particular issues. I feel good. That good feeling doesn’t get in the way of my performance. I have peace of mind and I feel joy.

I appreciate my life. I see how lucky I am and I have been. The issues that keep my mind busy when I’m stressed don’t bother me that much when I have mental clarity. That doesn’t mean that I don’t do anything about them. I just put them in perspective.

This mental state is explained very well in the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. I highly recommend it.

Effects of Intense Emotions

To some extent worries, fears, and stress stimulates my mind to perform at a higher level. If the intensity or duration of those emotions exceed that optimal threshold, those emotions stop being productive.

Moreover, work fueled by worries, fears, stress, and caffeine has its toll on mind and body. After a while, my mind as well as my body burns out.

On top of that, worry, fear, stress, and caffeine create an obsessive mental state. I become focused on what’s in front of me. That is a positive effect. The negative effect of it is that I miss the big picture.

The big picture is as important as the immediate tasks or problems in front of me, if not more important.

30 Day Mental Clarity Experiment

After my experience yesterday, I decided to do a 30 day mental clarity experiment. Instead of using worry, fear, anger, stress, and caffeine to fuel my work, I will make a conscious effort to motivate myself to focus on my work.

Moreover, I will let go of further distractions from my life. Luckily, I just completed a 30 day experiment on letting go of distraction. The mental clarity experiment will build nicely on top of that.

There are a few books that I want to mention here that is related to this experiment. If you want to do a similar experiment and dive into the topic, I recommend you read them.

  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
  • Untethered Mind by Michael A. Singer
  • The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer
  • Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins

The Surrender Experiment is especially interesting, because it documents how the author started as an academician yogi and ended up as a successful businessman.

As I have done with my reduced internet usage experiment, I’m going to draft a plan before I start and report my results after 30 days.


Normally, I aim for eight hours of sleep every day, but I almost never make it. For the next 30 days, I’ll aim for seven hours, but pay more attention to it.

I’ll improve my sleep by reducing my caffeine consumption during the day. I’ll take a nap during my free days, if I feel the need.


I don’t do any recreational drugs. Neither do I drink alcohol on a regular basis. But caffeine is my only drug. I plan to restrict it to one mild espresso on working days, because I enjoy it very much. If that seems to interfere with this experiment, I might let that go as well.

Intense Emotions

Emotions of fear, anger, and worry interfere with mental clarity. I choose not to invest any mental energy on them when they come up. I also choose not to distract myself to avoid them. I choose to stay with them until they subside. In my experience, they come and go, if I don’t pay any attention to them.

The book Letting Go is a great resource on dealing with intense emotions. It boils down to neither suppressing them, nor escaping them with distractions, nor acting on them. Just stay with them, until they subside.


This is my favorite escape mechanism. I don’t watch TV. Neither do I have a radio switched on all the time in the background while I work or drive. Nevertheless, I listen to some pop music and watch some comedy clips on YouTube.

I’m glad I have reduced my distraction to its current level, but now, it’s time to reduce it even further. So, I decide to let go of the comedy clips and pop music. I’ll stick with classical music. I’ll enjoy the silence or listen to a good audiobook instead of watching comedy clips.

I don’t have many people distracting me, so, that’s not a problem for me. If you have that problem, you might want to address that as well.


By space, I mean giving myself some free time. I enjoy jumping from one activity to another, without given breaks in between. If I eat alone, I usually check my phone to read something or watch a clip. When I’m training in the gym, I listen to audiobooks or podcasts in between the sets.

That type of busyness interferes with mental clarity for sure. I’m going to give myself more space in the next 30 days. I’m going to enjoy some meals without distracting myself with anything else. I’ll give breaks in between activities in the free days and do simply nothing during those periods.

Excess Calories

I realized that consuming excessive calories also interferes with mental clarity. I decided to cut my calories a few days ago just for dietary reasons. That decision will have some benefits on my mental clarity as well.

I weigh the oatmeal I eat every morning. I’ll cut 50 grams from my breakfast, which makes around 186 calories per day. That doesn’t sound much, but it’s an amount that is sustainable for me. I plan to keep this level of calories for a long time, not just for a few weeks of crash diet.


As I have mentioned in a post about boosting mind power, unnecessary objects interfere with mental clarity as well. I pay attention to get rid of unnecessary stuff from my home regularly. So, nothing will change much in my case. I just wanted to mention it for you, in case this is a problem for you.

One thing I could pay more attention is to keep things tidy.

Clutter in Consciousness

Just like the average human mind, my mind is also filled with unnecessary, irrelevant, useless thoughts. I choose to let them go and not pay attention to them. I’m not going to pick up a meditation habit at this moment, but I’m going to be mindful about the clutter in my mind.

Good to Have a Plan

Actually, I’m glad I’ve written this plan. This plan makes me think that this experiment will be much easier than I thought it would be. The only issues I have to pay extra attention to is caffeine and distraction.

I must also admit that doing the first experiment of reduced Internet usage made this experiment much easier.

If you use Internet excessively, I suggest that you try to address that issue first in a 30 day experiment and then continue with a mental clarity experiment. Here are three posts that might help you with that.


In yesterday’s post, I discussed emotional states for high performance. Mental clarity was one of those states. After a day of recuperation yesterday, I’m inspired to increase my mental clarity. I feel like this will not only increase my performance, but also my overall quality of life.

If you feel like you can benefit from some mental clarity, join me in this experiment, and let me know how it works out for you. I will definitely let you know in my report after 30 days.

My 30 Days Reduced Internet Usage Experiment

I had two motivations to reduce my recreational Internet usage 30 days ago. First, it was a waste of time. Second, it was a distraction.

Both were important motivations. Time waste is obvious, but distraction is important as well. You might check your phone only ten times a day for a minute. That would add up to ten minutes a day, which might not seem to be a lot.

But every time you check your phone, you lose your concentration. If it takes ten minutes to concentrate again, you might be losing at least one and a half hour in lost concentration.

If something you saw on Facebook or on a news site keeps your mind busy, then that’s lost time as well. So, I recommend auditing your Internet usage and reducing it if necessary.

First, I want to review what my usage and target levels were for each item. I will also review if I was successful or not. Then I will review the lessons I learned from this experiment.

If you don’t want to read the details of my Internet usage, you can skip to My Conclusions section below. I report it here to give you an idea about how you can approach a similar experiment.

Private Email

  • 30 days ago: Checking my private email whenever I felt bored.
  • Target: Check once a day.
  • Result: Success

Bitcoin and Stock Market Prices

  • 30 days ago: Checking them whenever I felt bored.
  • Target: Come up with a weekly game plan. Check the prices once a day. Execute an action if required by the game plan.
  • Result: Weekly game plan and passive orders are implemented. Now, I check these less than once a day.


  • 30 days ago: Mostly during the lunch.
  • Target: Once a day. Check the notifications and engage with my blog readers. Check the main page for three page scrolls maximum.
  • Result: Even better than the target. I check the notifications and engage with my blog readers once a day. I don’t check the rest.


  • 30 days ago: Mostly during the lunch.
  • Target: Not necessary at all.
  • Result: Success.


  • 30 days ago: This is an ego thing. I check how many people subscribed to, read, and clicked on the links of my email newsletters.
  • Target: Check once a week, because I send my newsletter once a week anyway. So, I’ll remove the app from smartphone right away.
  • Result: I completely stopped checking these results and other statistics, with only one exception. That is to write a post about 8 Lessons I Learned from My Medium Stats.


  • 30 days ago: I follow only four people. They don’t post often. I don’t use it that often. This is not a big problem at this moment.
  • Target: Once a day. This is not a real problem, as I follow only four people at the moment. Actually, I’m going to remove the app from my smartphone right away.
  • Result: Removed the app. I don’t check it at all. I don’t feel the need at all.


  • 30 days ago: I didn’t even check once a day.
  • Target: Once a day to see if my posts are shared. If so, engage with the people.
  • Result: I didn’t check once a day and I’m fine with it. This is so weird, as before starting my blog, Facebook was such a big part of my daily routine. I was spending almost half an hour on it every day. I’m glad I’ve let go of this habit. It doesn’t even pop up in my mind right now.

Bing, Bing News

  • 30 days ago: Checking their homepage for the daily image and news.
  • Target: I like the images on their homepage. Once a day is OK. I’ll switch off their news and don’t check them anymore. News are complete distraction without any added value to me.
  • Result: Success.


  • 30 days ago: While working out in the gym.
  • Target: Continue with this habit. Nothing to listen at all would bore the hell out of me.
  • Result: I gave up this habit as well. I listened to just one podcast lately. Maybe, if I come across something useful, I might listen, but most of the time, I don’t want to consume any content at all when working out in the gym. I just want to rest my mind. Lifting weights is a great way to shut down your mind. I use earplugs to filter out the loud music to the extent possible.


  • 30 days ago: Classical music and relaxing playlists are OK, but sometimes, I switch to pop music to cheer things up at work, but then those songs keep playing in my mind for the rest of the day.
  • Target: Get rid of all upbeat popular music. That’s sad, but it’s too distracting. Classical music, relaxing music, relaxing acoustic pop and rock is OK.
  • Result: Success. But now, I’m thinking of letting go of some acoustic music is as well, because some of it is too good to ignore, Ed Sheeran for example.

Google Images

  • 30 days ago: Sometimes, when I’m bored, I enter a funny query and check the Google Images.
  • Target: Not at all. Complete distraction.
  • Result: In the first three weeks, this was a success, but then I slid into this habit again.


  • 30 days ago: Mostly during meals and cardio. Unfortunately, sometimes, when I feel down and don’t feel like doing something else.
  • Target: Add informational videos to Watch Later. Watch only the videos in the Watch Later. Watching during cardio or doing home maintenance is OK. Use the timer if watching while eating, because I tend to keep watching after the meal is finished. I’ll remove the app from my smartphone right away.
  • Result: The nature of this problem changed. Now, I started to watch a comedy channel. I feel like it’s distracting me and it doesn’t serve me. But I don’t waste too much time on it. I usually do this when preparing meals and other manual tasks. But this is going to be an object of my next 30 days experiment.

My Conclusions

A lot of my daily Internet usage was just habitual. I neither felt the need nor benefited from it in any shape or form.

I was able to let go of some websites and apps just by questioning their use and becoming aware of their uselessness.

Sometimes, it was just enough to remove the app from my smartphone to not check it again, as it was in Instagram’s case.

As I said in my blog post, How Long Does It Take to Let Go, you don’t need to wait for 21 days to let go of a habit or belief.

Sometimes, just realizing the uselessness of a habit or belief is sufficient to let it go instantly.

No distraction in your smartphone or the Internet is going to make any significant change in your life.

Just realizing that fact was sufficient for me to let go of a lot of distractions.

The Effects of Caffeine

I realized that most of my Internet usage was just a response to stress. Where did the stress come from? I believe the majority of it came from my coffee consumption.

Drinking coffee causes a stress response in body and mind. A little bit of stimulation might be helpful to increase concentration. Anything more than the optimal amount causes too much stress.

Last month, the store where I do my grocery shopping stopped carrying my favorite brand, which was enough incentive to reduce my coffee consumption significantly.

As a result, I felt more peaceful. Now, I don’t need constant distraction. On the contrary, I just want peace of mind and don’t want any distractions at all.

Lifting weights in the gym is a prime example of that. Back in the day, I found it unbearable to not have any distraction in between the sets. Now, I find the distraction in between the sets unbearable and I use it as an opportunity to rest my mind and relax.

I don’t say doing this or that is good or bad for you. I just experiment with things and see what works the best for me and report it here.

Focusing on Productivity

A part of my daily Internet usage was checking how well my posts and email newsletters did. I realized that checking those stats often doesn’t have any benefits to my writing.

What does benefit my writing? Writing. It’s simple as that.

Sure, once in a while, it could be interesting to check my stats and learn my lessons from them, but that frequency is not every day. It’s not even every week.

I must also admit that as my Medium profile is gathering more and more views and followers. It’s even becoming harder to keep track all of that. That already gives me sufficient satisfaction and I don’t feel the need to check my stats.

Moreover, I started using Steemit as well. My Steemit usage feels productive to me at the moment. With my day job, blog, and Steemit, my productive time fills so much of my day, that I don’t even have the time distract myself with Internet.

Sometimes, I even use my meal times to write a comment or post. I know that’s not the healthiest thing to do, but I just give it as an example to explain that I don’t have much time or motivation for recreational Internet usage.


I find entertainment mostly a waste of time. I feel good mostly when I work on a challenging task and get it done.

Watching a comedy channel feels good at the moment, but it doesn’t give the same satisfaction as getting a challenging task done.

There’s an idea that entertainment is a necessary part of life. I don’t reject that idea completely. It’s about how much time and mental bandwidth I’m going to allocate to entertainment.

With millions of entertaining videos on YouTube, this is a slippery slope. I won’t set the intention to quit YouTube altogether at this momen, but I will be mindful about my YouTube usage.

I know that that wasn’t a measurable goal, but I feel like I could trust myself with this at this moment.


Some of my Internet usage is just habitual and I was able to quit it by realizing how useless it was or just by removing the app from my phone.

A good deal of my Internet usage was a stress response. I could let go of it just by reducing my coffee consumption, as that was a significant cause of my stress.

Probably the most important cause of reducing my recreational Internet usage was focusing on my productivity. When I was focused on productivity and getting things done, other distractions had less of an appeal.

Entertainment is an important part of my recreational Internet usage. I will probably reduce this, but don’t commit to eliminating it entirely, because it isn’t a great problem at this moment.

I will review this post 30 days later. If something significant happens by then, I will write another follow-up. In either case, it’s very interesting to commit to a 30 days experiment and review the results 30 days later. Highly recommended.

Abundance is Harming Us

We live in interesting times. We live in the age of abundance.

  • Abundance of calories,
  • Abundance of information,
  • Abundance of pleasure,
  • Abundance of comfort,
  • Abundance of goods.

And the list goes on.

In our 4.5 billion years of evolution, our ancestors had to deal with problems of scarcity. Therefore, we are wired to deal with scarcity.

We don’t know how to deal with abundance. This is a new skill set we need to learn. Perhaps, we need to create some artificial scarcities in our lives to deal this new condition.

Let’s go over each item to discuss how the problem manifests itself.

Abundance of Calories

The abundance of calories is the most obvious problem. There are people on earth who don’t have access to sufficient calories. However, the average person has access to an abundance of calories.

It is a challenge to have access to an abundance of calories without consuming them in excess and making ourselves sick in the process.

Most of our ancestors did not have this type of luxury. We don’t have the self-regulatory mechanisms encoded in our DNA. This is definitely a skill we need to learn.

Abundance of Information

I guess no one can object that we live in times of abundant information. Abundance of information can be a challenge in two ways.

The first challenge is to extract the signal from the noise. In other words, it’s a challenge to separate the correct, useful information from the incorrect, useless information. Search engines like Google are helping us with that challenge.

The second challenge is to let go of our addiction to less valuable, useless information, such as social media, email, news, and other types of Internet addictions.

Abundance of Pleasure

This is connected to the first and second challenges, but as an overarching challenge, it deserves its own section.

We use calories not only to feed ourselves, but also to feel pleasure.

We fool ourselves with all the information that is flowing from our TV’s, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones into believing that we have exciting, eventful lives.

We also fool ourselves with all the messaging apps and social networks into believing that we are connected with other human beings and have great social lives.

If you disagree with me switch off all of your electronic devices for a week and see how eventful your life is and what kind of a social life you have. If you do that, you will see that your life is pretty mundane and you don’t have as many real friends as you think you have.

We have access to an abundance of substances, such as alcohol, recreational drugs, and caffeine, like never before. Birth control and condoms made sex safe like never before.

Gambling, gaming, and other adrenaline inducing activities are accessible like never before. All of which can cause addictions and overindulgence.

Abundance of Comfort

Our ancestors didn’t have the level of comfort we have now. Most of us have easy access to safe homes, food, water, shelter, clothes, and so on. We don’t need to take any risks to access those basic necessities of human life. Our ancestors had to fight and/or make great effort to have those basic necessities.

In order to deal with the abundance of comfort, we need to get out of our comfort zones. We need to make physical exercise a part of our routine. We also need to cultivate courage by taking calculated risks regularly.

Abundance of Goods

Most of us are blessed with the means to not only cover our basic necessities but also to afford luxury products that we don’t really need.

If you think about it, anything other than our basic necessities is a luxury product. Our homes are cluttered with stuff that we don’t really need.


We are hardwired to deal with scarcity and we don’t know how to deal with abundance. We indulge in calories, information, pleasure, comfort, and stuff that we don’t really need.

We need to develop the skills to benefit from abundance without getting lost in it. Since this is the first time we experience this type of abundance, it requires our conscious effort to develop that kind of skills.

If we don’t develop those skills we not only risk living unfulfilling shallow lives, but also making ourselves sick in the process and living a shorter life.

How to Deal with the Withdrawal Symptoms of Device Addiction

Just like any addiction, quitting your device addiction can cause some withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness.

These symptoms are expected go away after a week or two. There is always the risk of not making through those first few weeks and sliding back to old habits. In order to avoid that, we need to prepare for the experience and know how to deal with the restlessness.

There are three questions you can ask to yourself to prepare for quitting your device and Internet addiction.

  1. What is your motivation to quit your smartphone addiction?
  2. What is your current device and discretionary Internet usage?
  3. What is your target device and Internet usage?

You can find more details about the questions above and my answers to them in yesterday’s post. Let’s see how we can deal with the restlessness that ensues after quitting our device addiction.


This is easier said than done, but some simple relaxation techniques can help you go through the restless moments within the first few weeks of quitting your device addiction.

  • Take a few deep breaths and count to ten.
  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Stand up and move around.

These are some very simple actions yet very effective. The trick is to remind them to yourself whenever you feel like checking your device.

Question Your Motives

Whenever you feel like checking your device or Internet, ask yourself coaching questions like the following.

  • Why do I have the urge to check my device now?
  • What is the chance of receiving an urgent message that requires me to check my device every six and a halve minutes?
  • What is the use of checking my device right now? What is the added value?

You can use the 5 Why’s technique to go several levels deeper.

  • Why do I have the urge to check my device now?
    • Because I’m bored.
  • Why do I feel bored?
    • Because sometimes my job isn’t exciting enough.
  • Why is my job not exciting enough sometimes?
    • Because sometimes we have to test everything through before a release.
  • Why is testing not exciting enough?
    • Because it consists of very simple, mundane activities.
  • Why does testing consist of very simple, mundane activities?
    • Because we have to simulate the usage patterns of end users.

In the example above, we have found that simulating the usage patterns of end users is a boring activity for a developer, which causes them to check their device often. How can we solve this problem?

  • Automate the process. Find a tool that simulates the usage patterns of end users automatically and checks if there are any errors encountered.
  • Hire a tester.
  • Gamify the process by introducing a competition among the developers to find the most bugs vs introducing least amount of bugs.

As you see, your device addiction might be just the tip of the iceberg. It might point to a deeper problem that you have to face solve separately. By quitting your device addiction, you are giving yourself the opportunity to face those problems. By using the 5 why’s technique above, you can find and address the root cause of your device addiction and look for solutions to fundamental problems of your life.

Get Into Your Stretch Zone

Let’s face it, device addiction is most of the time a reaction to stress. Stress has two main causes. You are either overwhelmed or underwhelmed. You are either bored or panicked. There is a sweet spot between your boredom zone and panic zone. That sweet spot is called your stretch zone.

Your stretch zone is slightly outside of your comfort zone. It stimulates personal growth by challenging your abilities slightly, but not so much as to overwhelm you. It’s human nature to avoid anything outside of our comfort zone.

We need to make the conscious choice to get outside of our comfort zone, over and over. That is the secret to happiness.

Accept the Reality

Sometimes, our daily lives are mundane and boring. Every job has its routine tasks and dull moments. Most of the 21st century jobs involve tasks that require sitting in front of a computer and thinking about hard, intellectual problems.

Not all of us have the chance of being a professional athlete, a rock star, or a secret agent for an intelligence agency. It’s a good idea to do whatever we can to make our jobs exciting and challenging, but at the same time, we have to accept the fact that every life has its mundane and dull moments.

The question is how do we deal with the mundane and dull moments of our lives? Do we escape to our device or to Internet in every opportunity? If so, we are missing a huge opportunity. Those dull moments can be a huge opportunity to process all the information we collect throughout the day and to reflect on our life.

We have to embrace doing nothing and be comfortable with it. It has its benefits.

Be Aware of Our Delusions

Our mind is mostly irrational and delusional. It requires conscious effort to become aware of our delusions. It requires even more effort to override those delusions.

All of our behavior is motivated by the pain and pleasure principle. We try to escape pain and move towards pleasure. Our mind registers sitting in front of a computer and thinking about a challenging problem as pain, in other words as punishment. It registers looking at a smartphone as pleasure, in other words as a reward. If you look at this mechanism, it is delusional. It is the complete opposite of reality.

Sitting in front of a computer, solving challenging problems usually results in rewards, while checking your smartphone all the time may eventually result in pain. We have to become aware of our mind registering the reality in the complete opposite way. That requires the skill of discerning the truth from falsehood even if it stems from our own mind.


We might get a principle at an intellectual level. We might get that checking our smartphone 150 times a day hurts our cognitive abilities, our job performance, and our overall quality of our lives. However, we might still do it. How can we motivate ourselves to do the thing that we know we should do?

Becoming aware of our own incompetency is the second level of learning. On this level, we want to get to the third level as soon as possible. The third level of learning is conscious competency. On this level, we are making conscious effort to not give in to our device addiction.

One way of staying in the conscious competency level is to remind ourselves repeatedly about our goal of quitting our device addiction. We can do that by writing our motivation and advantages on an index card. We can write down the disadvantages and harms of the device addiction on the back side of the index card.

Now, all we have to do is to keep our index card handy and read it whenever we feel like checking our smartphone. As we keep reading our index card, the information on the index card will be reinforced in our mind. This is how to update our mental programming and create our own matrix.

Once the information is reinforced in our mind, we have reached the unconscious competence level. We don’t even need to make conscious effort to remind ourselves about the harms of device addiction. It overrides our urges on autopilot, without our conscious effort.

Accountability Partner

A great way to stick with your decisions is to have an accountability partner and to report to them your progress. No one wants to promise something to someone and not live up to their promise. That is embarrassing. So, in order to increase your chances in this challenge, find an accountability partner, explain them your plan, and promise to report them your results, every week or month.

I have started this challenge yesterday. I will report my success on meeting the goals that I have explained above and what the impact on my mind and my life was after I complete the thirty day challenge. That will be March 2, 2018.


There has been a lot of information in today’s and yesterday’s post about quitting your device addiction. It’s not enough to go over them once and dive into the experience. I suggest that you bookmark both posts and go through them in a weekend.

Do the necessary preparation outlined in both posts and give yourself thirty days to experiment with a life that doesn’t involve checking your device every six and a half minutes. Let me know how it works for you and contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Come back after your thirty day challenge and let us know how it went!

Three Steps to Quit Your Device Addiction

The legend has it that the average millennial checks their smartphone 150 times a day. If you subtract eight hours of sleep, that makes once every six and a half minutes.

In my own experience, producing something valuable requires a prolonged, uninterrupted, relaxed focus on a task or sometimes on nothing at all. Checking a smartphone every six and a half minutes interferes with that type of concentration.

As a result, device addiction reduces our ability to maintain concentration for a long time. That in turn reduces our cognitive capabilities. Nowadays, most of us work in jobs where we use our intellectual capacity. Reduced cognitive capabilities means reduced output and reduced quality of life.

Device addiction not only impacts our professional lives, it also impacts our private lives. Sometimes, we have to think about our lives, our futures, and make decisions. Reduced cognitive capabilities decreases our ability to make the right decisions and keep us from enjoying our lives fully.

Sometimes, we need to relax and empty our minds, so that our minds can process all the information we have consumed throughout the day. With the information overload nowadays, we don’t give our minds the opportunity to do that.

We check our devices the first thing in the morning and we keep checking them every six and a half minutes until we go back to bed. That impacts our performance at work as well as our overall quality of life. There’s a growing number of people who want to do something about this addiction.

Dr. Caitlin Faas documented her digital declutter experiment in her Medium post. That made me pay attention to my device checking habit and coming up with a formal plan to reduce it. I’m not at 150 times a day, but my number is still higher than what I want it to be.

My Experience in the Past

I have attempted to quit discretionary Internet usage multiple times. In some cases, I was very successful. Sometimes, I stopped paying attention and that habit crept in again. At the moment, I’m fine with my device use. However, I think there’s still room for improvement.

Having written 90+ blog posts in personal development, I feel obliged to hold myself to a higher standard. Moreover, I only live once, so why waste my time on something that doesn’t provide the most value?

Why not let go of a habit completely that reduces my intellectual capacity and therefore the quality of my life? I want to become all that I can be and optimizing my Internet usage is a rather easy challenge to make progress towards the right direction.

If you waste one hour a day on average, you are wasting 15 complete days a year, and a complete year in 24 years.

Even if you don’t check your smartphone 150 times a day, think about the time you spend on useless Internet surfing. We think taking a look at our smartphone is a marginal cost that doesn’t count, but the reality is more serious than that.

If you waste one hour a day on average, you are wasting 15 complete days a year, and a complete year in 24 years. That’s something I definitely don’t want to do. Think about all the things that you could do in those 15 days or in that year that you are wasting on useless Internet surfing.

Step 1. What’s Your Motivation to Quit?

If you want to quit or dampen your discretionary Internet usage and the reasons I have mentioned above didn’t convince you, you need to come up with your own reasons.

Maybe, your device addiction is in the way of you having a better relationship. Maybe, it is in the way of exercising and a healthy life. Maybe, you feel bad after surfing some specific content.

If you want to join me, please come up with your own reasons and write them down somewhere, because we will need these reasons when we are tempted to check our device in the middle of a boring day.

Step 2. Establish a Baseline

Let’s get real. We all need the Internet to some extent. We need to check our email, just not 150 times a day. In order to make a conscious choice about our Internet usage, first we need to determine our current Internet usage.

Determining our Internet usage is trickier than you might think, because most of our Internet usage is unconscious, almost on autopilot. We become aware of our Internet usage once we pay attention. For that reason, we need to establish our baseline, our starting point.

To establish a baseline, we are going to track our Internet usage for a week and write down every time we use Internet for reasons other than absolutely necessary for our work.

I will exclude my Internet usage for my day job and for my blog out of my baseline. Here’s my discretionary Internet usage.

  • Checking my private email whenever I feel bored.
  • Checking the Bitcoin and stock market prices whenever I feel bored.
  • Twitter. Mostly during the lunch.
  • News. Mostly during the lunch.
  • YouTube. Mostly during meals and cardio. Unfortunately, sometimes, when I feel down and don’t feel like doing something else.
  • Spotify. Classical music and relaxing playlists are OK, but sometimes, I switch to pop music to cheer things up at work, but then those songs keep playing in my mind for the rest of the day.
  • MailChimp. This is an ego thing. I check how many people subscribed to, read, and clicked on the links of my email newsletters.
  • Instagram. I follow only four people. They don’t post often. I don’t use it that often. This is not a big problem at this moment.
  • Facebook. Actually, I should check Facebook more often. I don’t even check once a day. Sometimes, people post my blog posts and there are comments on them. It’s nice to answer those comments and like the posts and comments.
  • Google Images, Bing, Bing News. Sometimes, when I’m bored, I enter a funny query and check the Google Images.
  • Podcasts while working out in the gym.

Following Internet usage is no problem at all.

  • Everything that is related to my day job.
  • Working on my blog.
  • Engaging my readers and other bloggers via my blog, Medium, and Twitter.
  • Using Evernote.
  • Online shopping for books, audiobooks, supplementation, and other useful stuff.
  • Reading a blog post or an article with the intent to learn something useful.

Step 3. Target Line

I was tempted to call this step the ideal line, but then I remembered all of my previous attempts on such perfectionist goals. This time, I’m not going to take the extreme option and stick with my 1% improvement strategy.

Here are my targets for each bullet point in the baseline.

  • Private email. Check once a day. More than enough.
  • Bitcoin and Stock Market Prices
    • Come up with a weekly game plan.
    • Check the prices once a day.
    • Execute an action if required by the game plan.
  • Twitter.
    • Once a day.
    • Check the notifications and engage with my blog readers.
    • Check the main page for three page scrolls maximum.
  • News, not necessary at all.
  • YouTube
    • Add informational videos to Watch Later.
    • Watch only the videos in the Watch Later.
    • Watching during cardio or doing home maintenance is OK.
    • Use the timer if watching while eating, because I tend to keep watching after the meal is finished.
    • I’ll remove the app from my smartphone right away.
  • Spotify. Get rid of all upbeat popular music. That’s sad, but it’s too distracting. Classical music, relaxing music, relaxing acoustic pop and rock is OK.
  • MailChimp. Check once a week, because I send my newsletter once a week anyway. So, I’ll remove the app from smartphone right away.
  • Instagram. Once a day. This is not a real problem, as I follow only four people at the moment. Actually, I’m going to remove the app from my smartphone right away.
  • Facebook. Once a day to see if my posts are shared. If so, engage with the people.
  • Google Images. Not at all. Complete distraction.
  • Bing. I like the images on their homepage. Once a day is OK. I’ll switch off their news and don’t check them anymore. News are complete distraction without any added value to me.
  • Podcasts in the gym. I’ll continue with this habit, because I have a difficult time focusing on serious audiobooks when training heavy and with the loud pop music playing in the gym. Some podcasts provide good value with the right balance of information and entertainment. Nothing to listen at all would bore the hell out of me. Maybe, that’s the ideal, but I’m not there yet.

I’m quite happy with my target line. It’s not ideal, but it’s much better than my current baseline. I’m going to print it out and read it every morning and every night to remind myself the rules that I will play by, at least for the next 30 days.

Once the first 30 days are over, I can make another iteration to move closer to the ideal line. There is still room for improvement even in the targets that I have set above. However, it’s better to make a successful step forward than attempting three steps at a time and failing altogether.


Device addiction and discretionary Internet usage have serious adverse effects on our cognitive abilities, performance at work, and overall quality of life. It’s not an easy habit to quit and requires some preparation.

  • The first step is to write down your motivation to quit your discretionary Internet usage.
  • The second step is to determine your current usage to establish a baseline.
  • The third step is to determine a target line.

Make sure not to make your target line too idealistic to avoid failure. You can always set new targets once your target line becomes your baseline, typically after a month. That’s a how you build world class self-discipline, one step at a time.

From my experience, I know that I will have some withdrawal syndromes when times become difficult. I will be looking for a distraction. In those cases, I will need strategies to deal with those withdrawal syndromes. Tomorrow’s post will be about two strategies to deal with the withdrawal syndromes.