Emotionhack your way to success

Dom Hawes | November 6, 2020


There’s much talk of sadness, frailty, loneliness and mental health this week. Being locked down is not easy, but those writing of the downside may be causing more harm than help. The brain is a wonderful and mysterious thing, but it’s a very fertile environment when seeds that makes sense are planted. Let me explain.

Without going into the details of how the brain works (which by the way I’ve learnt from books which are easily accessible and easy to read), it’s pretty widely accepted that there are two systems.

One system deals with the fight or flight instinct. It can’t make complex decisions but it’s very good at gut feel and getting you out of danger. It’s conditioned over your entire lifetime which creates shortcuts to help it process stuff quickly. This system is highly efficient and low energy to run. It’s on 24/7.

System two deals with the tough stuff. It revels in complexity, but it’s slow, so it helps guide your long-term happiness. It has the ability to be rational as well as emotional. It’s also where your phobias are created before they are despatched to the outer defences of system one.

Find out more about how the brain works, signalling, framing and how behavioural science can help you at Tas’s Brainshare.

Live in Haiti? Be afraid of spiders.

The brain is a very, very good cultivator. It can grow things.

When I was very young (1974) Dr Who did battle with the Planet of the Spiders. Just over 10 million people watched, and I was one of them.

Dr Who planted a seed in my brain that spiders were dangerous. That might have been useful in Haiti, it was less so in Hemel Hempstead. But the seed was planted which grew into a phobia.

35 years later, Richard Bandler (Godfather of NLP), removed my phobia in around 30 seconds. That literally shook be to the core. How could I spend 35 years being afraid of spiders and then one day just decide not to be? The answer of course, is that Bandler is expert at dismantling the automation of system one and unplanting system two.

Why plant fear in your people’s heads?

As we now head into another lock down, it irks me to see well-meaning leaders planting seeds of discontent [or spiders] in the heads of their teams. If you tell someone they are going to be sad, it’s highly likely they will be. Instead, tell them they are strong and resilient and they will find the resource they need to be just that.

British soldiers are famous the world over for their gallows humour. Even in the face of the fiercest threat to life, our troops find tjings funny and remain positive. How effective would they be if instead of seeing victory they could only picture defeat?

What I am saying is that we control our own happiness. We create the paths of our own success. Here’s how you can emotionhack your own brain.

How to emotionhack your own brain

Firstly, reject the negative feelings you might have about lockdown. Make a conscious decision not to dwell on them, talk about them or think about them. Build a mental picture of a large cardboard box, put those thoughts in it, then seal it.

Next, focus on the unique opportunity you’ve been given and come up with three to five positive gains you think you can make as a result. Mine are using newly gifted time to:

  1. Reframe how our business operates by devoting the time our CRM deserved in the first place, making it easier to use and more valuable to users;
  2. Accelerate our acquisition pipeline by signalling strength so we can deploy our treasury while our competition may dither;
  3. Commission expert assistance to our senior leadership teams so they can build adaptability and resilience into their own businesses and be more useful to their clients;
  4. Spend more time articulating our vision – we’re building something quite spectacular, yet sometimes struggle to describe it;
  5. Catch up on my reading backlog. Lockdown one gave me two non-commuting hours every day. I lost that, now I have it back.

Planting positive seeds in your head; choosing only to see positive things genuinely affects your happiness and your success. If you build a picture of success and plant it in your brain, system two will start working out how to deliver it. It puts your unconscious to work. Once you’ve seen something, your brain will change the way you do things. It will guide you. And if you follow your instinct you’ll get what you were looking for.

Some people call it The Secret, others have built platform speaking careers off the back of it, but it’s not a secret and it doesn’t need to be learned. Your brain already knows it. What you see in your mind guides what you do, which dictates what you get. That might sound like new age baloney, but it’s not.

Dream up your answers

Ask yourself a difficult question before you go to bed and when you wake up, you’ll have an answer. It doesn’t work all the time, but with practice it really does get easier. It’s how songwriters dream entire songs, wake up and just write them down. It’s why I leave my Mac on at night – so I can hop onto it and write down the ideas I wake up with.

If you build a really vivid picture of why you are blessed to be where you are right now (however bad the reality is) and focus relentlessly on the positives, you’re emotionhacking your way to success. You genuinely can choose to be happy from lunchtime today. So, if I were you, I would do. That way lies success.

Dom Hawes

Dom has spent nearly thirty years as a marketer starting his career in creative communications agencies before starting a business which he built it from the ground up and exited in 2009. He then consulted to tech and service companies before putting Selbey Anderson on the launch pad. Today, he leads development of the group strategy, M&A and performance. 

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