Because of the human mind’s many feedback loops, it is highly responsive to certain stimuli: ones whose effects can build on themselves and each other, creating a spiral.

If left unchecked, you’re at the mercy of fate.

There’s a decent chance that you’ll never trigger a major spiral. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ll stumble into an upward spiral and have a fantastic life already. But if you’re unlucky, you’ll get caught in a downward spiral into depression and despair.

But you needn’t leave things to chance.

There are many different feedback loops, so there are a lot of different mini-spirals possible. Most of these mini-spirals have multiple elements. And because they form a cycle, you can influence the entire system by changing how you interact with any one element.

Here are a few examples of common spirals and their elements:1

Habits

  • Start taking better actions on a regular basis.
  • Get better results.
  • Develop the identity of someone who takes better actions and gets better results.
  • Feel better about yourself.
  • Experience more energy.
  • Feel inspired to get even more of these results.
  • Start taking better actions on a regular basis.

Expectations (the placebo effect)

  • Expect better results.
  • Have the conscious and subconscious parts of your mind take the actions needed to generate those results.
  • Experience better results.
  • Notice that things have gotten better.
  • Expect better results.

Energy

  • Do more stuff.
  • Experience better results and an improved identity.
  • Feel better, including more energy and inspiration.
  • Do more stuff.

Eating right and exercising

  • Take better care of your body.
  • Start feeling better physically and mentally.
  • “I want more of that!”
  • Take better care of your body.

Willpower

  • Do a tiny bit better than you’re currently comfortable with, until it becomes a habit.
  • Feel better about yourself.
  • Have a bit more willpower (that you aren’t using up because you made the action a habit).
  • Do a tiny bit better than you’re currently comfortable with, until it becomes a habit.

You get the idea.

What this means

Pay careful attention to the consequences of your actions. Most of these spirals rely on you noticing the benefits of your small changes, thereby inspiring you to want to do even more. For this to work, you have to be paying attention. Notice that you feel good after you take an action that’s aligned with the type of person you want to be. Notice that misaligned actions don’t feel as good as you were expecting them to when you did them.

Tiny changes are all you need to start with, as long as they’re tiny changes that will get you some noticeable progress of some sort.

You have plenty of options. Because these are cycles, you can start at any bullet point, and the effects will cascade through the entire list.

Look for high-leverage opportunities. Actions that make you feel better both physically and mentally will positively effect all of these feedback loops, contributing to an overall upward spiral in your life. Eating right, exercising, and meditation are the big winners here.

This stuff works

I started with meditation. A few months later, I was inspired to start exercising. Within a year of that, I was out of the really bad place I’d started in, and able to start solving some of my longer-term life problems.

I started a new career, and I started eating right. I lost 140 pounds. I just kept feeling better and better about myself and my ability to get stuff done.

As I write this, I’m starting month number 50 of my upward spiral, and my life is still getting better in pretty much every way.

And all it took to get started was one step slightly outside my comfort zone.



  1. I’m phrasing these positively, as you’d use them for an upward spiral. Of course, all of these can work just as effectively in the opposite direction to create a downward spiral, as well.