Tag Archive | Priming

Thinking as Tool

The fastest way to change your thinking is by changing your mood, and the fastest way to change your mood is through physical activity, not thinking. (Ludvig Sunstrom, Breaking Out of Homeostasis)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you think about this wisdom?”

“I’m thinking that changing your mood by engaging in physical activity requires thinking. That is, you initiate the physical activity by giving a mental command – with a thought.

Thinking is an essential tool. There’s no escaping it. A tool that can make or unmake you, based on how you use it.

In any situation, take a meta-perspective and ask yourself:

What do you want to think?

You’re essentially asking:

What’s the best thought-resource for the situation at hand?

It can be ‘move‘, it can be ‘breathe‘, it an be ‘appreciate‘, or something else. Whatever it is, it should prime you for some kind of action.

Discover the best thought-resource for any situation.

Embrace your Designer / Creator identity, think of thinking as a beautiful design space, and revel in the process of shaping, exploring and perfecting it.”

Beautiful Models: Contextual-Priming

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is Contextual-Priming?”

“I regard Priming as a practical art/game [<link; short read].

Priming is a means of activating your resources.”

“So a means of turning passive-knowledge into active-knowledge [<link; medium read]?”


Contextual-Priming means deliberately and strategically activating specific resources – eg linguistic-tools – for a specific context.”

“So a kind of preparation.”


It could be for dealing with an anticipated problem.
It could be for a training session.

To make the process more efficient, it’s essential that you organize your resources.

One way to do that is by creating tool-sets – or mini-decks [<link; medium read], to use a different model. That is, making small selections of tools for specific situations. The best tool-sets are the ones that cover the widest variety of situations.

This is something you can play and experiment with.

Let’s say a particular set of linguistic-tools is the best way of dealing with a certain life-situation. Anticipating the situation, you bring to mind the tools ahead of time – you contextually-prime yourself – such that when the situation presents itself, the tools are more readily available.”

Beautiful Systems: Implementation 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“We’ve talked before [<link; medium read] about Habits being one essential component of the Implementation system. What other components does the system have?”

“It’s a work in progress. Here’s a general overview of what it looks like at this stage. I like to think of it as the design-blueprint.

Key related system: Presence

Key value: Simplicity

I have these written at the top of the document, as two very important reference points. Working on Implementation goes hand in hand with working on Presence, and Simplicity is an essential guideline for my design philosophy.

As a practical approach, I’m using the Design/Development model.”

“What is that?”

“It means that, together, Design and Development form an iterative cycle.”

“So like implementation cycles?”

“Yes. I start with design, then follow it with development. I identify failure-points, and based on this feedback, I start a new cycle.

Design and Development form the two areas of the document.



These are my macro-tools of trade. 



(Implementation Intentions, Contextual Priming, Deliberate Practice)

(Feedback Loop, Problem/Diagnosis/Design, Tracking)


These are the bread and butter of Implementation, which we’ll be talking about in the future.

I conceptualize all components of the system as models.”

“A models-deck [<link; medium read]?”

“Yes. I’m reading it before every implementation session to selectively activate key resources. This is what I mean by contextual-priming.”

On Magic and Models 3

A Magic the Gathering deck

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Can you give another example of how you apply the Magic the Gathering model to Models Thinking?”

“Another application of the Magic model is deck-building.

In the same way in order to play Magic you select a number of cards to form a deck, you can select a number of models to form a metaphoric ‘deck’. A models-deck.

So, essentially, a models-deck is a particular combination of models for achieving a specific end.

A models-deck is a priming-tool.

For instance, I start every single day with a morning activation ritual, where I activate my mind and body.

I activate the mind with a priming ritual, by reading a selection of powerful ideas, followed by a themed writing session focused on implementation / optimization. 

I activate the body with movement.

As part of my priming ritual, there are two models-decks. One is focused on tools, the other on representations [<link; medium read].

I call this models-priming.”

“Can you show me one?”


This is the Tools deck:


The Obstacle is the Way
(Parkour, Inversion, Reversal, Creative Limitation)

Big Thinking [<link; medium read]
(Holistic, Big-picture, Macro, Big-Questions, Integration)

(80/20, ONE Thing, Essence, Editing)

(Love – Beauty, Play, Gratitude;
Self-care, Mind / Heart, Movement / Stillness, Input / Output)

Presence / Embodiment
(Flow, Focus,
Empty-Space, Slowing down, Pause-Point,
Metacognition, Hyper-Awareness, Observation, Patterns)

(Oscillation, Activation, Activation Energy, Perpetual Motion Machine, Re-Commitment) (Oscillation, Re-Commitment,
Activation, Activation Energy,
Parkour, Movement snacks, Perpetual Motion Machine)

(Deliberate Practice, Learning Zone,
Focused / Diffuse Thinking, Divergent / Convergent Thinking,
Feedback Loop, Evolution Spiral, Problem/Diagnosis/Design,






(Stacking, Life-Stacking, Transitional)

(Beautiful Opportunity, Gift,
Opportunity Cost, Contrasting)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You have a lot of Soul Quests. What are you focusing on right now?”


More specifically:

Live life on your own terms. (Darius Foroux)

Earn with your mind, not your time. (Naval Ravikant)

I turned both life-puzzles into Big Questions:

How to live life on your own terms?

How to earn with your mind, not your time?

Asking questions is a kind of Priming – your mind is working on them in the background. I call it question-priming.

Asking Big Questions is a kind of macro-priming – priming at the Macro level.”

Beautiful Systems: Morning Priming

The “human spirit” is like a campfire. You need to re-light it EVERY SINGLE DAY. (Brian Johnson)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’ve been optimizing/refining my morning ritual for a long time now. I call it Morning Priming. It’s been through countless iterations.”

“What does the latest iteration look like?”

“In terms of scope of the Morning Priming, it is twofold:

Activation of the Mind and the Body.
Connection with the Child Within, my Values and my Purpose.

In terms of structure, it consists of three meditations:

The Journaling Meditation
The Still Meditation
The Moving Meditation

I activate the Mind with the Journaling and Still Meditations.
I activate the Body with the Moving Meditation.

The theme of the Journaling and Still Meditations is Connection.
The theme of the Journaling Meditation is also Implementation.”

“Can you give a few details on each meditation?”

The Journaling Meditation is a pomodoro (25 minutes) of creative writing, mind-mapping style, right after I wake up. I start from whatever’s on my mind that morning. I never know where I’m going to get, which is a beautiful feeling.

The Still Meditation is a classic sitting meditation. It lasts between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the available time. During this meditation I also do a few Breaths of Fire [<link], followed by a small inhale, a small exhale, straight into a breath hold.

The Moving Meditation also lasts between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the available time, and is equal in length to the Still Meditation. This is a little aesthetic touch. This meditation consists of a selection of mobility exercises, 5 pull-ups and 5 burpees.

After the Morning Priming, I go straight into Deep Work [<link; medium length].”

Macro-Introspection 2

Learning is behavior change. (Eben Pagan)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“As I told you previously [<link; long read], looking back, I divide my life into three phases:

The unconscious phase: my gaming years
The semiconscious phase: my theoretical-philosophy stage
The conscious phase: my practical-philosophy stage

However, despite the huge rate of progress in the current phase, until very recently, I was still in a transitional state. Viewed through the lens of the input/output model, the ratio was still largely skewed towards the input.”

“By input/output are you referring to theoretical/practical?”


Initially, it was all theory, with no practical application.
Then, I gradually started moving towards the practical, until it completely displaced the theoretical.

Sounds good… in theory.

The problem is, it was still mostly theory, only now theory with practical application. I’d changed one kind of theory for another.”

“A step in the right direction, for sure.”

“Definitely, but I still had a long way to go.

Progress is the extent to / efficiency with which you convert the theoretical into action.

Viewed through this lens, my progress was still to a large extent pseudo-progress.

In light of this realization, I now divide my practical-philosophy stage in two:

The practical / theoretical stage
The practical / implementational stage

“But you’ve had ‘LIVE the words’ as a mantra for some time now. What changed?”

“I’ve integrated implementation as a mental model.

Viewed through the lens of the priming mental model, implementation has finally become part of my default-priming [<link; medium read].

To use a metaphor, in the same way you can add a signature-template to your emails which is appended to all outgoing messages, implementation has become a template which is appended to all my thoughts.”

On turning passive-knowledge into active-knowledge

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How do you turn passive-knowledge into active-knowledge?”

“Let’s take Opportunity Cost as an example.

By understanding what the concept means, you turn it into passive-knowledge. You shelf it away, add it to your knowledge collection, rarely to be seen again, until you encounter it again.

One way to turn it into active-knowledge is by thinking about it. We could call this deliberate priming. You’ve thus made it more readily available. It’s like you temporarily shelf it on the front row where you can see it all the time.

For instance, it can serve as a reminder of the hidden cost behind EVERYTHING we do, most notably as relates to the most precious of resources: time [<link; short length].

Another way to turn it into active-knowledge is by turning it into a mental model, a tool. You’ve thus given it immediate practical application.

For instance, you can use it for evaluation, to determine the value of an activity.

Ask yourself always,

What is the opportunity cost?

To amplify the effect,
bring to mind the Macro level,
the finitude of life, that there is an end,
your Values and your Purpose,
and then bring to mind the deeply meaningful things you could be doing, or you could have done instead.

The more specific and vivid the better.

FEEL it.”

“So you’re contrasting it with the things that are most meaningful to you, on the background of the Macro level.”

“Yes. Contrasting is another mental model.

Combining mental models is an Art/Game [<link; short] in itself.”

The Art of Anchoring 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Anchoring is the Art/Game [<link; short length] of setting reminders with the purpose of priming and operationalizing knowledge. It’s also a mental model.

I like to distinguish between Inner and Outer Anchoring, setting inner and/or outer reminders.

The former is the process of anchoring thoughts to other thoughts.
The latter is the process of anchoring thoughts to things in the outside world.

You can think of Anchoring as a certain kind of life-algorithm [<link; long]. More specifically, a priming-algorithm.

IF condition THEN think x.”

“How would you express Inner and Outer Anchoring as algorithms?”

“Beautiful question.

Inner Anchoring: IF you think x THEN think y.
Outer Anchoring: IF you notice x THEN think y.

Outer Anchoring is a kind of ‘reality painting’. You infuse the environment around you with meaning.

When I look at the sun I think ‘Love’.
When I look at the sky I think ‘Connection’, ‘the Universe’, and ‘Big-Picture’.
When I look at people I think ‘Memento mori’, ‘Loving Kindness’ and ‘Connection’.
When I look at children I think ‘Inner Child’, ‘Play(fulness)’ and ‘Curiosity’.
When I look at something beautiful I think ‘Gift’.

The sun, the sky, people, children, instances of beauty are all anchors.

With the Anchoring mental model, everything around you becomes a design space.

Anchoring can also be a perceptual priming-word, a reality-filter.

In the same way when you think of a color, things of that color around you start to magically pop up into view, thinking ‘Anchoring’ will reveal all the outer anchors you’ve created in the environment.”

Games of Gratitude: Three Blessings

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s the game about?”

“It’s my own take on the practice of expressing gratitude for three things.

The game is played in the moment, improv(isation) style: at any moment throughout the day, anywhere you are, without thinking, come up with three things you’re grateful for in quick succession.

The natural tendency is to try to control the process and plan ahead. Don’t. If that happens, quickly think of something else.

You can vary the game by changing the context. This is an instance of what I call contextual priming.

For instance:
– things that are amazing in your life
– things you take for granted (what Patricia Madson called ‘Silent Gifts‘ in her wonderful book Improv Wisdom)
– things within reach
– things abstract
– things involving people

Coming up with contexts and combining them in interesting ways is a little game in itself.”