Not living up to your potential yet?
It really sucks to have dreams and goals that you can’t seem to start or stay focused on because of procrastination, perfectionism, self-doubt, and other ways of being “stuck”.
To keep thinking you should be doing something else with your life, but finding that no matter where you go, there you are.
That the problems that plague you aren’t coming from the things you’re trying to do, but are instead a seemingly-permanent part of you, personally.
Hi, I’m PJ Eby, and I’ve been where you are. That’s why now, I develop tools to help smart, talented loners go from stress and struggle to finding focus and flow, without telling them to “just get started” or “just believe in yourself”.
(Because I know what it feels like when that comes across as, “if you can’t do it, you must not be trying hard enough… so it’s all your fault.)
At the same time, I also don’t believe in superstitions like, “just let go and everything will come to you”!
The truth is, at least 95% of self-help – even the stuff supposedly based on science! – is pure superstition and magical thinking, based on outdated ideas like “free will” and “willpower”. Life is not an anime cartoon where your purity of heart and purpose will magically turn you into a giant robot who can save the day… and these days, we have the science to understand why.
Simply put, we live in a universe where every effect has a cause, and that means our problems have causes. Those causes aren’t failures of will or a lack of goodness in our hearts: they’re mechanical in nature.
Thus, the fundamental premise of the Effortless Way is that understanding trumps effort. While you can sometimes fix a stuck door by pushing on it harder, the smart thing to do is to stop and make sure you’re not pushing on a door marked “pull”!
In contrast, most self-help is based on one of two contradictory ideas:
- “If you stop pushing, you’re a failure”, or
- “Don’t push, just stand back and let the door open by itself!”
But neither of these approaches work, when the problem is a bug in your brain.
We understand now that the brain is not a magical mystery, but a modular machine. And it has a lot more in common with the brain of a chimpanzee than we’d prefer to think about.
And hardly anybody considers the fact that this means that you are not the boss of your brain, any more than a chimpanzee is. Because the bits of you that are different from a chimpanzee, did not evolve so you could have success, self-actualization and happiness in life.
Just like any other part of you, the part of yourself you think of as “you” evolved to assist the machinery that was already there… in making more of itself!
Your Brain Is Not A Computer
While science and self-help may tell you that your brain is like a computer, it would actually be more accurate to say that your brain is like a modern smartphone or videogame console: a sealed box whose real goal is to serve the manufacturer, and only incidentally be helpful to you!
The operating system and most of the critical apps are pre-installed and not accessible for you to change, and the only apps or games you can even install are the ones blessed by the manufacturer and accepted by the device itself.
Unlike a desktop computer that allows you unfettered access with the right password, your brain is a locked-down system that was never intended to give you access. (And that’s the real reason that certain types of changes and goals are harder for some people than others!)
Think of it like this: a manufacturer creates a smartphone model, but then it’s customized by the carrier (phone company), in order to serve the goals of the carrier as well as the original manufacturer.
In the same way, when we’re born, our “smartphone” gets customized by its early experiences, to match the culture and environment we’re brought up in. Our brains evolved under the assumption that however you’re treated as a kid is probably how you should treat yourself in the future, and perhaps how you should treat other people as well. (Inlcuding your own kids, if you have any!)
This means that to some extent, our brains are uniquely customized for our life experiences, and that they don’t always respond to one-size-fits-all approaches. Therefore, the solutions to your personal problems require personal understanding.
And that’s why the right metaphor for personal development isn’t programming.
The Real Reason You Struggle
A smartphone isn’t designed to allow you to program it, because the manufacturer considers that “tampering”.
And in the same way, your brain is built to resist being programmed with things that don’t fit its existing programming. (Which is why arguing almost never convinces anybody to change their mind, ever!)
Trying harder to do the wrong thing is worse than useless!
That means that if you suffer from chronic procrastination, perfectionism, self-doubt, low self-esteem, and so on, then you’ve probably noticed that almost anything you do to directly fight it doesn’t help. In fact, it often makes things worse!
The Effortless Way turns all that around. Our values are those of a troubleshooter, not just a programmer. We value:
- Understanding over effort (because trying harder to do the wrong thing is worse than useless!)
- Surprise over already-knowing (because if you’re not surprised, you haven’t learned anything)
- Questioning over answering (because the answers are meaningless until you’ve made them yours)
- Removing over adding (because making things more complicated rarely helps!), and
- Testing over hoping and guessing (because the sooner you know something’s not working, the sooner you can try something else.)
These ideas are counterintuitive, and they take patience to execute. But the rewards they bring are incredible.
How I Changed Myself
I spent a huge portion of my life trying to be a better person in one way or another. To be more productive, more outgoing, or even just more kind. (Honestly, I was a bit of an jackass, even though I didn’t want to be one!)
But none of the things I tried made me feel like a different person. I always felt like an imposter or a wannabe, self-conscious and self-doubting at every step along the way. I tried to “fake it till you make it”, but even when I succeeded in the outside world, I still felt like a failure inside.
Then one day, something snapped. I was tired of fighting myself, because when I fought myself, I always lost on the inside, even when I “won” on the outside.
And I just didn’t want to live that way any more.
So I decided that I was never going to force myself to do anything ever again, without first understanding where my resistance was coming from. I dubbed that decision, “The Vow of The Effortless Way”, and it’s when things first started changing for me.
“I just didn’t want to live that way any more.”
No, there was no sudden bolt of lightning from the sky. No, I haven’t always been perfect at following that vow. And it took almost a year after that before I first realized the tamper-proof nature of the brain, and months after that before I began figuring out how to actually test changes to myself on the inside, not just my outside behavior.
But then, that’s when things really started taking off. Because once I had a way to rigorously test my experience of myself, I was able to rapidly try and discard techniques that didn’t work, picking out that tiny percentage of self-help that actually changed me on the inside…
Without needing to “fake it” by just changing my behavior on the outside, and hoping I’d be different somehow, someday!
The Illusion of Freedom and Control
I’m not a perfect person, believe me. I still procrastinate sometimes, and I can still be a jackass sometimes!
But now, these things don’t define me. I can be productive, I can be kind, and actually feel that way on the inside. Without faking it, without feeling helpless and miserable. I can fix my mistakes and move on, be compassionate to myself, and do all those other things I used to read about in self-help books.
(You know, all those things that self-help authors seem to think you can do or believe using “willpower” or “commitment”, or by just deciding to do them with your supposed “free will”.)
But the truth is, until I changed certain things about myself, I was not free. I could not be kind, even if I went through the motions of trying to be. I could not experience kindness, couldn’t even be kind to myself, let alone anyone else! And I could not feel successful, not even when I was actually succeeding, let alone when I was merely making slow but steady progress. (And definitely not when I was experiencing setbacks!)
The truth is, we don’t control what we feel. Heck, we don’t even control what we think! As anyone who’s ever meditated will tell you, thoughts and feelings constantly pop up even if you sit in a corner staring at nothing. And those thoughts and feelings are nothing you chose to have.
Those thoughts and feelings arise from two sources: what I call your mental models, and your mental muscles. Your mental models are things you unconsciously learned about the world and other people when you were young, and your brain uses them to predict how things will go in a given situation.
Your mental muscles, on the other hand, are inbuilt or learned “apps” in your brain that evaluate your models’ predictions, producing thoughts and feelings that bias your behavior in a certain way.
For example, if you’re feeling angry and defensive all the time because your brain is predicting you’re going to be yelled at for failing, and evaluating that mistakes – anyone’s mistakes! – are a threat, then it’s really really hard to be kind or productive.
(And even if you’ve got good intentions and are trying to be nice, you’re still going to come across to people as an asshole a lot of the time, when that anger and defensiveness speak louder than your good intentions.)
But when you don’t feel threatened all the time, it’s a lot easier to be kind to yourself and others. To support yourself instead of sabotaging yourself. To tell yourself or others “you can do it”, and actually mean it!
And to feel like maybe, just maybe…
You really can do it.
Change, From The Inside Out
Making those discoveries finally gave me hope, hope that I wanted to share with others like me, who’d struggled to change and grow as a person, yet seemed hopelessly stuck and blocked from doing so. I formed a group, The Mindhackers’ Guild, to share ideas and experiment together with different techniques for changing ourselves. And I began offering instruction and coaching.
And over the years since then, I began to discover why some people could instantly apply the things we talked about, while others stayed stuck and struggling.
When I investigated, I found that the biggest things stopping people from being able to use the techniques they found in books or learned from me, were that:
- They tried to “already know” things, instead of seeking to be surprised
- They tried to blindly adopt other people’s answers instead of questioning what was right for them
- They kept trying to hold on or add to their existing beliefs and ideas, instead of allowing the old ones to be removed.
- They kept doing the same things that failed, over and over, hoping things would turn out differently, instead of trying to understand what was going wrong, or systematically test different approaches.
“If you’re not surprised, you’re not learning.
And if you’re not surprising yourself, you’re not changing, either.”
So that’s when I began formulating the five principles or “pillars” of the Effortless Way: understanding over effort, surprise over already-knowing, questioning over answering, removing over adding, and testing over hoping and guessing.
And I had to develop ways to teach these things, separate from any actual self-help practices. Because without them, you can’t really do any of the few self-help practices that actually work…
No matter how many times you go through the motions.
So, this website is devoted to promoting a better understanding of the principles and practices that will help you unlock your life, by actually changing yourself for the better. By removing your limits, so you can become the person you were meant to be. To become…
Over time, I’ll be posting articles and resources on this website, about how to acheive personal transformation by hacking the “smartphone” in your head. And, when you create a free account here (no credit card required), you’ll be able to access selected courses, ebooks, videos, and other resources, while tracking your progress and receiving email reminders, encouragments, and announcements of new materials.
(And if at some point you decide – like I did – that you’re just not willing to suffer and struggle any longer, you can upgrade your account to unlock premium training programs, personalized instruction, and “tech support for the brain”, or even apply to join The Mindhackers’ Guild.)
A great place to start is with our short video course, The Secret of Inner Strength. It’s an excellent introduction to one of the ways our mental models and mental muscles create self-defeating behavior, like punishing ourselves for mistakes and failures. And you’ll find it especially useful if any of these things apply to you:
- You feel a driving need to improve your willpower, courage, strength, or some other positive attribute, because you believe you need it to live a better life
- You are continually frustrated, guilty, or ashamed about some aspect of yourself, or the results you’re getting in some area of life
- You feel as though you’re “not good enough” in some way, or continually judge and criticize some aspect of yourself that you feel is holding you back
- You call yourself names or use adjectives like “loser”, “coward”, “weak”, “pathetic”, “useless”, “lazy”, “incompetent”, “stupid”, “slob”, “good-for-nothing”, etc.
And right now, there is no charge for this course, because I want to get your feedback on it. What did you learn? What was challenging or confusing? Was anything missing?
To join the course, all you need to do is log into this website, either creating a new account with an email and password, or use social login with your existing Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Github account. (Nothing will be posted to your timeline or sent to your friends, and your email will not be shared with anyone.)
Once you log in, click “Get Access Now”, and you’ll get instant access to the first day’s course materials. (Some of the remaining materials will come by email, with others via the website.)
And if you have a question or feedback on the course, or even decide the course or emails aren’t for you, you can just hit “Reply” on any of the emails you get from me, and your message will be sent to a real live person, namely me.
Just click the button below to get started. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
Mind Hacking Instructor
Creator, The Effortless Way