Imagine the rock-solid focus, concentration, and mental control that top-level athletes possess. That focus. Determination. Ability to never give up. They have to have a huge degree of thought control to succeed at that level.
It’s not just athletes though, business people, politicians, and other high performing people in various aspects of life exhibit this same control.
In my late teens and early 20’s, I frequently did follow-along tapes by Chris Caracci. He often said, “The mind controls the body, the body does not control the mind.” Caracci was a Navy Seal—so he has experienced incredible physical duress that makes most people wilt under the pressure. Obviously, he learned to control his thought. The mind controls the body.
There are huge benefits to gain from the type of mental exercises in Red Gold. Increase your patience. Increase your tolerance of stress. Increase your willpower and tackle challenges like quitting smoking. Or, just learn to pay attention in conversations and remember people’s names and other details.
We Have to Change
You need to develop your personality as well as your body. A strong personality is a force that can overcome things or opponents through the will. We need to make a strong decision to take charge of ourselves and our life.
The name of the game is change. But there are obstacles to change, notably fears. Raiport mentions three: the fear of change, the fear of losing one’s identify, and the fear of suffering. These fears are caused by homeostasis, the desire of an organism to remain the same.
To change, we need to become aware how we want to change. One way the book recommends to do this is to create your target self, where you list traits and skills and behaviors you want to possess.
You can then use an exercise that I call the attraction/repulsion exercise where you list the things preventing you from attaining your target self and then the things which will help you attain your target self. For things you want to increase, you lavish with positive thought. For things you want to diminish, you lavish in negative thought, and then switch your thoughts to the opposite trait, lavishing the better trait with positive thought.
The exercise is to destroy any urge for the negative things and increase your urge for the positive.
Other ways to enhance your ability to change are to pick selected periods of time to practice acting in a particular way. For example, pick times to work on your assertiveness. Or pick a time you are not going to smoke. These small actions create inroads to lasting change.
Let’s Talk About Attention
A fun story: when I was doing exercises in the book I went to an all-night party. As is frequently the case of all night parties, drinking was involved. I met 20 or so people at the party. I remembered and could recite all their names the following day. It is an impressive feat without alcohol, but the ability to do it while drinking suggests the effectiveness of this training.
How did I do it? I paid attention, and had learned how to command my attention and direct it to the object I desired. Raiport asserts in Red Gold that we remember what we pay attention to.
There are visualizations we can use to assist. Imagine your attention as beam of light emanating from forehead and landing on the object of attention.
You can practice this in conversations. When someone is talking and they are interrupted, continue to pay attention to the original person talking and ignore the other.
You can practice this with objects. Set a timer for 5 minutes and practice staring at a paperclip. Stare for 20 seconds, then close your eyes for 10 seconds. With your eyes closed, visualize the paper clip. When you open your eyes, observe what details your visualization lacked and realize that these escaped your attention. Pay more attention next time. This strengthens your skill of observation and is valuable in and of itself.
Another fun one? My favorite: Get a watch with a second hand and stare at the second hand for five minutes, saying to yourself, “I am sitting here, staring at the second hand of my watch.”
The skill of directing your attention constitutes the foundation for self-control.
Threshold of Pain
What does it take to really agitate you? What makes you cripple over and mentally wilt? Whatever it is, it is at an established level which can be altered by paying attention, recognizing what it is that is setting you off (locate the thoughts) and then work to alter them. You will gradually increase your ability to handle increased stress and pressure.
Attention, Concentration, Consciousness
Our age is one of distraction. Reminders, notifications, instant everything. I’m not complaining. I love the technology. But I don’t want to be a technology addict unable to set down my smartphone, either.
Attention is something we choose and direct. We “own” our attention, but we have to work hard to claim that control.
Here is a more advanced attention control exercise:
- Two radios, five feet from your left and right ears. Same volume, different stations. For 20 seconds, listen to one radio and ignore the other. Then snap your fingers and switch. Go back and forth for five minutes.
That’s a tricky one. Not as tricky as this one:
- Get a book to read and turn on a television program. Read the book and ignore the TV. Now read the book, but pay attention to the TV. Essentially practicing distracted reading and controlling it. Twenty seconds each, back and forth, for five minutes.
State of Optimal Functioning
Here’s a story from the book: The author was training an archer. Her performance wasn’t what it should be so he needed to make an adjustment. He observed her and noticed her heart rate didn’t indicate a sufficient state of arousal for the task at hand. He had her run to raise her rate. She then shot flawlessly.
This is called the state of optimal functioning. You might have read about being at an optimal level of arousal. Or, the Zone. This is the idea of being at the right physiological state to get the best results for the task at hand—whether it’s a speech or a sprint.
In Red Gold, achieving this state, like so many other things in the book, is a matter of directing your conscious will. But there is an exercise to help, and that exercise is the auto-conditioning routine.
The Autoconditioning Routine
All the exercises in the book lead up to the ability to put yourself through the autoconditioning routine. the auto conditioning routine takes time and practice that most people will never go through. The program in the book took months to go through, stage by stage, spending a week at each stage.
As part of the auto-conditioning routine, you learn to create feelings of warmth, heaviness, and relaxation. I could control my heart rate. You can calm yourself down, and get yourself into a super-deep state of relaxation and then give yourself commands, for example, activating a particular co-personality.
An exercise to try, as a warm up, is to cut a pair of ping pong balls in half and place them over your eyes for 10-15 minutes, lying basically in savasana (corpse pose). This creates the ganzfeld effect which puts you in a relaxed state. It’s a precursor to the full routine.
“Most human problems seem to be tied to self-control. Everything poitns to this common factor. Whether you’re jealous, afraid, timid, or drink too much, the common link seems to be an absence of self-control.” – Lev Alburt
Red Gold argues that self control is more important than intelligence.
The book evokes imagery—the bruton and the supron. The bruton that devil on your shoulder and the supron the angel on the other shoulder.
Red Gold does not advocate for iron-fisted self-control. In fact, it cautions that this type of self-control leads to regimentation and a lack of creativity.
How much really needs to be written about self-control? We can point to the Lev Alburt quote above and recognize the truth it contains. We know that our poor eating choices, the unfortunate things we’ve said to others, our lack of effort, or our scrolling mindlessly through the Facebook newsfeed can be tied to a lack of self-control.
Red Gold recommends the useless routine exercise to strengthen self-control. This exercise involves picking four activities that are easy to accomplish and doing them each day. Moving a pair of shoes, moving a book, putting a photo face down, etc. In the morning you perform the action and then you perform it again in the evening. Every day, without fail, at the same times. Do this for a week or two and you will notice it strengthening your will and self-control.
Related to self-control but from another book is the concept of mechanical action. For things like doing dishes, mechanical action is awesome. After a meal, you simply do the dishes mechanically and give them no other thought energy. I learned this concept from the Magic of Thinking Big.
You and Your Multiple Selves
We’re not talking about split personalities here, but are talking about different aspects of ourselves that we might not realize we’re tapping into or accessing.
“Most people exercise very little control over their multiple selves, allowing them to be activated according to the stimulus-response principle.”
These are called co-personalities. You might recognize one when you’re around a particular individual and you behave differently. Perhaps you are more philosophical around one person, more brash around another, shy around another, and so on.
Some of your co-personalities might be negative. You might have a loser co-personality that gives up too easily. Or a complaining co-pers.
Using the auto-conditioning state, you can follow three steps to diminish negative co-personalities:
- Step 1: In the auto-conditioning state, say, “I have a quitter co-personsality, but I am NOT a quitter.” Visualize your quitter co-personality melting away.
- Step 2: Using the list of traits from your Target self, affirm a positive trait you want to possess. Give this trait a shape and visualize and say “I am tenacious .” Visualize a situation which requires you to be tenacious and imagine yourself succeeding.
- Step 3: Reinforce the action. Using small circumstances in life act tenacious. Perhaps it would just be for getting a lot of administrative stuff done, like budgeting, and really sticking to it even though you felt like quitting. When you succeed, congratulate yourself as each victory strengthens and sharpens the will. (Of course, each defeat has the opposite effect.)
An interesting note here is that with your co-personalities, you have some that are habitually accessed, some that are sometimes accessed, and others that are rarely accessed, and finally some that are never accessed.
Fear of your unknown co-personalities may be “the wall separating you from potential greatness.”
Identifying with Your Winning Self
“Principle 1. You are controlled by everything with which you identify yourself.
Principle 2. You can control everything from which you disidentify yourself.”
“Many people erroneously believe that their moods are caused by external factors, such as the weather or the actions of others.”
We all need this reminder. It’s easy to turn agency to externals and forget that we are in control. Red Gold does not let us off easily.
One of the aspects of identifying with your winning self is to disidentify with various physical and mental attributes.
The exercise to achieve this is to say the following:
I have Possessions but I am not my Possessions
I have Body but I am not my Body
I have Thoughts but I am not my Thoughts
I have Emotions but I am not my Emotions
After you say each phrase, breath in and out twice. Reflecting on what you just said.
There is an exercise to identify with your winning self. It is a detailed visualization that involves the following commands:
“I affirm my identity as my center. From my center, I can control my body.”
“From my center, I choose and control my thoughts.”
“From my center, I choose and control my moods.”
You can follow the logic of these affirmations and realize that they are establishing the true control we have over our body, thoughts, and moods, and in turn, making us far more stable people.
Obviously, I am glossing over these exercises which go far deeper, but the intent of this article is to give an overview of some things you can do, and where you have interest, further study is warranted.
Concluding Notes About Red Gold
I went through the Red Gold Auto-Conditioning training in 2004 and continued for about a year. Prior to starting the exercise, I was working part time and very dissatisfied with life. Red Gold ignited a fire and I re-established full-time employment and became capable of tremendous amounts of work.
I highly value the Red Gold focus, concentration, and attention exercises, and especially the concepts of self-control, co-personalities, and state of optimal functioning. I highly value the no-nonsense approach Red Gold takes regarding our agency and what we are truly capable of.
There is no weakness in Red Gold, only strength—it is ours to capture, but we must be disciplined about it.