This Rich Roll podcast with Dr. Andrew Huberman was suggested to me by a student. Andrew is a neuroscientist. Neuroscience perspectives can give us a lot of current and new insight into the brain and performance. One particular point struck me as really valuable. That is, a lot of people focus on changing beliefs, which lie at the root of our behavior. If we believe we’re worthless, then we’ll behave that way. 

Layering of cause and effect, from bottom up, seems to be: belief, emotion, thinking, decision, action, results. Beliefs lie at the foundation. The idea is to change the foundation so all else will also change. I think this is a valuable approach. What Andrew Huberman suggested, though, is the reverse. Start at the top and let it influence what lies below. At the top we have results. We need to take one step back to action. Action is the last part of the process where we’re actually doing something that leads to results. Action is about behaviors. This is where Andrew suggests starting, something he learned from David Goggins, someone who seemed to give up on his life. His beliefs reinforced this feeling, until he made a choice to do something about it. He decided to become a Navy Seal, which set in motion behaviors that stepped him in that direction. Starting with behaviors reverses the cause and effect sequence. Those behaviors made Goggins believe he was worthwhile because that new belief was grounded in experience. 

We can work this process from both directions, from the bottom by changing limiting beliefs and from the top by changing limiting behaviors. There’s little that one can criticize about the value of taking action. Action leads immediately to tangible information you can do something with. Confuse the sequence of cause and effect by starting from both ends. That’ll really make your journey of self discovery exciting. I encourage you to listen to this podcast and apply this lesson and any others you find valuable.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. matteo

    …interesting point of view and new focus to test!

  2. Michael Vaill

    Understanding brain plasticity has taught us that our adaptation to mental training is not only psychological, but actual physical strengthening of the regions and connections in the brain that we exercise. This is why the David Goggins “fake it until you make it” approach works. Andrew Huberman shares several other techniques such as breathwork, or visual focus, that also take advantage of this mechanism. These approaches try to use the body to control the brain, whereas most people try to use the brain to control the body. Either way carries a risk of becoming controlling, at the cost of being in-control. These methods may produce (short term) results, it’s just important that we don’t attempt bio-hacking happiness! That would be a perilously result-focused endeavor!

    Very interesting interview! I study human evolution and neuroscience and I’m very interested in how our animal brain deals with the unique hurdles that the human conscious experience throws at it. For me climbing is the perfect laboratory to investigate this complicated interaction. Your books and blog have been big influences for me personally and academically, thanks for continuing to share!

    1. Arno

      Nice Michael. WW has been focused on the opposite of the usual “mind over body” approach. Since we’re doing “mental training” it would seem we need a different access point than the mind. Thus the body. Additionally, awareness is the ultimate access point to observe the body and mind and direct things from there. Thanks for sharing. Arno

  3. Kai Ewert

    This is an interesting and useful framework! The directness and straightforward practicality of the path of changing actions/behaviors is appealing for sure, and I do believe that it is a well-tested path with proven successes. Changing beliefs is something many of us (?) may have experienced along with the far-reaching and immediate impact it can have, but how to “make it happen” is not so obvious. Sometimes, unconscious counter-beliefs stand in the way (maybe you are familiar with Kegan and Lahey’s “Immunity to Change”).
    In this context, I think the recent resurgence in interest in psychedelics and their ability to affect huge positive changes is very intriguing. Obviously you, Arno, as an avid reader of the Don Juan books are at least somewhat familiar with the topic. Are you following this resurgence at all? In fact, I just learned about a survey that one of the prime institutions spearheading the therapeutic use of psychedelics, the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, is conducting. Via Tim Ferriss: “It’s all about changes in beliefs that can occur after taking a classic psychedelic (psilocybin-containing mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, mescaline, DMT, etc.). Psychedelic-occasioned changes in belief may represent a vital, under-studied mechanism that could account for persisting therapeutic and nontherapeutic effects.
    Examples of some of the persisting effects that have been observed in patient groups include large reductions in depressive symptoms, tobacco smoking, alcohol use, and distress associated with life-threatening illnesses. Even though psilocybin, as one example, typically wears off after 4–8 hours, some of the aforementioned persisting effects can be observed in some participants months, or even years, later.”
    The survey is at https://jhmi.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3E3rAQwGVQ5wgDP.

    1. Arno

      Hello Kai, I am somewhat familiar with Kegan/Lahey work. Yes, changing beliefs can be really difficult because many lie under conscious awareness. There are methods for revealing them. And, nice to have the behavioral way to work on changing them also. I am aware of the psychedelics but haven’t been following them very closely. They aren’t part of the WW approach, just like nutrition, or exercise, or other disciplines are part of living a healthy life. WW focuses on the tangible mental practices we can do with regards to awareness and attention. That’s what we dig into and find ways to help folks. Others who are experts in psychedelics can handle that part. Arno

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