The Seven Day Mental Diet

A brain filled with positive vibes

The Seven Day Mental Diet is a short book, roughly the length of an article, written by Emmet Fox in 1935. It presents a straightforward challenge: don’t dwell on a single negative thought for seven straight days. 

The purpose of the diet is to train your brain to think positively instead of negatively. Fox puts it this way, “The Condition of your life tomorrow, and the next week, and the next year, will be entirely conditioned by the thoughts and feelings which you choose to entertain from now onwards.”

Note that Fox says “thoughts and feelings you choose.” This is an important piece of the mental diet: the power to choose your own thoughts.

I stumbled upon The Seven Day Mental Diet while listening to  Tony Robins on YouTube talk about the habit of positive thinking.

The challenge of the diet intrigued me and within minutes I purchased the book. A few days later I started the diet. 

What a Strange Trip

On day one of my mental diet I woke up energized and ready for the challenge, which was fantastic considering I spent the first hour fighting off negative thoughts as if I was being attacked by mosquitos in a forest.

Instead of dwelling on that flood of negativity and seeing it as a problem, I started to wonder, could I train myself to wake up to a flood of positivity? What would that entail?

After getting through that first hour the rest of the day went pretty well. Only a few times did I space out, as my thoughts were focussed on a particular task at work. I didn’t fret since my thoughts during that time were neither negative nor positive in nature.

On day two I was prepared for negative thoughts to challenge me immediately upon waking up, so I had some inspiring quotes ready to read. Most of those quotes are quite cheesy, but they worked like a charm. The negative thoughts dissipated and my mind was off to a positive start.

Each day I looked ahead at my schedule to better prepare for challenging situations. This helped, but of course I can’t see everything coming in advance. When negative thoughts caught me off guard I tried to quickly think of something funny. This also worked well.

One particular meeting had me quite frustrated at work and I just couldn’t shake the negativity. I became more and more frustrated as I tried not to think about my frustration. So finally I looked at a colleague’s pink water bottle and started listing positive words in my head that describe the color pink. As dumb as that sounds, it too worked.

This is how things went for seven straight days. The effort was constant and therefore quite exhausting. At times I questioned whether or not I failed by dwelling on a negative thought for too long. In the end I decided I didn’t care. I kept going even though the author’s directions are to stop, break, and then restart the diet later on. 

To be honest, every time I wondered if I was dwelling on a negative thought, I found myself dwelling on a negative thought. After about day three I made up my mind to see the journey through regardless. My goal was to think more positively and each time I struggled there was a lesson that helped me improve. That was solid progress and also quite positive. 

When the seventh day ended I felt accomplished but I also knew this was just the beginning. Like any successful diet, once you’re “finished” you don’t want to return to what brought you to the diet in the first place. So I was committed to continue the “thought control” that Emmet Fox describes as “the most thrillingly interesting hobby that anyone could take up.”

Takeaways 

The mental diet changed my life. The subtitle of Fox’s book is “How to Change Your Life in a Week,” and for me personally it’s an accurate statement. My brain was trained within that week and I’m still reaping the benefits.

The term mindfulness has new meaning. The concept of being mindful, or present, has always alluded me to some degree. The diet taught me to constantly be on guard with my thoughts. It’s the closest I’ve been to a mindful state for an extended period.

Morning routine sets the stage. Whatever mood is set first thing when I wake up usually sticks with me throughout my day. I found that if I didn’t take control of this time and prepare my mind to be positive, life did it for me and my mood was a crapshoot. 

Momentum is a powerful ally. The more I trained myself to think positively, the more natural it became. By days six and seven, I saw new habits forming which enabled me to keep going even after the diet ended. 

Thinking positive is contagious. Never have I been more aware of my influence on others than during this diet. Every time I interacted with another person, at work, at home, or in public; with family, friends, or strangers; I saw my positive energy transfer to them. It was magical. 

Conclusion

The Seven Day Mental Diet may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend at least giving it a shot. I hope it changes your life for the better as it did mine, if indeed you decide to try it.

Best of luck!

Fear No More

person staring out into the sea

What are you afraid of?

When I actually take the time to ponder this question and uncover the fears that hide within the deepest parts of my being, something amazing happens. At first, I become terrified. These are realities that I prefer to keep hidden. Sitting down and purposefully conjuring them up is like sneaking up on a lion sleeping in the corner and pulling its tail.

I’d like to let that lion sleep and pretend it won’t eventually eat me.

But it’s what happens after the initial discomfort of shining a light on my fears that makes this exercise worthwhile. Suddenly the things that scare me most become exposed. They’re no longer left to linger in dark places and be misunderstood.

Fears are real. They cause problems. They keep us from greatness. By uncovering our fears we’re able to make sense of them and work diligently at eliminating such nonsense from our lives.

If we choose to ignore our fears, which is quite easy to do, we invite them to take up residence within our souls. Brendon Burchard puts it well in his book, The Motivation Manifesto: “When we allow fear as a constant in our lives, our ambitions and behaviors become small and constrained. We become timid and stressed.”

No one wants that.

If you want to face your fears and begin putting an end to whatever may be holding you back, take Leo Babauta’s Fearless Challenge. It’s a practical guide to shining a light on those dark, ignored, terrifyingly embedded anxieties.

 

Wearing the Same Thing Every Day

Someone told me years ago that Albert Einstein had a closet full of identical suits so he didn’t have to think about what to wear each day. Never did I make an attempt to confirm whether that was true or not (until recently), but the concept stuck with me.

Finally, after years of pondering this notion, I decided the only thing stopping me from wearing the same thing every day was me. So, I started wearing the same thing every day.

Of course, I didn’t want to wear the exact same clothes every day because that’s either really gross or an extreme amount of laundry. Therefore I had to embark on buying a repeated wardrobe.

The thought of what outfit I would wear every day had been on my mind for awhile, but now the rubber was meeting the road. I had to make a decision and buy some clothes.

the Doug Burgett uniform (2017)
Black jeans, t-shirt, and Nike running shoes became my uniform.

I chose comfort: jeans, t-shirt, and running shoes. I also chose black, since it’s as formal and classy as a jeans, t-shirt, running shoes combo can get, IMO.

The Results?

I’ve worn this outfit consistently to work for the past month and a half, roughly. Some people have asked questions, such as “didn’t you wear that yesterday?” Or, “all black again?” But for the most part, people don’t say anything. And that’s great.

My decision to wear the same thing every day was about me, not others. I hate thinking about what to wear. I hate thinking about what clothes to buy. I still wear other things on the weekend, or any time I’m not at work. And there are days at work when this outfit just isn’t the best choice.

Most of my days, however, no longer include me thinking about what to wear. I merely grab my clothes and put them on.

It’s simple.

It’s wonderful.

It’s an experiment, if nothing else.

 

My Life as a Nike Shoe Designer

My passion for designing Nike shoes started around junior high. I remember browsing the shoe stores at the mall along with the pages of my Eastbay magazine to find just the right pair of Nikes. There were plenty of great options to choose from, but sometimes what I had in mind simply didn’t exist. So, I started sketching out my ideas.

Concept for the Nike Sabre (circa 1994)
Concept for the Nike Sabre (circa 1994)

Sharing my Designs

When my dad saw my drawings, he encouraged me to send them to Nike. Ha. Send them to Nike. Oh how the world was different then. There was no social media, no @Nike, and no #Nike through which I could share my creations. Email didn’t even exist, so for me to send something to Nike meant I had to do some work.

First, I had to make color copies of my designs. Then, I had to find an address for Nike. Finally, I had to write a letter and package everything up as neatly as possible to look somewhat professional.

Instagram, where were you when I needed you?

My letter to Nike
My letter to Nike

The extra work didn’t stop me. I made those color copies, found an address for Nike, wrote a friendly letter, and sent my package through the mail. The real mail.

Seven days later, Nike responded.

Rejection

Letter from Nike Customer Services
Letter from Nike Customer Services

The letter I received back was from Nike Consumer Services and it contained several interesting facts:

  1. Nike employs a full-time team of top researchers and product designers who continuously work (even when they sleep) to improve the performance and design of Nike products.
  2. Nike receives a large number of ideas from its consumers.
  3. Nike limits its review of ideas to those that are patented, patented pending, or have proof of having filed with the U.S. Patent Offices Document Disclosure Program.

Nike Consumer Services also returned my artwork so I could “share my creativity with family and friends.”

I’m not sure if it was the rejection or just me maturing, but I stopped sketching shoe ideas shortly after this experience. It seemed my life as a Nike shoe designer was over.

Or was it?

A New Chapter

Just recently I was in the market for a new pair of Nikes. I was looking for something rather specific, so I tried Zappos. No luck. I tried Amazon. No luck. I looked at the mall. No luck. I was patient with my search, but also stupid. I never thought to look on Nike.com.

When I finally did visit Nike’s website, I discovered something magical: NIKEiD. It’s a collection of shoes that you can customize. It’s not the same as completely designing your own shoe, but it’s easy and fun.

Doug Burgett's customized Nike running shoes
Customized Nike running shoes

I started with running shoes since I do run. But then I quickly ventured into other sports that I don’t play, like baseball. I asked myself, if I were a Cub what shoes would I wear?  And then BAM. I made these…

Doug Burgett's customized, Chicago Cubs inspired Nike baseball shoes
Customized Chicago Cubs inspired Nike baseball shoes

Oh the joy of being a Nike shoe designer again.

Blogging Experiments

What you’re seeing now is the fifth version of my personal blog. Each previous iteration was essentially an experiment that led to the next. All versions except number four have been archived and are no longer available for public viewing, but below I’ve included a screenshot and some information for each. I am doing this for two reasons. One, I simply wish to document what I’ve learned throughout this process. Two, I think it’s a good lead for version five. Hopefully you can find your own takeaway or inspiration within this history as well.

Version One (2009)

Doug Burgett blog number 1
Doug Burgett blog version one

In many ways I’ve come full circle from version one to version five. My first blog was more or less a blog in the traditional sense. It included posts on a variety of topics, some personal and some professional but all written in first person. I realized at some point a majority of the posts were best suited for a private journal. This prompted me to journal more often and formulate a better definition of what I considered blog-worthy content.

Version Two (2010)

Doug Burgett blog number two
Doug Burgett blog version two

As I developed version two I fell in love with several blogs that had unique page layouts for each post, so I decided to take this route with my presentation layer. The result was great, but each post was extremely time-consuming and I quickly realized this was an unsustainable approach for me. I learned how to produce better articles through this experiment, but the real benefit was learning how far I could push a custom WordPress template.

Version Three (2011)

Doug Burgett blog number three
Doug Burgett blog version three

After version two my primary interest was to push WordPress customization further, so for version three I created a flexible template that functioned like a blank canvas and decided to do away with writing articles. The navigation was eliminated forcing users through an archive listing to find content. The entire project was quite abstract and I did away with it because I missed a more traditional environment to share ideas and thoughts. This experiment will most likely influence the direction I take my experimental art site, Cool Groovy Funk, which is currently under development.

Version Four (2013-2016)

Doug Burgett blog number four
Doug Burgett blog version four

Seeking a more traditional environment for sharing ideas I decided to embrace a standard WordPress template and force myself to focus on content. It worked. I was very pleased with the frequency and quality of my posts in version four. However, over time I found myself sharing this information through Twitter instead of my blog. At that point I realized I was mostly micro-blogging, a term defined by a limited character length. I want to write and I want a blog that is designed to showcase the written word.

Which brings me to…

Version Five (2017-?)

Once again I’m back to seeking that traditional blog space, but this time I’m embracing long-form writing.  It will be interesting to see where this version takes me, but if I had to guess I would say to blog version six.