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Mindgym - Book Review

1 February 2019
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover


"Mindgym: Achieve More by Thinking Differently," authored by Sebastian Bailey and Octavius Black in 2014, delves into various topics. These topics span from strategies for self-promotion and overcoming procrastination to enhancing social relationships and mitigating stress. The book encompasses aspects contributing to improved personal functioning in organizational and general life contexts.


The book covers the following topics:

 Mind control

·  Taking action

·  Deepening connections

·  Exerting influence

·  Managing relationship challenges

·  Dealing with stress

·  Fostering creativity


The book offers a comprehensive array of insights. The provided advice holds significant value, which is precisely why navigating its content can be challenging due to its depth. Yet, it's also irresistible to refrain from engaging with it, as it strives to exemplify the principles it conveys.

 In conclusion, persistence is vital. Enjoy your reading journey.


Mind control

Bailey and Black introduce several significant tools for achieving mind control:

1. The ability to transition from automatic to directed thinking provides an advantage.

2. Attentive, optimistic thinking is of crucial importance.

3. Proactive thinking plays a pivotal role.


Directed thinking: Bailey and Black outline four types of brain thinking:

1. Internal focus (thinking)

2. External focus (doing)

3. Harmful

4. Helpful


Internal focus (thinking)

Harmful- Critical: Involves becoming absorbed in constant thoughts about how to act and the correctness of the current approach. It proves beneficial when coupled with the skill of asking pertinent questions.


Helpful- Thinking: Effective for analyzing situations, generating alternatives, rectifying errors, and making decisions.



External focus (doing)

Harmful- Autopilot: Ideal for routine tasks but may result in missed opportunities.

-   When should one exit autopilot mode?

-   When aiming for novel approaches or outcomes.

-   In atypical circumstances.

-   When striving for progress beyond the familiar.


Helpful-  Engaged: A state of immersive activity inducing a flow state, leading to peak performance.



While individuals tend to lean toward internal or external focus, most are not exclusively anchored in one mode. The wisdom lies in:

a. Recognizing the current mode.

b. Effectively switching to another way when necessary.


To break free from autopilot, cultivate the habit of observing your surroundings for novelty. To combat distractions, introduce objective facts that alleviate concerns. To transition to internal focus, allocate quiet moments in your day for contemplation. Relaxation is key. When moving toward engaged mode, emphasize the process or its constituent elements (voice, action, etc.).


Attentive, optimistic thinking: Optimists and pessimists perceive the world differently. Optimists attribute adverse events to environmental factors and consider them temporary, while positive events are linked to their qualities and context (temporal and spatial). Pessimists exhibit the opposite tendency. Optimism holds advantages, and studies demonstrate that optimists live longer and accomplish more despite the often more accurate predictions of pessimists. This forms the foundation for Bailey and Black's concept of attentive optimists, individuals who maintain a cautiously optimistic outlook, take appropriate responsibility, acknowledge errors, and focus on deriving lessons rather than self-criticism. While acknowledging challenges, they avoid personalization. The approach involves:

-   Knowing when to be pessimistic:

-   When making significant decisions.

-   When the cost of an error is high.

-   When consoling someone deeply unhappy (avoid empty reassurances).

-   Embracing attentive optimism:

-   Internally deliberating to explore various alternatives.

-   Analyzing alternatives, comprehending their significance, and transitioning to action.


Proactive thinking: Life presents uncontrollable situations, yet we possess the capacity to control our thoughts, actions, and reactions. A renowned prayer implores us to accept the immutable, muster the courage to alter the changeable, and discern between the two. Responsive thinking dwells on worries, while proactive thinking emphasizes action. Studies establish visionary thinking's positive impact on work performance, life satisfaction, illness reduction, stress management, longevity, relationships, and academic achievement. The pathway to control involves:

- Discerning whether another person is in control or reactive.

- Reflecting on your situation and seeking input from a friend.

- Analyzing concerning matters to identify points of influence and viable actions.


Taking action

Making decisions about taking action is a complex task. The linchpin of action hinges primarily on distinguishing between what can and cannot be achieved and between desires and aversions. Bailey and Black delve into two pivotal aspects within this realm:


1. The complete action cycle

2. Transitioning from procrastination to action


1. The complete action cycle: Relying solely on action needs to be revised. The whole, well-rounded process encompasses more than action: action -> coordination -> planning -> experimentation -> action. Standard stumbling blocks include a reluctance to remain mere "dream dreamers," a tendency to forge ahead without periodic reality checks and life alignment, and apprehensions of potential disasters that trap us in the planning phase. If you find yourself stuck due to any of these challenges, it's advisable to recognize the situation. Have you hopped between numerous jobs without adequate planning and coordination? Have you been hindered by decision-making fears, thereby avoiding experimentation and direct action? Self-inquiry into the point in the action cycle where difficulties arise can serve as a guide for targeted self-improvement efforts.


2. Transitioning from procrastination to action: Occasional postponement of necessary tasks is something we all experience, and only some tasks are approached with eagerness and ease. However, when procrastination becomes habitual—be it across the board or confined to specific domains or types of activities—it signals an opportunity for self-enhancement. The key to overcoming procrastination lies in discerning the underlying cause in each instance (as there are five such reasons) and cultivating new habits that cater to the relevant form of procrastination:




Excessive Self-Confidence

Believing that everything is under control and therefore delaying necessary actions. Example: Putting off passport renewal processing.


Coping Strategies

1. Creating a reward-based fantasy upon task completion.

2. Shifting the perspective to view the task as a more significant challenge.

3. Recognizing the procrastination tendency and taking immediate action.



1. Avoidance of Discomfort

2. Focusing on the discomfort associated with the task.


Coping Strategies

1. Breaking down the task into manageable sub-tasks if it feels overwhelming.

2. Applying the "Mary Poppins method" – adding a positive aspect to an otherwise mundane task.

3. Shifting one's mindset through gradual exposure – tackling one such task consciously each day to realize it's not as daunting as perceived.



1. Fear of Failure

2. Paralyzing oneself due to a fear of failure.


Coping Strategies

1. Realizing that the crux of the issue isn't failure itself but the fear it generates.

2. Mentally evaluating the cost incurred by not taking action.



1. Emotional Barriers

2. Convincing oneself that the timing isn't right and waiting for the perfect moment.


Coping Strategies

Mentally analyzing the emotional benefits that follow the action, such as stress relief.



1. The Illusion of Productivity.

2. Engaging in unrelated activities as a means to avoid essential tasks.


Coping Strategies

Engaging in internal dialogue to acknowledge the diversion. Reprioritizing tasks and addressing the neglected ones.



Additional Tactics applicable to multiple procrastination types:

•   Commit to dedicating the first 5 minutes to a task to see if it initiates momentum.

•   Set personal goals and rewards for overcoming procrastination; impose fines for missing self-imposed task deadlines.

•   Engage in introspective self-talk by comparing your task accomplishment from one day to another.

•   Confide in a friend, sharing the reasons behind your procrastination. Externalizing commitments can foster accountability (like adhering to a diet).


Deepening connections

We're all aware that forming connections with others is a multifaceted endeavor that extends beyond mere tasks. However, such relationships significantly ease navigating life's challenges and tasks. Essential tools for fostering these connections include:


1. Positive Relationship Mindset

2. Cultivating Positive Attention

3. Presenting Favorably


1. Positive Relationship Mindset: Our thought patterns about relationships encompass our thoughts and beliefs that shape our approach and responses to others. Do we feel loved? Are they supportive when we need them? In essence, four main perspectives dictate our self and other perceptions:


·  I'm well; they're well too. This perspective fosters deeper connections.

·  I'm flawed; they're fine.

·  I'm well; they're not.

·  Neither of us is good.


Bailey and Black favor the pro-pro mindset (I'm well; they're well). Strategies for adopting a compassionate self-mindset include:

·  Affirm the areas where your thoughts, actions, and behaviors align.

·  When problems arise, focus on potential solutions rather than getting entangled.

·  Engage in activities you're passionate about frequently.

·  Internalize the compliments people offer about you.

·  Understand that setbacks are part of life; contextualize them in time and place.


Strategies for fostering a compassionate mindset toward others:

·  Seek positive interpretations.

·  Focus on the positive aspects.

·  Cultivate patience.

·  Set realistic expectations.

·  Practice forgiveness.


2. Cultivating Positive Attention: It's crucial to understand that positivity breeds positivity, influencing the responses you receive from others. Offering genuine compliments to others often leads to a more favorable disposition on their part. Research indicates that individuals who respond positively to others tend to experience healthier, happier, more successful, and longer-lasting relationships, even in partnerships. How can you generate positive attention?


·  Share your understanding of others' statements to demonstrate active listening.

·  Initiate conversations with positive attention.

·  In disagreements, begin by acknowledging positive aspects.


Coping with negative attention from others:

·  Introduce a pause. Count slowly to five before responding.

·  Rephrase and summarize others' statements in a positive light.

·  Verbalize your feelings about being less favorable and discuss strategies to rectify them.


Important to keep in mind:

·  Adverse reactions may provide momentary release but usually come at a high cost.

·  Ignoring negative moods without acknowledgment can breed hostility and defensiveness.

·  Recognize both positive and negative attention patterns to respond effectively.


3. Presenting Favorably: Perceptions of individuals, their strengths and flaws, stem from impressions and personal analyses. There are four main types:


·  Caring

·  Assertive

·  Meticulous

·  Task-oriented adaptability


To perceive individuals accurately, it's essential to comprehend their motivations and actions based on their type. Tailor your interactions according to their nature:

·  Caring: Offer assistance when they encounter difficulties.

·  Assertive: Present energetic and action-oriented scenarios.

·  Meticulous: Display patience and thoroughness.

·  Task-oriented: Provide opportunities that align with their competencies.


It's also valuable to understand your motivations and types. Recognize that this can shift across different life contexts. Such self-awareness enhances your ability to capitalize on your strengths.



Exerting influence

Influence on both individuals and groups encompasses three subsections:


1. Persuading Others

2. Creating an Impression

3. Providing Feedback


1. Persuading Others: Persuasion holds significance in various life contexts, including work, home, and other groups where we engage. Nine strategies are employed to influence others:


·  Causality: Utilize facts, logic, and arguments. Suitable for most life situations. Exercise caution when using it as an argument without proper substantiation can backfire.

·  Inspiration: Envision the world or situation if your viewpoint is embraced. Appeals to emotions rather than intellect. Suitable when seeking emotional commitment. Success hinges on the manner of implementation rather than the content itself.

·  Questioning: Encourage curiosity and engagement in others. Useful when promoting a sense of responsibility or ownership. Note that outcomes can be unpredictable as responses aren't predetermined.

·  Friendliness: Convey positivity and admiration to the listener. Appropriate for those of similar or lower status. Authenticity is key.

·  Trade-off: Promise something in exchange for agreement. Suitable to enhance success odds. It is less effective with individuals who prefer to receive rather than give.

·  Favor Asking: Request assistance or consent. It is practical when there's pre-existing care from others. It is less effective if the person feels owed. Best used sparingly.

·  Projection: Discuss others who are supportive and parallel to the topic. Suitable for teenagers and workplaces focusing on best practices. Less apt when discussing innovation and the individual seeks uniqueness.

·  Exerting Authority: Leverage status, regulations, policies, or principles. Offers a swift and direct approach. It can backfire if used without moderation.

·  Utilization of Force: Employ threats if not acted upon. Suited for immediate needs. Effective for short-term goals but less so for long-term relationships.


Selecting the appropriate strategy should consider the user's personality, the recipient, and the context. Flexibility and periodic refinement are advisable.


2. Creating an Impression: Here are ten suggestions for developing charisma and making a positive impact:


·  Instill hope: Engage in optimistic talk about the future.

·  Demonstrate passion related to the topic at hand.

·  Establish a strong rapport with the person you're conversing with, spanning conversations, perceptions, and body language.

·  Maintain consistency across arguments, perceptions, and body language.

·  Employ impactful language: Adjectives evoke sensations, sensory-stimulating words, and descriptive terms that conjure imagery.

·  Offer generous details in responses, incorporating patterns, colors, and flavors.

·  Pose questions that evoke positive feelings in the listener, encouraging engagement.

·  Embrace storytelling: Craft a narrative featuring a protagonist, challenge, plot, and resolution.

·  Employ surprise, as it engages the listener.

·  Center the listener within the discussion, integrating facets of their character or life. Directly relate stories to their reality, employ body language that promotes connection, and ask for their thoughts.


3. Providing Feedback: Effective feedback is supported by these tips:


·  Compliments: Timely, context-aware, specific, authentic, and meaningful.

·  Constructive criticism: Advisory in nature, contextually relevant, specific, elucidates intent, encouraging, and solution-oriented.

Additional tips for compliments and criticism include storytelling, involving third parties, and nonverbal cues. Message consistency is vital.



Managing relationship challenges

Essential tools include:

1. Detoxifying Communication

2. Conflict Resolution

3. Minimizing Drama


1. Detoxifying Communication: Addressing six common toxins through prevention and coping mechanisms:


·  Assumptions about Others' Thoughts: Adopt a responsibility-driven approach in communication. Replace accusatory language with statements of confusion or lack of understanding. When facing such beliefs, assume good intentions and foster positive discourse.

·  Overgeneralization: Be specific in your communication. Avoid overarching statements driven by anger. When confronted with overgeneralizations, steer the discussion towards addressing the particular issue.

·  Self-Attack: Counteract self-criticism with more objective and positive descriptions. If faced with such an attack, recognize that the other person might later regret their actions.

·  Objections: Transition from "no, but" to "yes, but." Begin with points of agreement before discussing divergent perspectives. When this tactic is used against you, lean into asking questions or seeking resolutions.

·  Defensive Posturing: Avoid blame games that escalate tensions. If confronted with defensiveness, accept responsibility and pivot toward constructive engagement.

·  Interruption: When faced with interruptions, take deep breaths, count, or make notes. If interrupted repeatedly, address it and seek a more balanced dialogue.


2. Conflict Resolution: Embrace six principles for effective conflict management:


1. Focus on personal priorities within the conflict rather than pursuing a complete resolution.

2. Embrace open, honest, and empathetic communication.

3. Share your perspective and encourage the other party to do the same.

4. Help the other person transition from defensive/offensive modes to a more receptive state.

5. Control your emotional reactions and responses.

6. Develop an action plan to prevent future conflicts.


3. Minimizing Drama: Combat relationship drama through these steps:


·  Identify personal triggers and sources of anger. Assess whether ignoring or engaging in such situations provides benefits.

·  Disrupt harmful patterns through seeking assistance, building resilience, or showing empathy.

·  If unsuccessful, commit to trying again with a better approach.



Dealing with stress

Bailey and Black propose three primary approaches for managing stress:

1. Harnessing Stress for Positive Outcomes

2. Confronting and Overcoming Tension

3. Relaxation Techniques: Breath-based Stress Relief


1. Leveraging Stress for Positive Outcomes: While stress is often perceived negatively, it possesses positive and constructive facets. There exists an optimal point where stress enhances performance through heightened excitement. Although some individuals prefer staying within a relaxed comfort zone to avoid stress, this hinders their growth potential. It's possible to position oneself on the stress curve (ranging from calm to dynamic, distracted, and diffuse) and intentionally shift towards relaxation or positive tension (dynamism) to enhance performance.


2. Overcoming Tension: Employing a combination of the following tactics effectively combats tension, yielding optimal results:

·  Altering the perception of the situation's difficulty, recognizing the exaggerated mental aspect and the milder reality.

·  Reevaluating the significance of perceived consequences; similarly, acknowledging the tendency to magnify adverse outcomes.

·  Reframing the situation with a more positive perspective.

·  Engaging in positive thinking and uncovering benefits within the situation.

·  Infusing logic into thinking: Questioning the efficacy of excessive worry.

·  Taking intentional breaks from tension; utilizing break time to alleviate stress.

·  Seeking assistance from friends with stress-fighting capabilities.

·  Asking probing questions to uncover the root cause or solutions.

·  Confronting the situation that directly causes the stress.

·  Additionally, it's advised to address emerging tension while it remains manageable.


3. Stress Relief through Breath Control: Breathing is innate, but purposeful deep breathing can yield substantial effects. Professional literature refers to this as "Breathing 101." Learning proper breathing techniques involves engaging the brain in breath-oriented thinking. An optimal breathing frequency of six breaths per minute has been identified. Visualization can enhance breathing-based relaxation. This consists in minimizing distractions, engaging multiple senses, enriching mental images with details and emotions, utilizing metaphors, and fostering positivity without judgment. Diligent practice and patience are critical components of mastering this approach.



Fostering creativity

Creativity defies easy formulation, yet Bailey and Black provide us with several valuable tools:

1. Overcoming Creative Barriers

2. Enhancing Creative Tool Utilization

3. Connecting with the Subconscious


1. Overcoming Creative Barriers: Five filters shape our perception of the world, inadvertently becoming obstacles to creativity:

·  Assuming a comprehensive understanding of the problem.

·  Preemptively identifying the correct solution.

·  Mistaking unwarranted constraints as reflective of present reality.

·  Viewing issues from an expert standpoint rather than a simpler one.

·  Approaching matters as we did yesterday.

If a barrier seems insurmountable, seek assistance from a colleague to gain a fresh perspective.


2. Enhancing Creative Tool Utilization: Employing these tactics judiciously can sharpen creativity:


·  Opposites: After setting goals and brainstorming, explore contrasting or divergent options for evaluation. Consider whether this approach unveils the best creative solution. For instance, contemplate proposing the Bronx instead of York in trip planning.

·  Component Breakdown: Divide goals into solvable components and address them individually, disregarding the constraints of other elements. Observe whether reconfiguring ingredients yields novel solutions.

·  Associations: Play with associations between ideas/components. Indulge in mental exploration using sounds, images, scents, tactile sensations, or scattered letters to stimulate open thinking.


3. Connecting with the Subconscious: Three tiers of thinking exist: 1) automatic thought and action, 2) intelligent conscious thought, and 3) intelligent subconscious. The aspiration is to access the third tier, where numerous valuable ideas originate.


·  Allow ideas to mature.

·  Embrace daydreams (cultivate relaxation, dedicate time and space, and employ guidance).

·  Engage in flow writing (elaborated in the book).


In conclusion, the book brims with valuable counsel.

Adopting even partial advice makes reading it genuinely worthwhile.


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