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How To Inoculate Yourself Against A Weird Mind Virus

16 Feb 2018

How To Inoculate Yourself Against A Weird Mind Virus

I’ve used Apple computers since before I even started in business

That is, apart from a gap of three years, when someone (who shall remain nameless – John!) suggested I should get a PC, because it would be easier for me to manage my website.

mind virus

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

One day, I started getting nasty emails from upset customers

I realised that, despite the anti-virus software on the PC, it still managed to send out an offensive viral email image to everyone on my mailing list.

But, that, is a story for another day!

We all know it’s not only computers that get infected with viruses

Our minds and bodies can have viruses as well.

A mind virus is something that corrupts your thinking and prevents you from doing what you want to do.

Instead, you become hopelessly ineffective and do anything but what you planned.

This type of mind virus becomes particularly prevalent when you’re thinking of objectives, goals or plans you want to put in motion.

If you’ve tried to do something in the past and failed, it’s easy to get caught up in that ‘failed’ mentality – which, in fact, is part of the virus. The more times you’ve failed, the more likely it is that you believe you’ll fail again.

It can be extraordinarily frustrating.

There is an explanation for this failure

The rationale is that you’ve wired your brain to fail several times already, by not doing what you set out to do. You’ve created a little neural pathway through your brain that, as soon as you start thinking about what you want to do, veers off on a course of its own making – and in a completely random direction – out of your conscious control!

Let me illustrate this

Let’s say you plan to begin writing three times a week. You might decide to write a journal, a blog, a book, poetry, it doesn’t really matter. (This is only an example so just replace, ‘writing’ with any task that you’ve thus far experienced as less than successful.)

If you’re like many people this is what happens:

You sit where you normally sit to start writing. You think about writing but feel uncomfortable (having already previously failed). You stare at a blank page or screen and tell yourself off for not writing. Your self-rebuke makes you feel even more uncomfortable. Then you imagine further discomfort in the future.

You notice some tension building…

So then what happens?

You do something – else!

You sit down in front of your computer and suddenly decide you need to check your email. Or Facebook. Or you desperately need coffee, tea, something to eat, to phone a friend.

Or sometimes all of the above.

Eventually, you go back to start writing again only to find yourself running the same email/facebook/coffee/eating/phoning/ programme all over again! You have created a mind virus. (I know this because I’ve experienced the very same infection!)

It may even seem like procrastination

But it isn’t entirely procrastination. What’s happening is that you don’t have a mental programme for running the new (writing) behaviour that you desire. You only have the one with the virus that looks something like this:

(Remember to replace ‘writing’ with whatever you want to inoculate against. For example, monthly accounts, exercising, ironing etc)

  • Think about writing
  • Feel uncomfortable
  • Sit in front of computer
  • Feel even more uncomfortable
  • Think about writing something
  • Feel overwhelmed/panicky/lost
  • Talk to yourself negatively/beat yourself up about not writing
  • Check emails instead
  • Think about writing something
  • Feel overwhelmed/panicky/lost
  • Talk to yourself negatively/beat yourself up about not writing
  • Make a coffee
  • Sit in front of computer
  • Think about writing something
  • Feel more overwhelmed/panicky/lost
  • Talk to yourself negatively/beat yourself up even more about not writing
  • Phone a friend
  • Sit in front of computer
  • Think about writing something
  • Feel overwhelmed/panicky/lost
  • Talk to yourself negatively/beat yourself up about not writing
  • Go to Facebook
  • Think about writing something
  • Feel overwhelmed/panicky/lost
  • Talk to yourself negatively/beat yourself up about not writing
At this point, you’ve run the viral programme several times

And you still haven’t written a word (apart from possibly emails and Facebook messages). The problem is that the more often you run this corrupted programme, the easier it becomes to run it automatically. Every time you do this non-writing alternative, you’re wiring your brain to do it again, and again. And pretty soon you’re even further away from writing than before you first sat down with an intention to begin.

How do you get rid of a mind virus?

If you’ve already got a mind virus, it’s too late to prevent it – but you can inoculate for it.

Inoculation involves merely starting the desired programme in a different way, or from a different place.

Once you’ve re-run the new programme a few times, it will become a positive mind virus. The alternative mind virus will outrun the old one, effectively killing it off. This means that doing what you set out to do will become more natural.

Let’s use the non-writing virus as an example again

The virus kicks in when you sit in front of your computer and think about writing.

So the best way to vaccinate against the virus is to start by not sitting in front of your computer and thinking about writing. Try another start point.

Here are some alternative ways to begin writing (but remember, writing is just an example – it could be anything you’ve thus far been unsuccessful in doing.)

  1. Imagine or tell yourself a story while you’re doing something else (E.g. walking, washing-up, listening to music.)
  2. Sit at your computer and write about how it feels to be unable to write. Write whatever comes into your head. (I once wrote a whole article in this way. It sounded like the ramblings of a lunatic on speed – but so many writers commented on how easily they could relate to it!) It doesn’t matter what you write, remember all you’re doing is inoculating against your usual programme.
  3. Do something physical. Put on some upbeat music and start dancing. Keep dancing and then write about whatever springs to mind when the music stops. Or go for a walk/run/bike ride and write about what you experienced while you were out.
  4. Write by hand with a pen on paper in bed/at the beach/on the bus/in the kitchen/standing up/lying down/kneeling.
  5. Don’t write at all, just press ‘record’ and talk into your smartphone. Then transcribe what you’ve written.
  6. Talk to someone about what you want to write (or imagine talking to someone) record what you say and then write that.
  7. Look at one of your photos. Write about where it was taken and the events of that day.
  8. Deliberately read something about which you know you’ll disagree. Write your thoughts and opinions.
  9. Write a rant on a subject you’re passionate about.

NB These ideas are just to stop you running the old viral mind programme that’s corrupted your intention. You can find ways of improving your writing later – i.e. once you’ve actually written something you want to improve!

Each of these ideas could work for anything you want to change.

The key is to identify where and when the programme starts and then change the start point.

As another example, I was talking to a very competent NLP Master Practitioner the other day. She said that whenever she’s finished with a client, she immediately begins questioning herself and worries whether she’s done the ‘right’ processes.

Understandably this was causing confidence issues

I suggested that as soon as a client left in future, she could put on some upbeat music, turn up the sound and dance around the room until she could say, out loud, five things she’d done well. Again, the idea is to vaccinate against the virus by changing the start of the programme, so the rest of the programme can’t ‘run’.

Just as you can change the programming of your computer, you can also change the programming in your mind. You can rid yourself of unwanted viruses, so your mental programmes run cleanly and don’t infect a whole lot of innocent people!


If the mental programmes you’re running aren’t working – stop and do something different! After all the definition of insanity is doing the same thing while expecting a different result.