In the previous post Life Hacks: Using Symbols to Improve your Life, we examined a little on how you relate to any form of symbol, be it an ordinary ad to a metaphysical sigil. Next we will start developing skill sets needed to create your own symbols for life hacking purposes.
What do you consider a symbol?
- Do you consider the words you are reading to be individual symbols? How about each letter?
- If each letter and each word are a symbol how do you delineate a grouping of letter symbols to make a meta-symbol such as a word?
- How far apart from each other do letter symbols lose their word symbolism?
- Think of a billboard ad you have recently seen. Do you consider billboard advertisements a symbol or sign?
- How many symbols are in the billboard advertisement?
- How do all the symbols on the billboard create the unified advertising symbol or meta-symbol?
- What about the food you taste? Is that a symbol?
- If a symbol is a product of interpretation then do you interpret taste?
- What about the wind blowing across your body? Is that sensation a symbol or sign?
Everything that we perceive, everything that we hear, feel, taste, see and touch, is interpreted as a form of symbol. Symbols don’t have to be visual in order to be a symbol or sign. The smell of fresh baked bread or the feeling of wool on our skin are symbols all onto themselves. Take a deep breath and let it out. Repeat that and take another deep breath and let it out. What is that symbolic of? Calm, focus and meditation are the first things that might come to mind. What does the feeling of the air entering deep into your lungs mean? If the act changed to short, quick rapid breaths would it change the associated meaning?
The point of this principal is understanding that everything that we experience is a form of symbol. Even more confounding is that groupings of individual symbolic experience can create meta-symbolic experiences, groupings of individual and meta-symbolic experiences create unifying symbolic experiences and that all three types of symbolic experiences can be found in each other. Confused yet? Don’t worry, we will bridge individual, meta and unifying symbolic experiences in a bit. Just remember that everything that your brain processes is a symbol.
The second principal solely deals with individual symbols or what I dub the “individual symbolic experiences”. When we examine the human body we can look at the body as a whole (unifying symbolic), we can slice the body open to examine the organs and systems (meta-symbolic) or we can delve deeper and examine the cells that make up our organs and inner systems (individual symbolic). In the same vain we can examine symbols and symbolic experiences.
To clarify, a symbolic experiences is the act of relating past experience, emotion and spiritual states to a specific “present” symbol. As stated earlier everything that we perceive is a form of symbol. In the second principal every symbol can be broken down into sub-symbols. Groupings of sub-symbols or “individual symbolic experiences” can create a new symbol or “meta-symbolic experience”. This would also mean that individual symbolic experiences can possibly be broken down further rending that individual symbolic experience as a meta, unifying or different individual symbolic experience at the same time. A good comparison would be examining the tissue of a human muscle. The tissue is part of the muscle and it contributes to the whole muscle’s form and function, but the tissue itself is comprised of cells which create the tissue.
Here is one example:
Examine the picture to the left. It’s a simple picture of a cup of coffee on a hardwood table. The image is a meta symbolic experience which can be broken down into its individual symbolic parts. There is the hardwood table, the coffee, the saucer, spoon and shadows. There are also the tactile symbolic parts. There is the wet and hot feeling of the coffee, the hard and smooth feeling of both the porcelain cup and metal spoon and the grainy rough texture of the wood table. This can be broken down for all our senses.
Then there are the associated experiences we have placed on each of these individual symbolic parts. Examine the cup of coffee. There are many experiences, feelings and ideas that are associated with the coffee. For instance, coffee can be broken down into feelings of alertness and energy or experiences of waking up in the morning or fighting off sleepiness. Though the image seems to be shot in the sun, the idea of coffee itself can also conjure experiences of studying at a coffee shop burning the midnight oil. In such an instance, the individual symbolic experience is broken down into a new unifying, meta or individual symbolic experience. The ability to find associated meta-symbolic experiences within an individual symbolic experience is important and is the foundation of the Third Principle.
To recap, the Second Principle states that everything we perceive is composed of individual symbolic experiences and groupings of specific individual symbolic experiences can coalesce into a meta-symbolic experiences. Furthermore, the Second Principle states that individual symbolic experiences can be broken down into other unifying, meta or individual symbolic experiences.
The Third Principle is one of the more important principles. Simply put, all symbolic experiences that have a large amount of unifying, meta and individual symbolic experiences associated with it have greater meaning and more influence on your actions and life.
As well, each associated experience can have its own associations making a branching or tree effect off of the original symbolic experience. The larger and deeper the branching the more entrenched the original symbolic experience is in your life.
Here is a personal example. Coffee has a tremendous amount of associations attached to it. For instance, alertness, energy and power are some of the associated individual symbolic experiences with coffee. Each of these experiences has other symbolic experiences attached to it. Alertness has experiences of being awake and understanding the world around me, energy has experiences of wild jitters or chi coursing through me and power has experiences of strength and control. Each of these in turn produces more associations. As well, coffee is associate with late nights and waking up. Late nights are associated with friends, studying and magic.
As you can see, in just a couple quick seconds I’ve created a small cluster of meaning behind one simple experience, coffee. In ten to fifteen minutes I could create a complex matrix of 500 plus individual, meta and unifying experiences that revolve around coffee.
Groupings of specific individual symbolic experiences can create a meta-symbolic experience where the meta-symbolic experience has its own meaning. Here is one example. If we take three separate letters and examine them they will have their own individual meaning. The first letter is “a”, the second letter is “s” and the third letter is “h”. When combined the letters create a new meaning that differs from the original three letters. This is extremely simplistic but understanding how you group experiences on the simplest of terms is paramount to creating life hacking symbols.
Here is another example
Advertisements are great examples of meta-symbolic experiences. The Iphone ad to the right is a simple one. The individual symbolic experiences are represented by the Iphone, a hand, an image of the world, the time 1:24, the ubiquitous scroll to unlock feature and the black background. This ad is simple yet extremely powerful due to how the individual symbolic experiences play on one another.
First we have a hand holding an image of the world on an Iphone. The amount of power a person would have by holding all of the world in their hand is huge and the way to access that kind of power is to simply unlocking the Iphone. And then there is the time 1:24. Of all the times to display 1:24 was picked. In my opinion (i’m in no way religious and I’ve never read the bible so this could be off), the time plays off the judeo-christian beilief system and references Genesis 1:24. The verse talks about God creating creatures on earth. As well there is the black background or the void of nothing; and god creates everything from nothing. The image would clandestinely imply that if you want the knowledge and power of god all you need is an Iphone in your hand.
On the surface level, very few people think about all of the possible associations that are playing in their head when they view a meta-symbolic experience such as the Iphone ad above. And they generally have little knowledge as to why they want an Iphone so badly or why they think it’s so awesome.
In sum, the Fourth Principle states that combining specific individual symbolic experiences can create a meta-symbolic experience which has new symbolic experiences.
Finally there is the Fifth Principle which deals with unifying symbolic experiences. A unifying symbolic experience is the total sum of everything you experience in any given moment. Right now as you read this entry you are perceiving more then just the words on your monitor. There are all manor of sensations that you are experiencing. There are the distractions of your peripheral vision, the sensations of your breathing, the random ideas that pop up which keep you from remembering what you are reading and so on. Most of the time, there is so much information in unifying symbolic experiences that we filter most of it out from our moment to moment perception.
Sometimes though, an experience is so profound, or even mundane, that we remember most if not all of it for the rest of our lives. What is the most memorable moment of your life? Can you remember all the details? If you sit quietly and clear your mind can you relive that moment?
Every unifying symbolic experience is composed of meta and individual symbolic experiences and they can be the components of individual and meta-symbolic experiences. They represent our lives in totality.
The sixth principle is the last principle. This principle is broken into two parts and deals with value judgments. The first part states that there are no values to symbolic experiences, only symbolic experiences . The second part states that it is impossible remove symbolic experiences from your life; you can only change how you associate with them.
In the first part any value distinction is removed from the actual experience itself. For instance, the concept of good and bad are different for every person and it would be difficult to say which experience is truly good and which is truly bad. It is only a matter of individual preference, which can change at any moment. To that end, every symbolic experience is neutral, it’s the connotations you attach to the symbolic experience that give it value. Which brings us to the second part of the Sixth Principle
Every symbolic experience we have is with us for life. We cannot “unhave” a symbolic experience because of the value judgments placed on the symbolic experience. We can, however, change the values we placed on a symbolic experience thus rendering the experience irrelevant or obsolete (it is possible to do the reverse by finding old forgotten symbolic experiences and changing the values to make them relevant). In such instances symbolic experiences become less important in our lives and the symbolic experience stops gaining new associated symbolic experiences.
Hopefully you have constructed some ways in using the above information to create your own Life Hacking Symbols. I have some exercises for you to use as well.
The first exercise is rather simple. Decide what you want to change in your life. It could be your financial situation, your love life, your sense of style or weight. It can be anything
Examine what the life hacking concept means to you. For instance, lets say you want to create a symbol that will help you lose weight. Why do you want to lose weight? What does losing weight represent in your life? What symbolic experiences do you have associated to your weight? What will change in your life if you loose weight? What value judgments are you placing on your weight and people that weigh less or more then you? Write out the answers to these type of questions.
Set a specific goal the symbol is to accomplish. Using the weight loss scenario, the symbol will help achieve a target weight of 175lbs.
Part 4 is the meat and potatoes of this exercise. Write out each individual, meta and unifying experiences you associate with your goal. As well, for each symbolic experience write out their associated symbolic experiences and so on. The net effect should be a branching or tree effect from the target goal. Once you are done compare your unifying, meta and individual symbolic experiences to one another. Try to find similar images, feelings, sounds, smells and emotions. The more they are linked the stronger those commonalities are in your mind.
Now it’s time to find an image that will encapsulate all of those symbolic experiences. There are two ways to go about this. You can create your own or you can pick an object that has already been made. If you chose to create your own symbol then grab a pad and paper and start drawing shapes that you feel represent everything you have written so far. Try not to focus on any one aspect of your experiences. For instance, an image of a dumbbell might lack the full range as to why hitting the 175lb mark is so important. As well, the shapes you draw can be abstract images. In fact, my best Life Hacking Symbols are abstract ones. Draw as many shapes as you can until you find one that resonates with you. I’ve done this with many people and the resonating bit never fails. At a certain point an image you drew will just “be the one”. Don’t fight the instinct. Once you have the image, draw it over and over again while thinking about all of the symbolic experience you have written. Say the experiences out loud while drawing. The more you draw the image and associate it with the target goal and experiences the stronger the image will become in reinforcing your desires. On average you will need about three days of reinforcement. The first day you should spend at least 3-5 hours of reinforcement, the second 1-2 hours and the same for the third day.
If you decide to pick an image that is already created then start finding images in your writing that are common throughout most, if not all, of your associated experiences. For instance, I really like learning new things. I love writing and I love reading, but I’m as lazy as a drunken Lemur with a massive hangover on Sunday morning. I personally needed a Life Hack that would help me circumvent my sloth like nature and motivate me to do what I love doing. After fishing through my symbolic experiences coffee and the coffee bean was the image that came up the most. Intellectual conversations and coffee where always hand and hand. Reading and coffee equals the same result. Studying, reminiscing, pondering, writing and everything else that falls under the domain of advanced intellect included coffee. My symbolic image was clear. Coffee, in one form or the other is with me most of the time to help me stay alert, positive and motivated to work towards higher levels of intellect.
Once the association is found linking the image to your symbolic experiences will happen immediately. Unlike the created image that needs reinforcement, the existing image will reinforce itself because it is already present in most, or all, of your symbolic experiences. From there all you need to do is incorporate that image into your everyday life.
This is the last part. Once you have the image carry it with you wherever you go. Place the image in strategic places so you see it. If you want to lose weight place the image on your fridge, inside your fridge, in the way of your alarm clock or in plain sight during your workout. If you want to save money place the image on your credit cards, in your wallet and around your money. I carried a coffee bean around with me and placed several beans in open jars around various work stations in my house and office. I also drank, and still do, lots of coffee!
If you have any question or need help with any of the steps please post and I will be glad to help out. Or just let me know how it worked out!
Coming soon, How to create magical symbols.