“Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize just as I did that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” You remember the Matrix movies, right? Sentient machines subdue the human population in order to turn people into batteries that power their energy source. Well, the Matrix is real, according to Dave Nicol, BVMS, Cert. Mgmgt MRCVS, and your electronic devices and habits are part of it.
According to one survey, the average person spends 600 minutes every day watching TV or looking at mobile devices. As Morpheus told Neo, “Like everyone else, you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”
Dr. Nicol asks us what we would do with our time if we weren’t scrolling on social media. How many of us have a dream in our head that we’d pursue if we had an extra month in the year? He then offers us a newsflash: That extra time already exists—you’re just wasting it.
Trash the TV
In a recent CVC session, “How to Unplug from the Matrix,” Dr. Nicol went no-holds-barred with attendees as he listed off the culprits that are stealing our time and our dreams—and how to disengage with these sentient machines. If you’re feeling fed up with your current reality and know that you’re meant for something better, read on. Here’s what Dr. Nicol said to do to stop wasting time and instead create habits for success.
The first sentient machine we must battle is sitting in your living room. TV, according to Dr. Nicol, robs you twice: First, it robs you of your time, and second, its content robs you of your positive mindset. Television causes you to be completely sidetracked by someone else’s agenda. His decidedly non-American solution? Throw out that TV.
Not ready to trash that flat screen just yet? Dr. Nicol says to consciously cut your consumption or use it as a reward when you get something on your to-do list done. In my case, I get to watch The Bachelorette … only after I update the blog on my website.
Evaluate your email
The second sentient machine is email. A smart business thinker once said, “Email is the to-do list that was written for you by someone else.” To manage your time, you have to manage how you engage with your email.
Dr. Nicol says to never ever check your device first thing when you wake up or last thing before you go to bed. He recommends checking email two times throughout the day.
Also, you need to unsubscribe from every email list. Try using a filtering service and be ruthless in unsubscribing. (Editor’s note: Some of us are partial to Unroll.me.)
Sack the social media
The third sentient machine to take on? You guessed it. Dr. Nicol says what we all know to be true: Social media sucks up our time and changes our emotional state—usually not for the better. We end up feeling like everyone else is doing better than we are or anxious about some terrible news story, usually involving a certain political figure who needs his own social media access revoked.
Not to sound too much like Morpheus explaining to Neo that he’s a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, but think about it: You read a post on social media that gets your limbic system fired up, your adrenals dump cortisol and norepinephrine into your system, and you find yourself furiously typing a rebuttal to a passive aggressive comment thread from someone you knew from high school but haven’t seen in person in 20 years. What an absolute waste of your valuable time and, frankly, of your cortisol.
The solution? Dr. Nicol recommends taking social media the—y’know, that word that starts with an F and ends with a K (Hint: not “firetruck”)—off your phone. Or, at the very least, turning off notifications.
No news can be good news
The fourth sentient machine? The 24-hour global news feed. News flash: News networks have your emotions wrapped around their inflammatory fingers. Dr. Nicol says he finds that his physical response to news is one of the most damaging things he can do to himself: He gets angry. We are physically not designed to be bombarded daily with bad news. There’s almost no piece of news that you’re going to consume that’s going to affect your life—instead, it’ll only make you angry, sad, hopeless, fill-in-the-blank-other-negative-emotion. If you really need to know, just scan the newspaper headlines and move on.
You’re limited by your own thinking and your own bad habits. If you’re ever going to break a bad habit, you’re going to have to replace it with a bigger, more powerful habit. So, what habits do you need to establish to promote a positive mental state? Good energy gets you good results. Here are Dr. Nicol’s recommendations …
Feed the body and soul: Dr. Nicol’s tips for success
• Move. Get up in the morning and do something that gets you sweaty. It doesn’t have to be much. You’ll rewire your mental state in a positive way for the whole day.
• Do a gratitude exercise in the shower. What are you thankful for? Try to list at least 10 things.
• Decrease the amount of sugar you eat. No, really. Put that Twinkie down.
• Be mindful. Establish a daily meditation ritual, learn about mindfulness and incorporate mindful practices into your daily routine.
• Read every day. Pick something that enhances your life.
• Write in your journal. Do it at least 10 minutes a day. Whatever comes into your mind, write it down—consider it a mind-dump.
• Let go of old stories that don’t belong to you anymore. You know the kind—stories about personal worth, money or how valuable (or useless) you think you are. Those stories are powerful, but they’re often wrong. Instead, gain clarity from the above activities, rewrite your story and share your most authentic, mind-blowing self with the world. We’re all waiting for you to show up.
There you go! Unplug from the Matrix. When you do, only then will you be empowered to bring your best self to veterinary medicine, to your friends and families, and to the world. Because what we really need is more of you doing what you truly love.