Remember those old “self-help” books… back when we had book stores? Well, much of the information in those books was nice, but not necessarily accurate, and didn’t work for everybody. Get the latest proven techniques for increased performance and success from one of the worlds leading experts on the topic, Dr. Chris Friesen.
Dr. Friesen is a sport & performance neuropsychologist who has always been fascinated by what makes people successful. He is a licensed clinical, forensic, and neuropsychologist who works with those with psychological and brain-based disorders in addition to helping professional, national, Olympic, and up-and-coming elite athletes and high-achieving professionals and entrepreneurs to improve their performance.
His work leverages the latest research from sport and performance psychology, executive coaching, and applied neuroscience. He is currently director of Friesen Sport & Performance Psychology and Niagara Neuropsychology and is a contributor to Success.com. He is also the author of the bestselling self-help book: Achieve: Find Out Who You Are, What You Really Want, and How To Make It Happen.
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This is part one of a two-part episode with Dr. Friesen. In this episode, he discusses three steps to obtaining your goals and dreams. Each step is important to reaching your goals – whether it’s winning a gold medal, getting a degree, or just being in good health to play with your grandkids:
- Know your personality and tendencies
– Although there are many personality tests on the web, Dr. Friesen sticks to the five factor personality traits – these are the ones backed by psychology and studies that have proven to be the most accurate and trustworthy. Knowing your personality can help you understand why you feel and act certain ways, and how you can bypass your fears and other things which keep you from attaining your goals.
- Commit yourself to your values and goals
– Determining what your values are is the next step. In his book, Achieve Dr. Friesen has examples and tests which can help you determine those values that you feel strongly about. Having these values in place is what can help you overcome doubt, procrastination, and dissonances that keep you from achieving the things you want. Having your values laid out can also help you set better and more achievable goals.
An example he shares is: Your goal could be to win a gold medal or lose 100 pounds. Well great, but are you willing to hurt yourself or others to get that gold or lose that weight? You may think instead, “well my values are to do things in the most healthy way possible.” Because you could take drugs like ephedrine and various diet drugs that will help you lose weight fast. But there may be a side effect of your health. You have to think about what’s more important to you. For example, you could use an illegal drug to win a gold medal, or a potentially dangerous drug to help you lose weight. But when you have that value of doing things in healthy ways, you use this to guide your decision making in your day to day life as you achieve your goals.
- Align your day-to-day actions with those values and goals
– Goals can only be achieved by taking the actions necessary to accomplish them. Here Dr. Friesen offers some wonderful tricks and hacks including the five-minute trick:
When your brain is fighting against you to do something you know you should do to attain your goals: First promise yourself that you will do it for five minutes, get up, go to your designated area (the gym, your desk, study room, etc.) and start a timer for five minutes. Commit to doing it for five minutes. Give yourself permission to stop that if after five minutes it’s as awful as you thought it would be then you can stop. 95-99% of the time you will find that it’s not as bad as your brain wanted you to think, and you’ll be able to keep going, and eventually achieve your goals.
Intro: 00:02 Welcome to the Dirobi Health Show! Covering the world of fitness nutrition and supplementation with world class guests the latest clinical research and plenty of tips you can use right away to boost your health and wellness. Here’s your host Dave Sherwin.
Dave Sherwin: 00:19 Hello welcome to the Dirobi health show with Dave Sherwood and today we have Dr. Chris Friesen a Canadian neuropsychologist from the area of Toronto. Nearby Kirtley lives in what sounds like a beautiful town. We’re going to ask him about this near Niagara Falls but he’s been fascinated for a long time since a teenager actually about what makes people successful and he is now a licensed clinical forensic and neuropsychologist who primarily helps professional national Olympic an up and coming elite athletes as well as other high achievers in other professions entrepreneurs executives academics writers etc. to help them reach their personal and professional potential. He’s currently the director of the Friesen Sport and Performance Psychology company and a contributor to success dot com. He’s also the author of a book that I’m almost finished achieve. Find out who you are what you really want and how to make it happen. So Dr. Friesen thank you so much for being on the show.
Chris Friesen: 01:20 Thanks for having me.
Dave Sherwin: 01:40 I’ve been looking forward to this episode and I’ve been going as fast as I can through the book so that I’m as well-prepared possible and to do that, I actually bought the audio book as well as the Kindle version. And the farther I got into it the more I wished I had the physical book in front of me and the time to really do this more mindfully. It’s been wonderful and really meaningful and I’ve wanted to stop and do the exercises that you recommend and I’ve wanted to fill out the forms but I’ve been rushing like in the last week to cram it my parents are visiting right now from out of town. So try to spend a lot of time with them. And so I’ve got a long way through the book. I’m absolutely loving it but I’m just saying this right up front to those listening if you at the end of this episode feel like you’re wanted to pick up this book. I do recommend the physical copy and taking the time to go through the recommended downloads etc. And maybe we’ll just start with that. I know you’ve said in the preamble you don’t want this show to be just about a pitch for your book and I appreciate that. And for those of you listening that was Dr. Freisen’s pretty much exact words. Was he really wants to give you some great content today. But I’m telling you the book is great. Let’s just start with that. Dr. Friesen how what kind of reception are you getting from this book?
Chris Friesen: 02:50 The reception is very very positive. It’s I get occasionally get e-mails from people saying when are the next parts of the book coming out the next parts of the series. It’s the original goal was to make a series of books and there are still in the works. I get people read it from across North America and then they call me up and say Can I work with you one on one through for example Skype and some cases I can take on some I can’t. But it’s been it’s been really good.
Dave Sherwin: 03:23 I think one of the reasons it might be good at least from my point of view I’m kind of a personal development buff. I mean I’ve read a lot of personal development books or some that I reread every now and then like you I’m a big fan of the late Dr. Stephen Covey. You speak highly of him in your book. And I agree with that. As opposed to some of the pop psychology kind of stuff that’s out there it seems to me you’re kind of at a next level in the realm of personal development. And the reason I think that is because a lot of these personal development books especially the you know the Zig Ziglar types from the 60s 70s the How to Win Friends and Influence People. Lots of good information in those books. I’m not saying there isn’t but they tend to be written by maybe people who were successful and then shared that and their ideas with other people versus what you have done. It seems to me is really dug into the research of what makes humans tick what makes not just one top performer be a top performer but what makes a lot of people be top performers. In other words just because one person makes a million dollars and writes a book about it doesn’t mean that their techniques might work for everybody. It seems like you’re coming at this more as a researcher and it just seemed a lot more meaningful because of that.
Chris Friesen: 04:53 Yeah no, I appreciate that, that’s you know, when I wrote the book I really wanted it to be to include things that I thought that I really enjoyed or felt that were helpful and other self-help books and to eliminate things that weren’t very helpful. And so I made some criteria in terms of the criteria used with with my own life and with the clients I work with. But for the book as well the criteria being what would be included and what would not. So there are certain things we have done that were helpful for me but there’s no real evidence for that. So I don’t include those things necessarily because something that might work for me may not work for someone else. So it had to have some research base behind it and also I had to have tried it myself and felt it useful.
Chris Friesen: 05:41 And lastly the clients that I work with I’ve had to use it with them and it be useful for them for it to be included in the book. So there was there was a couple of criteria I had to make sure these things passed before I put them in the book and I really you know I’ve read lots of self-help books and some were motivational. And we talked a bit about this earlier that you know motivation can wear off. You know you can be inspired and inspiring book and that’s great if that gets you motivated to do something take some action. But if you if motivation doesn’t last we’re we’re human beings our brains like to stay in a state of homeostasis, it doesn’t want to be pumped up all the time it’s just not physiologically good. It’s sort of drain the system. And so you need sort of strategies that will keep you going that become habits that become useful and really wanted to make the first book about helping people find out exactly what the Subtitle says:
Chris Friesen: 06:42 Find out who they are what they really want and then how to do this. And so the the the upcoming books are going to focus more on what to do for example for you know to make your body and mind perform at its best from what you put in your body through supplements and food your sleep how to maximize that. And of course a lot of people read these types of books tend to be high in the first personality dimension that I describe in the book called susceptibility to negative emotions and stress. So half the population is high and less than half is lower and most of us are near the middle of course. And there is a lot of the feedback I have is about that when I get e-mails from people there asking when’s that book going to come out wins. And so that is a big focus of some of the upcoming book so the first book is you know really getting your motivation finding out meaning what are you what should you be doing in your life and specific to you as opposed to just tweaking how to achieve a goal that you’ve already figured out.
Chris Friesen: 07:44 So I really wanted to take it from the right from the bottom and then get into more specific strategies that are formed a lot more by neuroscience than most other self-help books to help people just perform at their best to achieve their goals live a happy and meaningful life.
Dave Sherwin: 08:03 Excellent. And you yourself are a successful guy who achieved a Ph.D. in your field which is no easy feat. You have a successful business where you can’t even take on everyone who who wants help from you and yet your start wasn’t so great. I mean you went through some serious challenges as a youth would you just take a minute and share your personal story of where you came from and how you got here.
Chris Friesen: 08:27 Sure yeah I was I would classify myself as high in that first dimension of personality that we talk about in the book of again susceptibility each negative emotions and stress. I was kind of an anxious kid and I played I started to play hockey and played as a goaltender and I did well I skipped an age and I you know I did well because I learned that if I put hard work into it the more I practice the more I train the more videos I watched the more I try to emulate professional goalies the better I became. And that was great except my school grades were horrible. I didn’t fail anything but there were you know 50 60 percent range. I didn’t like school. I had a perception that I wasn’t very smart.
Chris Friesen: 09:13 I thought I was stupid in psychology we call this low self efficacy, low belief in my ability as a student and eventually hockey ended in the sense you know someone from something called the Ontario Hockey League which is usually most of the players get drafted are a big chunk if drafted the NHL is probably the top junior hockey league in the world. I was one step away from that, the goalie that the new team went on. He was cut from the OHL team which came down and knocked me off my team and then I had no team and it was a rude awakening that you know once you’re 16 17 that’s it’s all about winning and it’s not about my feelings. And I was a bit of a void. I was you know I didn’t have a team. And I thought what am I going to do with myself and if I don’t make you know I’m not the best here.
Chris Friesen: 10:07 You know, I’m not going to potentially be a professional goalie. So I realized I needed to do something so I really started focusing on working out in health. I was became like a gym rat got into a lot of my friends are doing bodybuilding so I was doing that. Obsessed about nutrition. You know, because there’s this giant athletic void in my life and that was great because I was still doing that in hockey but I just took it up a notch and I realized one of the most fun things for me was to actually read about, you know, what’s happening in a muscle when you break it down or carbohydrate when you eat it goes your it turns into glycogen goes in your livers and your muscles and things like this and they will tell people the gym. And I was a kid telling these adults and they seemed to enjoy it.
Chris Friesen: 10:51 But then I realized but I’m flunking out of school pretty much and if I don’t do something I’m going to be in trouble. So I finally realized, “hey let’s see if I can take the skills and strategies I use for hockey and that motivation and apply it to school” even though I had no interest in Shakespeare in mathematics and calculus and and just use that same discipline because it’s going to do something for me maybe not right down but for the future it’ll give me opportunities. So I was able to bring my, I did this or brought my marks up to a usable level of course at the same time as reading Tony Robbins you know unlimited power and awaken the Giant Within. And Stephen Covey Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and especially Stephen Covey’s but definitely changed my life. I had I felt like a victim.
Chris Friesen: 11:37 And those books really helped me realize that I can take control of my life. I can make things happen. And you know I got into University and kept using skills and learned I was in Psychology and Health Sciences and using these skills to better myself and to do better in school and I accelerated and won some awards of the highest average and psychology graduates and things like this. And so it’s kind of a ongoing joke in my family I was a kid who was failing practically. But now I have the highest average education of anyone in my family since it’s a big joke that like I like I faked the whole thing or something but it was it was interesting transition and it wasn’t for I believe like discovering those books or the lessons from hockey. I would never be in the position I am today.
Chris Friesen: 12:32 Yeah it’s great. And you finally found that passion and then start applying yourself. You had a scary moment there where they were going to put you in. I know this isn’t politically correct but I kind of heard it as like delinquent school or something with the thugs. Tell us about that.
Chris Friesen: 12:52 Yeah it’s called. They’ve closed the school down. It’s called Brocton. So this I grew up in Toronto and this is the roughest school the the delinquents so as myself and another student who were on the verge of filling out and they this grade 8 9. So this is a high school. And so they forced us to tour the school and we were scared for our lives. It’s a very violent school. It turned out though so. So that was that gave me half the motivation equation that gave me the fear part. So I at least had to not fail so I could go to high school with everyone else didn’t give me the passion part but it gave me the ok to put it a little bit more effort and try to. You know I can end up here. And when I went back to write the book I look back just googling it and I found these articles that around the same time it would have been within those three or four years I was would have been in high school.
Chris Friesen: 13:45 There was a number of stabbings and shootings and I believe it was the vice principal shot by one of the students. So it’s pretty a pretty rough. And you know my life would have taken a very different turn. I think I was never a bad kid, I was never I could be mouthy but I was never a bad kid, I wasn’t criminal. I was more to do with you know a lack of belief in my abilities and that anxiety I was really uncomfortable being called out in class and I’d panic and you know it was more that, than being a bad kid. But thank goodness they did that because that that got me again half the equation. This is where I could end up being and if I don’t do something now this is this is going to be bad.
Dave Sherwin: 14:30 OK. Thanks for sharing that. And part of your story includes a couple of references you’ve already made on personality traits and it was fascinating to me because I’ve had some of these I guess we might call them pop psychology tests like where you like the color code. Are you more green or red or blue. And you kind of poke fun at some of the personality tests out there saying that some of the older ones are some of the ones that people like myself have done, really don’t hold up to scrutiny from the actual research that’s been done on personality and that understanding your personality is critical to understanding your values your goals your desires your ability to get places.
Dave Sherwin: 15:17 I was just fascinated with everything that you talked about with personality because first of all it was kind of different than the way I understood it. And secondly it felt like a myth busting to me, at least the way I understood it and that and that you had the latest greatest from the best researchers on the planet.
Dave Sherwin: 15:44 Talk to us about that and maybe from a little bit of a historical point of view it seems like there’s been a real evolution in the understanding of personality over the last 50 or 60 years.
Chris Friesen: 15:55 Yes yes so. So the things I talk about the global five dimensions of personality in my book are not my idea. I did change the name slightly to make them more understandable. For example what is called conscientiousness in the literature. In my book I call it motivation and self-control because it just describes it a bit better. Also high susceptibility to negative emotions and stress in the literature is called either negative affect or neuroticism neuroticism has a real negative connotation to it because we say people are neurotic you know think of you know Woody Allen using those terms. So so so nothing like my idea in the sense of I. This is my pet theory. So this is personality researcher so there’s a group of psycho sub category of psychology that studied nothing but personality how people are similar and what personality traits predict in life.
Chris Friesen: 16:51 And so that, you know I found that very interesting my very first psychology course in my undergrad I did a project like a thesis on personality and predicting academic success and then my master’s degree. I did another personality study for determining predicting your values plus your political sort of leanings. And then my Ph.D. was again the same five factor model of personality. The big five it’s called you know how that predicts psychopathology. She had a huge sample I forget maybe 10,000 people at a psychiatric hospital who took that took personality tests and we had their diagnoses and so what if what personality means is we have characteristic ways of thinking acting in feeling in our lives. And they are relatively consistent doesn’t mean you’re always going to be let’s say extroverted in every situation. But these are in my book I call them personality tendencies because they’re more tendencies.
Chris Friesen: 17:53 They’re sort of dispositions. That doesn’t mean you’re always acting in that particular manner. And researchers have been figure this out for a long time and they’ve done all sorts of fancy statistics called factor analyses and things like this to kind of figure out you know, what how many global traits are there and to get right to the point. Researchers have found and it’s been replicated it has not really been challenged for you know 70 years now that there are five global personality dimensions the same ones I describe in the book that that describe most personality traits- if you use a dictionary lookup every adjective that describes someone it fits within one of those five. It’s amazing. And they actually did this in research at the beginning to figure this out. And these are fairly stable so they’re highly genetic in the sense of 50 to 60 percent or so of the it’s called variants of our personality is due to genes so they have studies where they have twins identical twins reared apart versus fraternal twins versus brothers and adopted siblings et cetera et cetera and they measure them it’s been going on for decades and basically a big chunk of the majority of our personality is determined by genetics.
Chris Friesen: 19:10 So there’s a strong biological component it’s very difficult to change our personalities. But it’s possible at least to some extent. It takes a lot of work if you really need to. In my book I emphasize more that you want to figure out what your values are and your goals are, and if your personality traits are getting in the way of those then you want to potentially try and massage them or work them or change them to some extent if you can or probably better for most people just to accept that you’re in let’s say more introverted and extroverted and work around that and realize there’s a strength and weakness every personality trait. So for example susceptibility to negative emotions and stress, everyone assumes that anyone who’s high on this list is just bad news. But the reality is the the. It depends on the situation of course you get to feel more anxious and depressed and not clinically necessarily but just have more moods for example more irritable more self-conscious if you are high on this but these if you think of certain professions for example writers, to be a good writer you kind of need to be high on negative emotions because you’re not going to be able to if you don’t experience this on a regular basis you’re gonna have a hard time writing about characters who aren’t experiencing negative emotions.
Chris Friesen: 20:33 Think of a painter and channeling sort of negative energy and things like this into paint or art. Think of actors imagine an actor who has never really felt self-conscious or anxious or depressed. They’re not going to be very good at portraying that on the screen. So most actors and a lot of actually high level athletes as well they channel this into into their performance. They are on the higher side of this so it’s not all bad. And this is due to evolution. If you think back to we lived in tribes originally and we needed a subset of the population to be this way. And these were the lookouts the Scouts these were the people that were guards. They would they would if they heard a ruffling in the bushes they would get really panicked. If we had the people who had no fear whatsoever they’re going to fall asleep out there when they’re on Nightwatch so we needed a subset of the population to be high on this.
Chris Friesen: 21:26 And to you can think of is well in the sense of wanting to explore another land. You need some people in the tribe to be coming being worried the worriers to say look you know we got to be sure that’s a good idea if we just pack up and go we could starve to death and then you needed a subset of the population who were the opposite they’re like didn’t have fear. And they’re the ones taking the risks and we need that balance. And you even need this within business so you know this applies to so many things to know these things about yourself you need to know these things because they’re going to predict how well you function I’ll give you one more example. So let’s say you’re on the introverted side in my book I also describe that as external stimulation tolerance. So people who have high external stimulation tolerance, they’re extroverted and people who are low on this tend to be more introvert and you can think and there’s EEG studies that show this you can think of the brain.
Chris Friesen: 22:19 People who are less high and extraversion their brains tend to rev a little bit on the slow side not that they think slow but they’re under aroused or under activated so they need to consciously be doing things talking to people having fast paced jobs to feel normal. People are introverted. It’s like their brains are revving kind of close to the red line like in a car and it doesn’t take much external stimulation before they start to feel overwhelmed. And so if you know that you’re kind of introverted and I’m kind of introverted I’m a little just on the average to low helps me know that I can’t be living in action past packed 9 to 5 job or I’m seen clients every hour of the day, I burn out very fast. And if if you have that kind of personality you’re going to end you have a job that’s very fast paced action packed are very social.
Chris Friesen: 23:08 You’re going to need to have alone time later on to recharge your batteries whereas if you’re an extrovert and you have like an introverts job like you’re a librarian you’re going to need to do a lot of social things after work just to feel normal so you can think of your personality as needs almost like physiological or mental needs an extrovert is going to need extroverted activities to keep them feeling sane and in introverts going to need alone time and quiet one on one studying reading watching television reading books whatever it is time to to feel sane as well. So hopefully that makes some sense.
Dave Sherwin: 23:41 Yeah and just to make sure I understand correctly it may sound a bit negative at first to say your personality traits are pretty set and largely biological and don’t change very much although you used the word massage. That can sound a little discouraging but I think what I hear you saying is it shouldn’t actually feel discouraging because there are pros and cons to all levels if you’re high on one it could lead to problems in other areas or that that society needs people from all different walks of life and all different personality traits to function and so, by understanding and accepting our personality as it is, warts and all, with being high and low in these five different areas that if we fully understood ourselves and were able to accept where we’re at that then we could make our plans based on that. So rather than you know struggle to change ourselves in that way it sounds like you’re saying it’s better to accept it and understand the pros and cons of each dimension and where you really are, and then from there determine your values and your goals and you’ll be older more realistically reach your goals and reach the right goals by accepting the personality you currently have. Is that fair.
Chris Friesen: 25:02 Yes. Yeah exactly. It’s like it’s your hardware it’s the this is your this is your brain’s biology. It’s been that way. First of all the genetic component it’s been that way for many many many many years. And so we think of neuroplasticity or how the brain works. These are neural pathways that are very strong and it would take a lot of work to change that. But like I was mentioning earlier one of the main issues that comes up that affects people it prevents them from achieving the things they want to achieve is usually the high on susceptibility to negative emotions and stress and so a lot of my clinical work and work with high level athletes is based around that stuff because you can you can you can you you’re not going to take someone who’s extremely high on this and make them have almost no anxiety whatsoever it’s just not possible.
Chris Friesen: 25:53 But you can move them to some extent based on skills but also based on going right to the brain and taking supplements. You know there’s things like Ashwaganda and people sort of lower motivation there’s rodiola you know there are Samih which you know St. John’s Wart these affect the serotonin and dopamine systems. So these things all you know there’s ways to. One of the terms is biohacking bio hack your way to do you know getting to a place you want to be which is usually again you don’t mess your goal shouldn’t be just to change your personality for the sake of changing it. It should be more what do I. What do I want to accomplish in life. Let’s say you’re very socially anxious which is different than introversion socially anxious is part of susceptibility to negative emotions and stress you’re really socially anxious but you just have this mission in life that you need to go around and give presentations and talks and that’s really what you really really want and that that’s part of your values and goals. Well that would make sense to to work on that to reduce anxiety as much as you can in order for you to live the life you want to live. So I’m you know for a lot of cases it’s sort of except how you are. But if it’s getting in the way then there are things you can do.
Chris Friesen: 27:15 OK so the the personality component of this is what you start with in the book is the major first step. And part of the subtitle of your book. Are you unsure of your life’s purpose. You know and getting to know who you are. That that’s part of the whole personality analysis. And then you have forums like I said listen to the audible version of the book so I haven’t seen any of the forms yet but we can go to the website by the way I’ll put you’re listening. There’ll be a link to Dr. Friesen website in the show notes and on your website they can download forums and worksheets and whatnot to help them determine their personality traits correct. Yes that’s right. OK great. So and So You Want To. And I’m excited to do this. I want to take those forms and and work through because like I say I’ve had personality tests before and I thought they were quite interesting. But after listening to your stuff honestly looking back they feel kind of shallow.
Chris Friesen: 28:21 Well you know it doesn’t mean they’re for sure inaccurate. There are some heavily marketed tests I don’t like to use a name so I don’t get sued but that that are heavily marketed towards business and there’s a statistical issue and everyone will understand this when I explain it’s called test retest reliability. So there is a type of test that gives you a type, a personality type which is actually most of it’s good that they fall within the five factor model because every trait does. But what happens. You want to test have very high test retest reliability what that means is if I take the test today because personality’s a stable trait. It’s not your mood today. How do you feel today. It shouldn’t change. If you took it two weeks from now unless you know that it shouldn’t change unless there’s a massive, or someone died or something like that you’re really depressed and you can’t think straight.
Chris Friesen: 29:07 But the personality is stable that’s the definition of personality not mood his personality which means stable and if you take the test in two weeks from now you should get pretty much the same result. Well some of these major marketed tests they people do that and they get a different type. You know it’s horrific. And this is a reason why academic psychology or academic personality psychologists do not research it anymore because it’s garbage. If a test is not reliable it cannot be valid it cannot be accurate so it’s like having a thermometer and the temperature you know is exactly the same. It’s a 71 degrees and it’s always the same but your thermometer gives you a different reading every time even though you have a super reliable thermometer it says it’s 71 and yours is saying 65 one day and says it’s 58. The next day well you know that thermometers broken and so the and I will put a caveat that the quote-on-quote test that I put my book is really simply a description of the global traits of say susceptibility to negative emotions or stress.
Chris Friesen: 30:12 And then the major substrates that go under that like anxiousness like susceptibility to depressed moods social anxiety that kind of thing. And yeah it does I kind of give you the definition and show you the traits underneath and then you decide Am I really high on this am I kind of average or am I kind of low which is not the same as taking the gold standard tests that you do. There’s one is called the neo five factor inventory. This has got 240 items questions and it gives you the same the same things I have in my book. But it’s the gold standard they’ve been using research research and they follow people for 40 years and they find that the something called rank order stability so if you’re a hundred people take the test and you’re the most extroverted person today and then 40 years from now you do it again.
Chris Friesen: 31:00 There is a correlation of correlations go from minus 1 to plus 1 so of plus 95 let’s say in terms of where you’re going to fall in that in that order of people the same population took today and 40 years from now and their studies have actually done that. Of course the reason I say is the rank order is because there are some changes of personality as we age we become you know less neurotic we make become more neurotic near near the end of life we become less extroverted we become less open to experience there’s just different things that happen at a population level. So that’s why I say rank order stability. So so you know I think they’re fun and interesting to do those online personality tests but they, I wouldn’t put too much weight into them.
Dave Sherwin: 31:50 OK fair enough. And so these five traits you’ve described are the ones that are accepted in your field and by professionals who are serious about this. That’s what I’m hearing you saying and so these are things we can trust. They’ve been they’ve withstood the test of time. So we go through the test and we get these results. And now what. Let me just give you, let’s just create an artificial case study OK. People listening to my show for the most part are normal average ordinary people like myself who we’re not elite or professional athletes were health enthusiasts. We want to be better. We want to be as healthy as we can, we maybe you want to run a marathon or a Spartan Race or do something cool like that. And so that’s the kind of level that a lot of people listening to the show I think are out in terms of their general health and then quite a few.
Dave Sherwin: 32:52 And we just know this from statistics just want to lose some weight. Maybe they’ve been 20 pounds overweight for 50 18 years or even 40 pounds overweight or whatever the number is so. So we got that type of a person listening who has some areas of their life they’re kind of sick and tired of, let’s just take the weight loss for example because so many people are struggling with the battle of the Bulge so that’s one that a lot of people can relate to. We live in a society that makes it very easy to be overweight.
Dave Sherwin: 33:25 A reality we all have to face. So this person imaginary case study wants to lose 30 pounds. Just throw out a number and they start with the personality test and they’ve got the goal of of saying you know I want to take myself to a level I’ve never been up before I have not been able to get myself physically in the shape I really would like to be in. So what now.
Chris Friesen: 33:54 So let’s just say for example that personal the personality test scored high on the susceptibility to negative emotions and stress let’s just say that’s the case. What we know from research is individuals who were high on this we’ll call it negative affect for short individuals who were high on negative affect, doesn’t mean you have a clinical diagnosis. It’s a normal personality dimension that we all are high or low on. Those people tend to be more motivated by fear or fear of losing something or fear of missing out in other words, they’re motivated more by anxiety. And so one thing to do is say to get motivate let’s pretend the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. and you made a goal for yourself. I’m going to get up at 6 a.m. an hour before I normally get up so I can go and workout in the gym. Or you go do some sort of exercise. And we all struggle with this the alarm goes off and you think oh I don’t want to get up, I’m exhausted. And at that point our goals and values are way in the back. Reminder. It’s more of our animal instincts that are in control at that point.
Chris Friesen: 35:02 So you have to force yourself to remember why am I doing this again? What’s the bad things that are going to happen if I don’t do this. Well let’s say you have a goal of walking your child down the aisle that see your child’s 12 and you want to be around when they get married, whatever this goal may be you imagine how bad it’s going to be how you know how how much you don’t want that to happen where you cannot walk down the aisle you’re dead because you’ve been overweight and you had a heart attack at a stroke or you develop diabetes. Whatever this negative consequence bring this to your mind to remind yourself because you’re going to be highly moated motivated by fear. So that’s one example another example is let’s pretend you’re low on negative emotions. You’re not very high on that dimension but you’re kind of, you’re kind of an extroverted person.
Chris Friesen: 35:52 Those situations those people tend to be more motivated by thinking of all the great things that will happen if they achieve a particular goal. So you can imagine how great it’s going to feel to walk your daughter down the aisle or whatever it may be and sort of bask in the glory of how great that would feel and focus on all the good things that will happen because you’re going to be more motivated in psychology of this term called “approach behaviors.” We have avoidance behaviors just like animals are either avoiding or approaching something. And we have that part of our brain as well. And it’s still the most powerful part of our brains the avoidance is obviously high negative effect. And the approach has a low negative affect but also higher extroversion as well. So. So that’s one little tip I’ll give you another tip and that called the five minute rule it’s a bit later in the book what this means is you make it it’s kind of a cure to procrastination or to help you take action. If your goal is to write a book go to the states to go to the gym let’s say go down in your basement do some exercise at 6:00 in the morning. You make a deal with yourself.
Chris Friesen: 37:03 You say I’m going to do this for five minutes and if it’s anywhere as bad as my brain is predicting it’s going to be so your brain soon to come up with all sorts of excuses like it’s going to be so painful. I’m going to feel sick. It’s going to be you know I need my sleep. All these things are not go through your mind when you’re trying to get yourself out of bed.
Chris Friesen: 37:20 And you say no I’m going to make it make a deal five minutes I get to go down there get my gym stuff on of course you should already have it set out right by your bed. So there’s no decision making whatsoever because something called Decision Fatigue. These will all be barriers no decisions you just get up shoes everything’s right there you put your shorts on or whatever it may be heart rate monitor or whatever it may be just put it on and you just go- there’s no decisions to make your water’s already ready. You don’t have to go and make anything and you go down and do for start for five minutes just warm up. And after five minutes you give yourself 100 percent permission to stop and go back to bed. If it’s anywhere near as bad as you predicted it would be and you’ll find that about 95 to 99 percent of the time you’re not going to, you’re going to realize that your mind produced all these barriers that were turned out not to be true.
Chris Friesen: 38:10 And it’s a little trick that I did that when I wrote my book I said many days I got up and thought oh I got this afternoon off to write the book. I don’t feel inspired. I don’t feel motivated. I feel in my mind would give me lots of negative advice like Don’t write because you can’t write or no one is going to read this book or you know et cetera et cetera. Our minds are designed by, they’re designed to simply make us avoid pain and to reproduce of course. But what I mean by that is the animal minds you called the mammalian brain which is part the limbic system is a deeper part of our brain that we share with most animals. This is still in us and this is a very very powerful, and it’s design if you listen to that in Freudian terms people call the id.
Chris Friesen: 38:59 But if you listen to your limbic system or your animal mind he would say eat chocolate cake for every meal. Never exercise if it feels it in anyway Uncomfortable, don’t even get out of bed anything. Don’t take any chances whatsoever because its goal is simply survival. And that makes sense evolutionarily anything that hinted at pain or danger or threat. If we had a part of our brain that made us avoid those things we were more likely to survive to reproductive age. So this is built into us but we have a prefrontal cortex which is really thick. The front behind your foreheads. This is this is what makes humans different than all the other animals we have the biggest most intricate prefrontal cortex which allows us to overpower or usurp or go over these these impulses to be able to say hey my mind is telling me right now that I I work you know it’s going to be horrifically bad and painful and boring or stressful or whatever it may be but I’m going to do it anyways because I said I was going to do it. So the ability to plan and organize and do things despite which your mammalian mind is saying what your emotions are telling you to do. And these are big keys and I can go for it many other examples but those are some big things that if people would try to implement the five minute rule and knowing your personality and what’s going to motivate you those can help you take some action.
Dave Sherwin: 40:21 So that’s why it’s critical to understand the personality traits and is because from that a person can understand their motivation. Going back to the the or at least part of it going back to the pop psychology and personal development field you know there are some people who have been tremendously successful by creating a dream board for example where they take on board and they put it up in their home or office on the fridge. Got a picture of a Lamborghini and it’s got a picture of a beautiful body that they watch with their headshot on it it’s got a picture of their kids graduating from college and all the things they dream of and what I hear you saying is that might work perfectly fine for the right personality and for a different personality be kind of meaningless.
Chris Friesen: 41:06 Yeah you know having a goal that you’re reminded of on a consistent basis. Say you see your high negative emotions and hot and low and extraversion in that circumstance. It’s still probably wouldn’t hurt in that circumstance because it’s just a constant reminder of what you want to do. So when our minds are primed. In other words we’re reminded and it’s in the back for mind and we review our goals on a regular basis. For example you’re, it’s like there’s a, you’re going to be constantly on the lookout for things that support those goals are going to bring you closer to those goals and you’re going to have this antenna that’s going to be designed only to sense that. So for example think of the really basic version of this but think of let’s say you. You want to buy a blue jeep. And you know you get a car dealership and there’s a blue jeep and you never seen it before.
Chris Friesen: 41:55 Oh my gosh it looks amazing. And all of a sudden you start to notice you start to see Blue jeeps everywhere or just blue cars or other jeeps and you start to notice it all the time even though you’re not even thinking about it. It’s the same principle that’s happening in the brain when you’re primed for something you’re going to be constantly looking out for. So it doesn’t hurt to have your goals front and center. But you know the the, you can have those same board with that same picture but if you’re high negative emotions to also bring to mind you know what’s going to happen. What am I going to miss out on? Or what are the bad things that will happen if I do not achieve this goal? That’s going to be very motivating for you. And it’s not that the other parts won’t be motivating at all is zero motivation.
Chris Friesen: 42:37 It’s just more of a tendency so you’re going on on average most people who are high and emotions are more, more motivated by thinking of all the bad things that’ll happen and so it’ll help you. It doesn’t mean that every single person of course will fit that mold but that’s just something to know, when you know yourself. You know you’re just going to be. I’ll give you another silly example but knowing your personality so let’s say for example mentioned this in the book. So I’m slightly. There’s another dimension called agreeableness. People are very agreeable tend to be trusting and friendly and really honest and you know straightforward and tender minded people who are low on this. If you’re very low you know you’re very skeptical you’re not trusting you’re not the most giving person not very friendly. And people in prison are filled with those people. But we all fall somewhere along this continuum and I’m on a little bit on the low side again I’m just below average on agreeableness and when I, especially when I worked in forensics this is like with criminals and pedophiles and you know it was helpful for me because a lot of these guys were lying to you.
Chris Friesen: 43:43 And this allowed me to be skeptical and not believe everything they said. Whereas some psychologists that were working in that area they were very high on this and they would believe everything said because they saw the best in everyone and the, that will make they’ll hurt your ability to do that particular job.
Chris Friesen: 44:01 But that trait for me to be kind of skeptical isn’t so useful when I come home when my wife starts telling me about an incident at work where someone said something or you know that kind of thing. And my skeptical mind is still going I’m like did she really look at you this way did you. You know and so I have to remember, hey I have this tendency to be a little bit disagreeable or skeptical but when I’m at home I need to turn that off. So it’s like my superpower everyone’s traits is a superpower but that superpower you know it’s great.
Chris Friesen: 44:29 Like if you can lift up a car when someone’s you know stuck underneath it a Superman, it’s not great when you go to lift up your child you throw him a hundred meters in the air by accident because you’re so strong. So it’s always a strength than a weakness and you have to be aware of your tendencies. So you know went to you know turn it off and went to keep it on.
Dave Sherwin: 44:47 If that makes sense. OK. Absolutely. And so once you once we’ve gone through the the work of determining our personality traits and accepting those pros and cons that come with each level in the five areas the next step you take a person through is values correct determines what values flow from that person set of personality traits or talk to us about values.
Chris Friesen: 45:13 So your values are really interesting and values are probably personalities very important. It’s very very important to know your values values are chosen personality is not something to keep in mind is personality it’s like the it’s like the car you have and your values like your you know where you want to go. And so your values are chosen and these are things that are what’s important to you. And they’re very specific to you and you need to know what those are. And in the book I give some strategies to help you figure that out for example.
Chris Friesen: 45:47 And this is Stephen Covey I believe talks about this I sort of I reference him and I would say I stole it from him. But I reference him and say you know this is just like Stephen he talks about is that know imagining your own funeral. And this is an exercise that you know helps you get in touch with your values you really visualize this and you know, in great detail and you imagine what you want people to say about you. You know in eulogies and to give speeches about you what would you like people let’s pretend it’s five years in the future. What do you want people to say about you. You want them to say this guy is really self-centred and just did his own thing and he never was never very nice. Is that what you want him to say or do you want them to say something else? And that will help you get in touch with your values and your values or your motivation.
Chris Friesen: 46:36 This this is the key to success is to live your life based on your values. And I’ve been asked in other podcasts as to give me give one tip of what’s the most you know what’s something that differentiates successful people are not successful people that I first struggle to come up with that. Now I have. If I had to give one thing it’d be simply this and successful means whatever that means successfully losing weight successfully having a happy life doesn’t mean winning you know winning the Stanley Cup or something like that. Successful people live their lives in other words they make their day to day decisions about what to do with their body their time their mind not based on their feelings not based on what their mind says they can and cannot do. And I even based on their circumstances they based it on their values and goals and that when you start to live your life based on your values and goals and pay less attention to or don’t get pushed around by unhelpful thoughts and feelings you’re going to go far in life whatever that means for you.
Chris Friesen: 47:38 That’s the most important thing. And you’ll see this connects to everything I’ve been talking about. Because when you live your life listening to that critical mind of yours which we all have. By the way professional athletes. There was a thing on TV recently with Mike Tyson admitting that he had all kinds of doubting thoughts before he went in the ring and George St. Pierre is a mixed martial artist from Canada he’s arguably from some accounts the best fighter in the world. And he has no problem admitting that he is scared when he goes into a fight and he says anyone who tells you not there is lying and he has all kinds of doubts but he does it anyways. He’s not letting his mammalian or animal mind his emotions and negative thoughts predict his behavior determine his behavior. He’s determining his behavior based on his goals and values.
Chris Friesen: 48:24 And so that is the key and that’s the same thing as waking up in the morning and deciding why am I doing this? Because I want to be a healthy person that’s important to me to be there for my daughter when she walks down the aisle. Whatever it may be. And that’s why I’m doing it you’re tapping into your values and goals and then doing, making your decision of what to do with your behavior based on those things not on how you feel how tired you feel. So for example in my book if I only wrote my book when I felt inspired energized, purely confident, had no doubting thoughts. I would, it would take me a hundred years to write the book. Instead you go to write your book and of course you like I said earlier my mind would produce thoughts like no one’s going to read this book I can’t write today I don’t feel energized I don’t feel inspired but I just start typing anyways.
Chris Friesen: 49:07 The five minute rule and no real confidence doesn’t come from hyping yourself up. It comes from taking action and not getting pushed around by our emotions and unhelpful thoughts. That’s where confidence really comes and that’s why motivational speeches don’t really help. They do help to some extent but they don’t stick. Confidence comes from those things so you have a phobia of driving so I’ve treated people phobia of driving. I could talk to them for two years in therapy about how driving isn’t dangerous. Of course they would’ve had an accident for example. That’s why they developed a phobia. The only cure to this is to slowly introduce yourself. It’s called exposure expose yourself back to the feared stimulus which is okay we’re just going to sit in the car today and that’s it. Now we’re just going to turn on the car and our next week we’re going to drive around the block and we’re going to this every day until your false alarms in your head, your brain starts stops taking it seriously. You don’t live your life based on “I’m scared so I shouldn’t drive.” It’s like no “I’m scared but I really want to be functional and be able to drive to see my friends and family. So I’m going to put up with the pain of being scared anyways.” So this is a big big principle that’s been shown across neuroscience and psychology and success literature and everything.
Chris Friesen: 50:21 And if this one principle takeaway it’s this sort of idea I’m describing
Dave Sherwin: 50:36 Yeah values are something that obviously I assume everyone has values but it’s certainly not something I spend a whole lot of time thinking about. It’s not front of mind and yet to you and your world and your research and help people get where they want to be at least for a short while. You have to have them go through and identify their values right. So how does a person do that?
Chris Friesen: 50:55 So in my book if you go to, get to get that, there’s a link in the book and in the audio it tells you you get all these downloads which is also in the book so you can see it physically on the Kindle book or the hard copy in the audible. The narrator Cris Abel, he reads them out the the for example.
Chris Friesen: 51:15 Once you do that funeral exercise there’s a few other little exercise. Then you go through a values list. I give a list of how many maybe 35 values and they’re just single a couple of words like helpful, and you know, contribution can be wealth, can be health. You know and you go through you pick your top five to 10. You just certainly read them twice and the circle the ones that you think should be guiding principles. And you have to differentiate these are not your traits so let’s say helpful- let’s say generally your personality you’re not a full person but that seems important to you then you would circle that’s not what you do, it’s about who is who you want to be. Those are your values of who you want to be ideally what is important to you. Who do you want to be.
Chris Friesen: 52:03 And sometimes people have trouble really getting a hold of what their values are. And I’ll ask them you know when you watch a movie or read an article or see something on Facebook or something that inspires you gives you an emotion positive or negative that’s usually, not always, but usually reflect some sort of value as being either violated or the person is espousing or displaying a value that you that you have. So if you see someone who who is you know, dying of cancer, but they spend their last days helping other people and you feel like you’re on the verge of tears reading about this or watching this video. This means you have a strong value of selfless acts for others or helpfulness or whatever you want to use to describe it. And that’s another way to get in touch with your values like who you know when you watch a movie which characters do you really you know like, you know what is it about them? And so these are other ways to get in touch with your values or you see people that really irk you doing things of course if someone’s doing absolutely criminal things. Most people think that’s bad. But other things that you know that seem to bother you about way people talk maybe you see someone you know you know talking you know being too confident or talking down to people that really irks you.
Chris Friesen: 53:22 And you made the mean may mean you have a value of treating everyone equally you know being- equality would be the value. So knowing these things and you know I like to say that you should do this like the exercise in my book once a year, to just refresh your memory and then every every week. Usually I do it on a Sunday you review your mission statement which is you come up with that after this.
Chris Friesen: 53:45 Your values your personality you will kind of remember I don’t write it out what my personality is because I just know that, it’s you remember the five traits and to remind yourself who am I? Where am I going? What are my goals and what are the principles I want to live by as I achieve those goals? Because your goal could be OK I want to win a gold medal. Yeah that’s great. Or I will lose 100 pounds. Well great, but are you willing to hurt yourself or others to get that gold. And it may or may not be the case. You may think well my values are to lose weight in the most healthy ways possible. You know I could take drugs like ephedrine and you know various diet drugs that will help you lose weight fast. But you know this may, there may be a side effect of your health. You have to think what’s more important to you know the potential use of an illegal drug let’s say for example to, to win a gold medal or two or a potentially dangerous drug to help you lose weight or your health so you use this to guide your decision making in your day to day life.
Dave Sherwin: 54:52 OK. So with all that being said I want to just segue in a different direction now.
Dave Sherwin: 54:58 So yeah those of you listening I’m sure you’ve got the idea here about what I meant earlier in the podcast about the level of this information versus some pop psychology or a self-help book written by someone who is well-intentioned and successful, but not necessarily has this type of level of research and understanding. Dr. Friesen does so I highly recommend the book it’s less than 10 bucks on Amazon. So it’s very affordable. But I want to change gears from the book because you are passionate about health and wellness. You describe yourself as a bio hacker and so now we’re just going to take any restraints off. Right. And I just I just want to hear you talk about some of the things you’re excited about in health and wellness right now.
Dave Sherwin: 55:48 And here we interrupt this program for an announcement of my interview with Dr. Friesen was just incredible. And it was long and it was kind of multipart. We had this part that we just finished and then we go into the biohacking part. And so I decided to break it into two episodes so this is Episode 70. But if you now go on to episode 71 we include not only the next portion of the interview about biohacking health and wellness and some really incredible stuff that Dr. Friesen has learned many of the conferences and some of the research that he has done. But also the preamble that I recorded with him was excellent itself, so I’ve tacked that onto the end of episode 71 as bonus material so this marks the end of Episode 70. And if you go on to episode 71 there’s additional information in the rest of my interview with Dr. Friesen and I hope you enjoy. Thanks. See you there.
Outro: 56:43 Thanks for listening to the Dirobi Health Show! Make sure you check dirobi.com for a free copy of Dave’s excellent health book formula 7 and enter to win in our free bottle Friday contest. If you’re enjoying the show leave your view on iTunes. See you next time.
Note that this information is presented as educational in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure or prevent any disease.