“Any thought or physical movement which is repeated over and over through the principle of habit finally reaches the proportion of rhythm. Then the habit cannot be broken because nature takes it over and makes it permanent. It is something like a whirlpool in water…Then it is carried round and round but it cannot escape…Habit establishes one’s rhythm of thought, and that rhythm attracts the object of one’s dominating thoughts.”Napoleon Hill (1883 – 1970)
I’ve put off talking about this idea for a while now, but since I talked a little bit about habits in my last post, I figured I write a little about hypnotic rhythm. I first heard about this idea when I read Napoleon Hill’s lesser discussed masterpiece Outwitting the Devil. I highly recommend this book! In fact, it’s on my must read book list.
Hill described Hypnotic Rhythm as a law of human nature that solidifies our habits and makes them permanent. Similar to gravity, no one is exempt from hypnotic rhythm. All of us are in our own rhythm of our own habits. Our rhythm are the things we do that we don’t even think about, the actions built into our existence like earth orbiting the sun.
We can use the natural law of hypnotic rhythm to create long-lasting habits that bring success, but we can also use hypnotic rhythm to bring about misery and permanent failure.
According to Hill, rhythm is established from repeated habits and habits are established through repeated actions.
Actions are the things we do that we have complete control over. Hill says that we consciously decide whether or not actions come into being. This also applies to our thoughts.
If we repeat actions long enough, they become habits. These are the things that we often do to help us feel comfortable. It’s possible for us to go stray away from our habits, but we usually go back to them. Humans love to feel comfortable, I talk a little about that in my post, Proclivity for Comfort. We also stick with our habits because of momentum, it’s what we’re already doing!
If our habits are repeated long enough, they become hypnotic rhythm. This is when the habit becomes apart of what we are on a phenomenological level. Our habit can be put on autopilot and at that point the actions associated with that habit require no willpower at all. At this stage, we have almost no control over those actions. Unlike at the beginning, we have no say in if these rhythms carry out. Hill says that we can work against hypnotic rhythm, but it’s incredibly difficult. Our best bet is to stop the bad habits before the become rhythm, and keep practicing the good habits until they are automated.
Human Drives and Thought Habits
“Nature uses hypnotic rhythm to make one’s dominating thoughts and one’s thought-habits permanent. That is why poverty is disease. Nature makes it so by fixing permanently the thought-habits of all who accept poverty as an unavoidable circumstance”Napoleon Hill (1883 – 1970)
Our thoughts are just as much affected by these principles as our physical actions. This means our thoughts can turn into habits and understanding what shapes these thoughts can give us more control over which thought habits we develop. Creating positive habits around our thoughts is a fantastic practice that everyone can get into.
“No man owes another man any amount of duty that compromises one’s ability to create positive thought habits”Napoleon Hill (1883 – 1970)
We can also use our knowledge of Core Human Drives, mentioned in Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA, to properly sculpt positive thought habits, which can eventually become positive rhythm.
The Drive to Acquire – people are always striving to obtain things – money, clothes, houses, cars, companies, etc. But this goes beyond physical items. People want non-physical items as well, perhaps even more than physical items. These include, but are not limited to, status, power, influence, peace of mind. People love to have, and if we keep this in mind when we are creating our thought habits, then we are much less likely to let our unconscious core human drives dominate our thoughts and actions.
The Drive to Bond – people have a desire to love and feel loved. We do this by creating and maintaining relationships. Kaufman mentions a few types of companies that are based on this drive, but we can take this knowledge and use it to intentionally sculpt our thought habits. Our drive to bond can create an illusion that we need to act a certain way in order to get people to like us. This is helpful for rudimentary socialization, but when we are trying to create new habits that bring out our Jungian Self, we need to be able to break away from these visceral inclinations.
The Drive to Learn – this comes more from satisfying our intense curiosity. I believe learning is one of the best things in life and dedicating time to learning how to learn effectively is invaluable. We can use drive to direct the energy we have for learning to intentional subjects that move us forward. Learning always energizes me and when I’m consuming content or talking with people, I try to make an effort to learn something relevant to my crafts. Rather than listen to the same Top 100 on the radio, I listen to a podcast talking about the nuances of stereo imaging. I can use my innate learning energy to learn the lyrics of a song that will be “overplayed” in a few months, or I can intentionally direct that energy to learning something that pushes me forward. We love to learn and we are always learning. Be mindful of what you take in.
The Drive to Defend – we’re built for survival and defending ourselves is a necessary part of surviving. Kaufman talks about security and martial arts companies capitalizing on this, but we can also capitalize on this as well. Our drive to defend can control our anxiety circuits in our brains if things get out of hand. Anxiety is our mind’s attempt to defend ourselves from anything and everything all the time. This can get blown out of proportion if we aren’t paying attention to it. Knowing that we have an urge to defend ourselves can give us a foot hold if our minds start to spiral. Taking a moment to ask ourselves why we feel the need to defend ourselves or clearly articulating what we are defending ourselves from puts the ball back in our court.
Our actions slowly become what we are and the longer we repeat our actions, the more ingrained in us they become through the laws of hypnotic rhythm. This applies to our thoughts as well. Repeated thoughts become thought habits and our thought habits decide our fate. How we think and view the world is what is revealed to us. We can build our thought habits through understanding our human motivations and drives. When we understand the source of our desires, we gain control over the quality of thoughts we have.