You've just taken the leap into an entrepreneurial journey. You've quit your job, downsized your apartment and invested everything into your big idea.
How do you convince yourself that your story is worth believing in?
According to an exciting new theory emerging from a fusion of theories on human cognition and machine learning called the The Free Energy Principle, your brain wraps itself in a sort of "blanket" called a Markov blanket and creates its picture of reality almost entirely from the data coming in through this blanket.
The Markov blanket is a statistical barrier. It protects your brain from the chaos of the outside world while also helping your brain to believe in its own story. Your brain uses its data to estimate what is happening in the outside world.
A loose metaphor for how your brain uses its Markov blanket to estimate the external world: You "sample" your immediate environment to estimate what's happening and what can happen in the greater reality of your life.
Popular blogger Jon Morrow, who is paralyzed from the waist down, cites an example of this in a Quora article as a key to his success: "I can only move my facial muscles, I started listening to audiobooks and podcasts 4-8 hours a day. If you spend the majority of your time in worlds where people are accomplishing incredible things, all of a sudden that starts to seem normal."
Your immediate environment holds disproportionate power over your experience of reality. What happens immediately around you has a much bigger impact on you than what happens a little further away. This suggests you can trick your brain into believing in a slightly false reality just by manipulating your immediate environment.
If you concentrate on increasing your sense of control within a thin layer of your immediate environment, your brain will think this represents what is happening in your life's bigger picture -- even if the bigger picture is somewhat different.
Try these three strategies:
1. Control your time.
If you reserve a segment of each day when you control exactly what happens, when, and for how long, you can create an illusion of perceived control.
Breaking a portion of your morning into a routine lets your brain start the day with the perception of control -- even if the outside world is filled with uncertainty. This is why many high-achievers follow rigid morning routines.
2. Control your space.
Your sense of perceived control in your personal space is boosted whenever you have exerted control over something in that space.
Controlling every feature in your office, from the furniture and lighting to subtle details such as the temperature and background sounds, enhances your sense of control whenever you are in there. Clutter hides the precise location of items, creating uncertainty. An untidy desk may help with creativity but a tidy one is better for the sense of order and control.
Your body is part of your immediate environment. Yoga, an activity that promotes the development of greater control over the body, has been shown to increase the overall sense of perceived control.
3. Control your attention.
When you pay attention to something, it becomes part of your metaphorical "Markov blanket" and has the power to change your perception of reality. Your attention invites it into your inner environment and this magnifies its impact on your mind.
The beauty of this metaphor is you don't need to desperately control things that are beyond your control when you're hit by a cold fear of uncertainty -- you just need to focus on one thin layer of your environment and control the uncertainty there.
If you fill that layer with supportive people and ideas, you can trick your brain into thinking the whole world is on your side as you keep moving forward.