The 3 Second Exercise That Will Change Your Life

by Alexander Heyne · 12 comments


Many of you reading this are probably feeling lost in life and a little depressed.

You feel or know there is something big in life for you, but the hard part is figuring out what that is. You find yourself thinking for hours a day, while at work, while at home, before bed, when you wake up.

You sort of feel like a leaf in the wind, or someone floating in a boat in the ocean without any sails – you’re just at the mercy of the seas.

… This tends to produce a lot of internal unhappiness.

At least for me it did. I found it really hard to get motivated or work hard if I had no idea where I was going.

I’ve argued many times that the reason why 20 somethings are so prone to depression and unhappiness is because we think a lot, too much, which keeps us in the realm of thinking, rather than in the realm of action which delivers results and clarity.

The problem is that when you tell people “Hey, I have this fantastic thing that will change your life” they LOVE hearing about it (e.g. meditation), but they HATE doing it. Almost no one does it. You can have them spend $500 and still most of them won’t do it.

Fortunately, I figured it out. And I’ll keep it short.

The 3 second exercise

Part of the reason I love the book Flow so much is because when you enjoy your work (and your life), your mind turns off.

You get focused on the present, and you magically find yourself happier than usual. That’s because flow-producing activities naturally engage us and focus us. We tend to think when things aren’t going well, right?

Whether it’s your day job, your relationship, or your life – when it’s awesome you aren’t thinking. You’re living and enjoying it.

You’re only thinking during sex if something is going wrong or you don’t know what you’re doing, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get into flow, and some of us may be stuck in a shitty job/life for the time being.

It may just be one of those phases we have to suck up.

It may just be one of those time periods where we’re going to have to tough it out and put one foot in front of the other.

In other words, it may just be a time period that won’t be fun at all, and there’s no way around it.

When I first came back to this country after uprooting myself, I spent entire WEEKS thinking.

About the past: “Oh man that year was amazing! I can’t wait to go back. See my friends. Travel more.”

About the present: “What the fuck am I doing here? Why did I even come back?”

About the future: “How can I escape? Maybe I should move back. I don’t really have friends here and don’t want to make friends here. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing… maybe I should just find a new job and stuff?”

And it produced a lot of internal unhappiness. I didn’t get answers in my life. I didn’t get clarity. Solutions didn’t magically materialize. My mind dominated me.

So that’s when I tried an interesting exercise.

If that’s you, here’s the exercise that will save you:

Rather than having yourself sit on a cushion and meditate (which would have a similar effect, but I know you won’t do it), do this two part exercise:

When you catch yourself thinking (about ANYTHING) throughout the day, label the thoughts in two ways:

A. Future or past

B. Positive or negative & how it feels

So for example, you’re at work, and you hate the shit out of it. You keep thinking about the future when you’ll be an entrepreneur and you’ll be able to quit. Label it.

Thinking about the future. Positive. Feels good.

In reality, it’s much more valuable for the opposite.

People with intense negative internal dramas will quickly realize how much they are sabotaging themselves.

For example, some of us have this nagging fear that something will go wrong. We think about it 100x a day.


You’re at work, bored, and you imagine your girlfriend cheating on you. Everytime you’re bored, it comes up because you’re insecure.

Label it.

Thinking about the future. Negative. Feels bad.

Or maybe you’re thinking about the past – the last year when you had the best year of your life.

Thinking about the past. Feels positive, but sad.

What this does is creates a sort of model of your own internal drama.

You’ll start to learn (when you do this 100x a day) what kind of thoughts are going through your head.

You’ll realize that you have negative shit running around all day in your head.

You’ll realize you are loaded with self doubt and negativity. You’ll realize that you keep having this bullshit irrational fear of your significant other cheating on you, or your boss firing you.

Most importantly, you’ll realize how utterly stupid this internal drama is – even if it’s positive! They’re all useless. Positive or negative – both useless.

When you see thoughts arise… label them. Future or past. Negative or positive.

A clear mind that can take action is a 20 something’s best friend.

Why this is pure awesomeness

The 20s are hard and sometimes depressing because you don’t know which way to go.

Many of us already know this to be true, and are otherwise sitting in lives we didn’t want, lives that we don’t feel are our own. It’s kinda like this: “the hell am I doing here? I didn’t CHOOSE this life. It just happened.”

One of the underlying threads in all the emails I get from people is that we’re constantly trying to THINK our way out of things instead of taking action.

… and thinking often leads to lots of unhappiness. Still following?

This mini exercise in meditation will go a LONG way towards catching those repetitive thoughts in your head and will make you realize who you are underneath it all.

Sometimes you realize you’re really insecure.

Sometimes you realize you’re overconfident or entitled in your thinking.

And sometimes you realize you’re defeating yourself before you’ve ever begun. 


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

buzzcut September 11, 2013 at 9:49 am

cool bro! keep posting.


David September 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

That exercise is great! Thank you.


Alexander Heyne September 13, 2013 at 9:24 am

No problem David -


Jenny September 15, 2013 at 11:00 am

Active meditation. Awesome. In love with this site. Thank you.


Alexander Heyne September 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Thanks Jenny! Hope it helped.


olivia September 17, 2013 at 7:03 am

Love this article! This is me all over, although recently I have been able to start dismissing some of my negative thinking and recognising it for what it is. And realising that you don’t have to believe your thoughts – that was crucial.


Michel Tremblay September 24, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Dear Alexander,

I fell on your blog by (re)building my bloglist. You will fall in the (anti) lifestyle design blogs, with a lot of merits into it. Like you, I do recognize that all the pump about the Tim Ferriss-like generation of dreamers are missing some points, and important one, to the point that they can risk aiming the wrong way (like you did – I did the same) for a while before finding back the right path.

I feel that Ferriss and the likes were just lucky ones who just so happen to catch the wave and build a cheap monopoly of thoughts, one that sells easily, and like any commercial goods, are not the one that are the most up to date. While Ferriss and the likes were building their empires, we (that’s what I read from your post) already knew there was a catch. Funny how they made a shit load of money though and now, if they are aware enough, will work hard to keep their immediate community close to them and cherish their close relationships.

Point being, as much as you pointed in you blog to Ferriss’s being late on the lifestyle design catch, I wanted to point out that the past – positive future positive perspectives VS other perspectives were a passion of Phil Zimbardo’s research, beautifully written in a book I read in 2009 “The Time Paradox”. Is it there you took inspiration from your article? If not, well, like you prior to Ferriss’s democratization of LIfestyle design, it’s cool that you publish a post on something as centennial as Zimbardo’s work….though, well, a bit late ;)

Just to say that everytime we think that something is cool and new, it might be that someone else has already fallen on it ;) (must say, I don’t have a blog, yet ;)) Will come one day I guess, since I notice when I read the blogosphere that there are many things I’ve done before it gets popular and posted… :)

Very nice blog and keep the hard work at deconstructing reality and illusions!


Alexander Heyne September 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Don’t know who Zimbardo is, so yes this article is original ;) And yes, Tim Ferriss merely wrote about something that many others were already living. He did a great job though –


Layla September 25, 2013 at 8:54 am

Hey! 30’s aren’t so awesome either lol – love your site & see it’s geared toward a younger audience, us older folks can still find valuable stuff here tho!

PS. WOW for being so brave! :)


Alexander Heyne September 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Thanks Layla !


Maxine November 16, 2013 at 7:00 am

Interesting exercise – I have never heard of it before so I’ll give it a try ;)

Great blog by the way!
Regards from Germany


Alexander Heyne December 2, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Cheers Maxine!


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