You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish when you give yourself no choice – Alex Hormozi

This post’s title was supposed to be “Change the environment to change myself“. Because you should always try to change it for the better. It’s the most elegant path to progress.

But while writing it I honestly asked myself what the fuck is a “good environment“?

And even worse, how do I answer the question correctly for billions of people of different age, gender and social status, all living in different cultures and having the freedom to choose their environment constrained in different ways?

But then I remembered what makes the I Grow Younger approach different.

  1. We aim high into the near-impossible realm of world changing ideas.
  2. We find the structures built into all human beings and the world itself.
  3. We develop a deep understanding of all relationships in those structures.
  4. We then simplify this to create an intuitive unified theory of the field.
  5. We explain it with real world examples. If they don’t exist, we create them.

The mental journey towards defining a “good environment” with one single rule was a fascinating one. And it has a lot to do with thinking and a lot to do with boxes – but not in the way you think.

Here is what makes us who we are in any given moment:

  • Our genes
  • Our past and the stories about ourselves we tell based on it (identity)
  • Our current environment

Our genes are already cast, we’re already there, no action needed on this one.

Our past is a matter of interpretation, supports vast changes or perspective and the stories and identity we base on it are a product of… our genes and our past environment.

Therefore the environment of today (combined with the genes we cannot influence) will shape our stories and identity of tomorrow.

So it turns our everything we can do to change our future is all about what we surround ourselves with and how do we react to it. But reacting still comes from our genes and past. You can see where this is going.

A healthy attempt of strategic conscious improvement can only have one direction – Outgoing and one place it happens – The Game of Life. You cannot improve your Game of Self by force and trying can be counterproductive. But you can change your environment and it will do the magic.

Much of this process is subconscious and chaotic, but with a good degree of self-knowledge it’s possible to steer the wheel most of the time. Just don’t aim for full control – it’s impossible.

First we need to swallow our ego and just admit how we’re all massively influenced by our environment, including people around us and culture. Denial won’t help.

Тhe only meaningful plan is to change and improve everything changeable around us. This is an ongoing process as we need different Game of Life situations over time to match our growth opportunities in our Game of Self path.

But the world is such a mess and sometimes we are our best and worst selves in the most unexpected circumstances. Self-knowledge is never complete. How do we construct the best for our progress when we don’t even know ourselves now and both the future us and the world are full of unknowns?

This complex construction is a process greatly enhanced by the power of intuition. The problem is most people either don’t have the intuition developed or suppress it due to Sheep mode. Taking action without a clear reason in your head is scary enough to be blocked by our fears if they happen to be in charge at the moment.

A typical vicious circle many people can fall in is:

Sheep mode → Fears make us cautious, we need a reason for every action → Less trust in our intuition as it provides only results, no reasons → Less intuition, more thinking → More thinking, less doing → We end up stuck in deeper Sheep mode → Even more fears → Even less intuition → … → Negative ruminating hell.

So I’ll just give you a substitute for intuition, a Golden rule that will hold true almost every time. And just like all good rules, it’s very simple and doesn’t require much extra thinking. Here it is!

There is only one universally good direction in life – outwards.

  • The good things in life: Love, Freedom, Empathy, Meaning, Hunter mode are all about opening up to the world and its people.
  • The bad things in life: fears, lack of freedom, lack of meaning, Sheep mode, addiction, anxiety, depression are all about closing into ourselves.

And this is a two-way relationship. Open up and you invite the good, close up and you’re stuck with your worst. But the good also opens you up to more good. “The secret” is not entirely bullshit, the “Law of attraction” is a real thing – it just doesn’t apply to everything in your life.

So we need one main thing from our environment – structures that help us open up. But how do we know which are the ones? By their shape.

Humans interact with two distinct structures a lot:

  • Flow structures – they move things and bring change, like rivers
  • Box structures – they divide space and obstruct natural flow, like mountains

It takes a very powerful river to carve its way though a mountain. It’s better not to have too many mountains around if you want strong rivers.

The very definition of these structures tells us which are good and bad for us. Flow opens us up. Boxes close us in.

There is no better guiding principle in the whole area of mental health:

  • Everything good in mental health has a flow structure because it opens our heart and mind. Especially our central flows of love, empathy and meaning.

  • Everything bad in mental health has a box structure because it closes our heart and mind. Including too much logical thinking!

But why does our brain do so much boxes and thinking if it’s counterproductive?

It’s a long story, first evolutionary and then cultural. The first creatures that evolved a nervous system hundreds of millions of years ago had three core goals in life – survive, eat and reproduce. Some of these goals like finding food and eating required a process-oriented brain capable of high focus in order to “search and destroy” the food. Other goals like not being eaten by something bigger required a fluid, intuitive brain that had a general awareness about the world and the creature’s place in it.

But nature is harsh and you need to have both functionalities at the same time – you don’t want to be eaten while you’re focused on finding your own prey or even while eating it – wouldn’t that be a bummer. So focus and general intuitive awareness have to coexist. And this is how the brain hemispheres evolved. They are both involved in everything we do but their battle for dominance is not conscious (it would have been extremely tiring and confusing).

Early humans already had a massive advantage thanks to their highly developed left side of the brain. We invented language, built more and more complex tools and could predict and plan for the future. All of those abilities were at the start spectacularly bad. But evolution doesn’t give a shit about quality (or… anything actually) it’s a mindless process that just… selects the selected. It can be summed up like this:

If you’re not a loser, you reproduce. 

Given enough generations, we managed to preserve the progress and slowly improved. Until we gradually took control over the world. And let’s not fool ourselves – we did it in the harsh ways of nature – with violence.

Survival was no longer in question for humanity. But for each individual human it still was. Disease, famine, wars, social struggles meant that for the large majority life was physically very hard. But challenges can be good for mental health and so is living in tight groups. So mentally people held their ground and when life was too harsh or just beyond comprehension, turned to religion to outsource their fears and doubts. Thinking and planning in a world of scarcity was key for both survival and the slow steps for science and development of the human kind.

But then life changed in the direction we had not evolved to handle. It changed for the better.

All our genetic experience in suffering and surviving against the odds became a mere artifact. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it got in the way.

Because the odds are now in our favor and we want more than survival. We want happiness, guaranteed if possible. But we collectively forgot happiness is a flow and it’s pointing outwards. It needs other flows and less boxes. Even thinking whether you’re happy is a box and it’s not helpful.

In most of the world life suddenly (only within a few generations – a tiny period for evolution to be able to react to) became physically easier. We fought off most disease and hunger and got iPhones instead. Wars are now rare and women and marginalized groups have the best time in recorded history. Almost every real world stat except for the environmental ones is at its best point. Ever. Less violence. More healthcare. More education. More opportunities. More access to information. You name it.

The problem is although it was a actually a mix (you cannot change a world you don’t intuitively understand, duh), left brains and boxes took all the credit for the progress. And we subjugated our right brain via our culture and abysmal education system, suppressed our intuition and forgot flows exist. But boxes cannot replace flow. Tinder swiping is not love. A corporation is not a hunting party. An apartment block is not a village. We ended up lonely and have a clear crisis of meaning – one that for-profit social media apps can never fill (not that they really try). We’re not built for this. We need the flows back! And actually we desperately want them back. We are just scared to let go of the boxes that stand in their way.

It’s a chicken-egg problem: We need strong flow to destroy the boxes but they are in the way of any strong flow attempts. So we need to gather all our self-love and desire for freedom, take a deep breath and start with a leap of faith. There is no other way. Baby steps won’t do this one.

This process is popularly known as “letting go” but usually no one tells you what you actually let go of. Because often the things you let go of on the surface are not the actual Game of Self problem, they are just its projection in The Game of Life.

You should let go of your lousy job or stale relationship not just because they suck but because they represent boxes in your mind you no longer want there. They prevent you from being yourself, steal chunks of your time for no good reason and get in the way of your natural flow. True life-changing work can happen outside of the “job” box just as true love can exist outside of the “relationship” one.

The real problem is not the lousy boss or girlfriend/boyfriend you don’t really love. The real problem is the boxes that represent them within you in the first place. And I can assure you that those boxes are there, because for the people without them it would be structurally impossible (or at least extremely improbable) to end up in your situation – they would rather be unemployed for a while than have a lousy job and would rather be alone than with someone they don’t truly love.

Without flows even if you quit the job, you’ll end up in a similar one (another box). Even if you break up, your next partner is very likely to be similar (another box).

Only flows improve things and true letting go is not exchanging one box for another. It’s embracing flows and ditching all possible boxes.

Unfortunately the world is not pushing you in the right direction for most of this process. Have you heard this popular quote?

The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.

WTF!? No it isn’t!

This quote embodies our left-brain-dominated world better than anything. Yes, if your left brain is always on top of your conscious thoughts and decisions, you will be able to serve (yourself) but will not find any meaning and happiness. Because you need flows for them. In the master role you will be helpless and it’s very likely that you’ll be mean to yourself. But… why use just half your brain and the less appropriate one at that?

The right brain with its awareness, intuition and creativity is actually a wonderful master but a terrible servant. You can have that if you wish. And it’s better. Not in general. It’s just better suited to our current age.

The relatively safe and comfortable life of the modern human needs flows and meaning a bit more more then boxes and thinking. But instead of letting our brain lean gently to the right, we push it to the extreme left with everything from school to jobs to our whole society, based on too many rigid rules.

The reality of our modern life is that We need and love flows but we Cope with our problems and confusion By inventing boxes. As the overcomplicated world gives us a lot to cope with, it’s tempting to introduce more and more boxes into our lives and become more closed. But if you want to remember just one world from this post, let it be this one. Resist. Every time you feel the urge to put something in a box, Resist. Every time other people and the world impose their box-based thinking unto you, Resist. Each time you do, you get closer to the leap of faith that will turn the tide by letting flows back into your life. And there is no going back from there. Because you’ll love the change. 

I promise you, if you do just this one thing, resisting the boxes, every second, everything else in life just falls into place. Every wise advice you have ever heard is just an extension of living without boxes. All the pillars of happiness – living in the present, forgoing your ego, not chasing dopamine experiences, focus and give it all, the search for meaning – every single one of those is about prioritizing your natural flow over some box(es).

The boxes make you weak and unhappy. You need flows, even if they bring chaos to your life. No matter the identity story you tell yourself, I’m sure you want to be strong and happy. And you have to do just one thing, although very scary…

Live a life without boxes!

What do I have to give up to live outside the box?

Nothing that you cannot live without! All the true value in life is carried by the flows. Boxes just do their box thing and get in the way.

The flows in our mind:
Love, energy, creativity, curiosity, unobstructed time, nature, spirituality.

The boxes in our mind:
All internal and external Categories and Labels, goals, plans, time slots, the boxes we live in, rules and dogma. All numbers.

Still in denial, fan of boxes? The examples how they fail are endless.

Intuition vs thinking:

  • Intuition is a flow process. This is why it’s powerful, yet harmless.
  • Logical thinking is a box process. This is why it’s exhausting, prone to errors and potentially harmful.

Entrepreneurship vs a day job:

  • Entrepreneurship is a flow structure with progress in high regard – good for your mental health.
  • Most day jobs are box structures with stability in high regard – bad for your mental health.

Society and how to help the marginalized – especially interesting:

  • Respect and compassion are flows and can never backfire. Listen to “I have a dream” or any other speech that actually changed history and you’ll not find in it many box-terms like “Cultural appropriation” or “Gender nonconforming“. Instead it’s full of flow language like: “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” This is how you inspire people and bring change!
  • Identity politics (both left and right wing) is based on boxes and this can screw up even the best intentions that most left-wing activists have, just due to box-structures and poor messaging. It’s currently bitterly dividing well-meaning people in the US in a downright dangerous way. The boxes are in the root of this. Us vs. Them is always based on a box.
  • Of course Gender nonconforming people exist and should be equally respected but does every state of being really need a label that much? Structurally it’s so much easier to just respect everyone for being human, no matter how different. And a society-wide structure of labels that everyone is supposed to follow somehow takes our focus off the easy win and sets us on a different path, one without powerful flows. One where we are all more easily offended, walk on eggshells and discourage contrarian thinking. I don’t have a single label I identify with and life goes on just fine. The fewer boxes, the better.

There also some fascinating examples where boxes and flows overlap in space or time:

Stories are so powerful because they connect box structures into a flow, being an unique hack into our minds that loves flows.

Higher love is so powerful and magical because it turns a box (another person) into a flow (the feeling of the other person being a part of you).

Interestingly the concept of money is a flow structure improving a box-dominated ecosystem 🙂 This is why I actually like it. But in order for it to work for everyone, you should like and understand it too.

Long term success (which we measure in long term freedom) is what Simon Sinek calls “an infinite game” – unknown rules and the goal is to continue playing forever, there is no clear win. It’s a flow structure.

Long term happiness is also a flow structure – a way of life more than anything specific. Individual events (boxes) cannot sustain long term happiness.

Constructing the best environment is much easier than you think. You just need to be able to tell a box from a flow. They are so different from one another that this should be doable for anyone without external help.

  1. Everything in your environment that can be a flow, better be a flow.
  2. Every box you can remove from your life and your mind, just remove it.

We only accept boxes when they serve a specific, short term purpose as part of processes:

  • No labels unless needed for a process.
  • No goals unless needed for a process.
  • No plans unless needed for a process.
  • No rules for sane people while basic ethics work.

Your life is one whole. Your love, meaning, friends, fun and work can all be one beautiful intertwined mess. Trust me, the small inconveniences will be far outmatched by the huge energy and motivation resulting from not mentally dividing yourself into pieces. Who could ever think this was a good idea in the first place?

The boxes in your mind are bad for you and rarely reflect reality. But in order to remove them from your mind, you need to also remove them from your life.

Other people’s lives are also one whole.

In many ways the world is one whole. Or at least should be given our common interest…

There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.

Marshall McLuhan

The change starts with you. Consider sharing this post with people trapped in boxes too.

OK, I want a life out of the box. How do I restore the flows?

First you should have some idea about your current state and a way to not just feel the moments of progress but also the moments of regress back to the boxes. We need some metric that helps us answer the following question at any given moment:

How do I know if boxes or flows dominate my thinking right now?

There is a beautiful flow-based question that directly fits our criteria:

How much do I care if I’m right?


  • If you don’t care if you’re right or wrong and you’re fine with the future showing or even not knowing ever, you have successfully embraced flows. This is the path of happiness and surprisingly, success in most fields. People are wrong so much of the time that obsessing over being right separates them from reality. And this is never a good sign.
  • If everything you care about is being right, more than being free or happy, your life is crushed by the boxes and you’re in for a long and hard battle against them.
  • Most people are somewhere in the middle of the above spectrum, thus being partially screwed by the boxes. The direction you take from there will decide a lot in your life. Don’t fuck it up. Resist the boxes.

There is a key relation between Hunter vs. Sheep mode (a biological spectrum, related mostly to hormones in your body) and Flow vs. Box thinking, which is a spectrum in our mind, related directly to the brain hemispheres and strengthening specific neurological pathways over the years.

Hunter vs Sheep mode is a mostly chemical battle of love-based and fear-based emotions and all our biological reactions to them… with our body as the arena.

Flow vs Box thinking is culturally and intellectually influenced but the main factor is the structured archive of all these Hunter vs Sheep battles and the actions they foster, which each change neurological patterns in the brain a bit.

This is why in the direction post we strongly emphasized the importance of actions for the hunter-sheep spectrum. You may feel love and/or fear but the feeling itself will not leave a strong neurological mark unless it’s some extreme situation and it’s super strong. But when you act, this act leaves its mark on the brain forever. You want to leave marks that help you in the future – and those are left by hunter actions that empower your flow pathways.

When the hunter in you wins and you spend time in hunter mode, flow patterns are strengthened, because you open up and there is space for them. Your life force is then actively flowing with no internal barriers.

When the sheep in you wins and you spend time in sheep mode, box patterns are strengthened, because sheep mode generates problems, they need coping and coping always comes as a box structure.

The “How much do I care if I’m right?” question is also valid for hunter and sheep mode determination. But you have to answer with your heart, not your mind.

  • If your heart doesn’t care if you’re right, you’re in hunter mode.
  • If your heart cares if you’re right a lot, you’re stuck in sheep mode.

Because the need to be right is simply a coping mechanism.

If you answer the “How much do I care if I’m right?” question with your mind, it’s no longer the same question about how you feel, rather a test which brain hemisphere will give you the answer. This is how you find which one is in charge at the moment.

This relationship goes two ways. If you’re used to thinking in flows due to long Hunter mode times in the past, many Sheep mode triggers (“wrong box” ones) will stop working, meaning you increase your chances for more Hunter mode time in the future.

Regardless of the subtle body/mind difference, Hunter mode + Flow thinking and Sheep mode + Box thinking are the two typical states you can find yourself in. And you already know which one you need for happiness and progress. So let’s construct an environment stimulating Hunter mode + Flow thinking.

To construct the best current and future experiences for positive change, you need to;

  • Know how a human functions in general
  • Know how you’re different from other humans
  • Know all the options the world offers, including out of the box ones

A. How humans work in general.

You share more than 99% of your genes with your fellow humans. Trust me, we’re much more the same than we are different. The reason we seem different is that we are much more engaged in activities that showcase our differences (eg. thinking) than in natural activities we react similarly to. Here we’ll focus on those universal ones.

Humans evolved to live in nature, not in boxes. Most people do not spend enough time in nature and thus miss on a lot of physical and psychological benefits directly baked into our biology.

Humans are meant to move a lot. If you live a stationary lifestyle you can compensate with a lot of sports, the more exhausting yet fun ones, the better. I play soccer, tennis and squash. Sports involving some kind of ball are somehow more enjoyable and inspire hunter mode, while “boring” sports like running and swimming can have other types of value like being meditative/therapeutic and finding out the actual limits of our bodies.

Humans are social creatures and need socializing in person. Screen socializing is a trade-off compared to the real thing. So meet people.

Humans are easily influenced by their peers so surround yourself with the best people you can find. You should have a floor requirement for legacy peers (such as family and childhood friends) and a much higher one for new peers.

If someone around you is consistently toxic, you have the right to kick them out of your life, even if it is your spouse, sibling or parent. There is only one ultimate responsibility in life and it’s for creatures that cannot take care of themselves – children, pets and people with severe health problems that have no one else to turn to.

Healthy grown ups have to earn each other’s attention by not being assholes. No human relation should be taken for granted.

How about our criteria for new peers?

We can make a long “box checklist” but I’ll instead use this great simplification that uses emotional flows rather than thinking:

If you can be yourself around someone and are happy in silence with them, it’s a worthy friendship or relationship.

The quality or your closest human relationships is the most important indicator for health and happiness.

Seek true love, a strong flow. Seek true friendships. They are both priceless. True “Higher” love will not only benefit your love life. It will improve every single aspect of your life. Because it rewires your brain and changes you and you participate in your life all the time.

You should also be aware of the fact that someone might genuinely respect and love you but still overwhelm you with bad advice because they don’t understand you and the world. This happens all the time with parents and grandparents, often on topics such as higher education and career. So love is not enough. For most of the time you need around people who haven’t lost their touch with reality. You need folks who you can trust emotionally and intellectually. One is not enough, you need both.

Often smart, nice, overly moral people stick too much around family and friends who believe in complete bullshit and are of course very keen on sharing it. The nice, moral people tell themselves they are smarter than that and are not influenced while they have a duty to be there for their friends or family. But in reality no one has a duty to listen to bullshit and it’s just a projection of their moral fears and their inability to say no.

Having to block the bullshit is as extra effort and it takes mental bandwidth, pushing you away from reality and the clarity of mind you so desperately need in the current muddy information landscape.

If someone’s clearly questionable beliefs cannot be changed and they push them to you every time, it’s healthy to increase the distance. This is an act of self-care you have the right to.

We don’t mean complex ideas, intellectual humility and broadening our horizon here. It’s the really crazy uncles lost in conspiracy theory rabbit holes we’re talking about. Value your energy and time. Listening to bullshit is not free!

Instead you could be listening to people who help you on the path to truth and intuition and inspire you for greatness.

Now that we have some basis for the biological, emotional and intellectual factors of your environment, let’s see how it all fits to you.

B. How you’re different from other humans

This is not an area I can help very much in. Only you know you. But still, here are some hints on how to get to know yourself better over time.

Observe, but don’t rush to judgement. You should be aware of what’s happening in your life but if you try to analyze it immediately, you distort the picture. Leave things to settle. Time will clear the fog and make everything obvious. This don’t mean not to act based on your recent experience. Just not to label or overthink the past before enough time has passed.

Diversity of experience – If all of your days are the same you will not really develop broad self-knowledge. You need to see your reactions in different situations and some of them need to be out of your comfort zone. Diversity often comes with speed – try different ideas and activities in less time. Without overwhelming yourself of course. If it’s no longer fun, you took too much on your plate.

Shield yourself from harmful distortion – You can take external feedback on your behavior but never on your thoughts and feelings. No one else is in your head to know what you think and how you feel. If someone is telling you they know better what is going on in your head, it’s Gaslighting and a huge red flag for this person. Your story is yours to write. Intruders are not welcome!

And finally, genetics – While the brain is quite adaptive, some traits are largely genetic. Highly Sensitive People for example can benefit a great deal by simply knowing they are who they are.

C. Know all the options the world offers, including out of the box ones

This is the hardest one. The world is very complex and often messy with confusing logic and weird emerging systems and properties. Where do we even start?


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