For any 1980s video gamer obsessed with puzzles, Tetris was likely their game of choice.
It’s a deceptively simple game: four shapes falling from the sky. While focused so intensely on rotating them into horizontal lines, we probably gave little thought to any psychology behind it — like the addictive need to create order out of chaos, tidy things up, achieve ‘linear’ goals. After all, when those random blocks were perfectly arranged and caused lines to disappear, it was magical. It felt like victory.
With each deleted line the game became more challenging, and as a boy, I was up for that challenge. I’d play Tetris on my beloved Nintendo for hours—so much, in fact, that when I turned off the game and went about my day, it was like I still saw Tetris shapes falling from the sky.
Leveraging the Tetris Effect
Recently I read a study that tasked people with playing extended periods of Tetris for days on end. A lot of them reported they couldn’t get the game images out of their mind. Some dreamt about Tetris pieces falling from the sky; others subconsciously mimicked keystrokes or behaviors associated with game-playing. One person talked about the sudden need to arrange cereal boxes in the grocery aisle. This is all part of what is called the Tetris Effect.
What was particularly interesting was that a seemingly mundane game of Tetris had changed the actual wiring in their brain. The more they played, the more their mind created different pathways. This altered their lens and how they saw the world—and themselves.
Experience dictated their perceptions; it’s a phenomenon coined neuroplasticity. The more we do something, the more our brain adapts to become a part of who we are. This is the concept behind developing habits, which can, in turn, create belief patterns.
Sometimes this causes negativity bias. Know anybody who perpetually finds the negative in everything? They focus on flaws, on mistakes. They incessantly complain. You point out the positive; they come back with a negative.
A couple years ago I spoke about this subject at one of my company’s national events. I asked the audience if they knew anybody who was stuck in some version of the Tetris Effect and unable to break an unhealthy pattern of thinking or behaving. Most of them nodded.
Flipping the Filter
But the good news is that just as some of us are conditioned to thinking negatively, we have the power to actively recondition our brain’s wiring to develop good habits. We can flip our filter to create positive belief patterns and thereby our behaviors. How we see the world is how we approach it.
Throughout my nearly 20 years of entrepreneurship and building leadership teams, I’ve often been asked how to flip the filter. The key is focus. To have a positive filter, you have to focus on exactly what you want and not give into distractions. You need to see it. Visually.
This act of focusing on a clearly defined vision has been folded up into references, such as: The Secret, The Law of Attraction, Law of Magnetism, Dream Boards, Affirmations, Visualizations, The Power of Positive Thinking. Different words, same concept.
Sometimes a solution is right in front of your face, but you don’t see it. It’s perceptual blindness – our frequent inability to see the obvious if we’re not looking for it. It’s like the SPAM filter in your email inbox that is set up with defined rules and hides information from you.
It’s been found that at any given time we’re surrounded by 2 million bits of information per second but that our brain can only process 134 bits of it. Huge gap. So, what are you seeing that others aren’t? And vice-versa?
Our brain’s spam filter only scans for what it’s programmed to find. Question: Is yours focused on finding the positive or the negative? Did you create your own rules for how you perceive the world, or give others the power to define them for you?
We can all flip our filters. That means recognizing our belief patterns – what we think we can or cannot do – and shifting the lens. But it takes concerted effort, focus and practice to form a new habit. Working in the health and wellness industry, I’ve heard thousands of stories of people transforming their life because they set a goal, visualized their success and practiced positive thinking.
Attitude of Gratitude
The benefits of creating positive belief patterns can lead to more gratitude, happiness, success. One of the myths many of us buy into is that we need to be successful before we can be happy. If I do this or if this happens to me, then I’ll be happy.
But what I’ve learned working closely with entrepreneurs and business owners is that it was not their success that led to happiness but instead it was their happiness that created their success. This happiness came from creating a filter that focused on what’s possible, instead of what’s not possible. It focused forward instead of glancing back, and it appreciated what was there instead of mourning what wasn’t.
People with gratitude experience much more joy. It’s why one of my company’s Vi-isms is “Have an attitude of gratitude.” If you’re happier and more grateful, you’ll find that success. But, success starts as an expectation before it becomes a reality. If you expect it, you’ll start seeing things that help you find it. If you talk about what you want, you’ll attract those who can help you get it. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Practical Tips to Creating New Belief Patterns
Mastering brain Tetris and flipping your filter can be quite simple. Two basic steps:
- Stop the negative input: The people who continually say “no, you can’t” or fill your social media newsfeeds with drama or negative news, just step away from them. Let them embark on their own journey to fix their issues. Give yourself time to rewire your perceptions.
- Increase the positive input: Create and focus on your vision—and build Surround yourself with what I like to call your ‘inner circle,’ which is the 3 to 5 people who have growth plans of positivity and who can continually inspire or motivate you. The point is you need to actively seek positive input instead of waiting for it to find you. One of my company’s values is to Be Inspired and Be Inspiring. Speak and spread positivity as much and as often as possible.
One strategy is to try a 5-minute Challenge for at least 21 days. Each day find 3 positive things. Ritualize that task at the same time every day until it becomes a habit.
The most difficult part will be to get out of your own way. But once you master brain Tetris and build new belief patterns, not only will you ask what is possible… you will believe that it is.
About the Author: Blake Mallen is an Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Philanthropist, and the Co-Founder & President of ViSalus, a global healthy lifestyle brand. Blake has been featured in industry publications as well as speaks at national conferences and international events on the topics of social marketing, brand building, organizational culture, entrepreneurship, leadership and personal growth. Connect with Blake at https://blakemallen.com/contact/.