The most significant threat to your success in biohacking is your mindset. Like most things, biohacking requires commitment, patience and dedication. You probably took interest because you want to become healthier, lose weight, have more energy, live longer, etc. These are all worthy goals, but they are too generic to foster the mindset you will need.
You won’t see results instantly. Sometimes, you won’t see any results after months of tracking. Biohacking is a personal experimental process and you will discover some things don’t produce significant results for you. This can be discouraging.
Tracking things such as your habits, activities, nootropic doses and biometrics isn’t exciting for everyone. In fact, it can quickly become a chore after the initial excitement wears off. If you stop tracking, you stop biohacking. Experiments require data.
So how do we get into the right mindset? Let’s look at a mechanic from modern MMO games: daily quests.
Daily quests are small tasks that can be repeated each day. They have specific, easily obtainable goals that contribute to progress toward larger, more significant and difficult to obtain goals. For example: I have to kill monsters. A certain percentage of those monsters will drop a special item. I have to turn in 20 of those items in order to gain faction with some group. I have to reach maximum faction with the group in order to buy a super fast flying horse.
I can only collect 20 items each day. I can’t “store them up” and turn them all in at once, I have to get a new quest each day and turn them in. If I miss a day, then it will take me that much longer to get the horse I want.
Doing the daily faction grind is not exciting. It becomes work. But thousands press on and do it anyway. Why don’t they quit? I mean, this can end up being countless hours of time spent over months and even years (there are always more factions and other items to get). It’s because they have specific goals. Obtaining these goals causes your body to reward you with hit of the brain chemical dopamine.
You want to lose weight? Ok but how much? What is your target weight? You want to be healthier but what does that mean? How about specific fitness goals like being able to run 2 km in 8 minutes, or do 100 situps without stopping? Your biohacking goals should be very specific.
Your habit tracker is an example of your daily goals. It should have specific, repeatable and easily obtainable tasks. Next you define one or two other long term specific goals. As an example, let’s set a goal of losing 10 kg. You may need to lose more, but start with smaller goals. At first this gives you more dopamine hits. Eventually you’ll up those goals because you need the greater sense of accomplishment. If a task is too trivial, you won’t experience the chemical reward.
So to track progress to the goal of 10 kg of weight loss, you create a spreadsheet (Google Sheets is free). Start it off simple. In time you’ll find your long term goal tracking spreadsheet will become more and more detailed. But for now, you need two columns: Date and Weight. Add to your daily habit tracker: “Weigh in” and “Record weight”. You could do one task “Weigh and record”, but it feels better to check off two items, and they are technically two tasks.
Now you’re on your way to developing one of the most important habits: data collection. You now have measurable information to analyze. After the first week take a look at the data. Is your weight increasing? Decreasing? Remaining constant?
You don’t actually have any tasks related to this goal yet. But you’re establishing a baseline. To document how any biohack is working for you, you need to know how you’re doing before you start.
The next step in this example would be to implement one or two related biohacks, such as intermittent fasting and an exercise routine. One limits caloric intake and the other burns calories. So they are related to the goal of weight loss. You will add additional data tracking such as food calories and kcal burn estimates from your biometric feedback device.
You then observe weekly changes in the weight data and potentially tweak your diet and exercise tasks accordingly. As your weight loss experiments continue, you can even make graphs and charts of your progression, as those too can reinforce your dedication to your end goal.
Now this may sound complicated, but in reality, recording data only take a few minutes our of your day. Weekly analysis can take more time, but that’s part of being a biohacker: experiment and analyze.
Giving yourself weekly tracking and analysis goals can give you a greater dopamine reward beyond the daily goals. Seeing your progress to that 10kg goal is a reward. Meeting that goal is a reward. As these rewards add up, you will develop an actual need to do them. It’s the same science that keeps people playing some of these online games for hours a day.
This short series has been written for the new enthusiast and targets building useful habits, focus, a positive outlook and confidence. With this final guidance, I’ve tried to share with you the basics of what it means to be a biohacker: goals, experiments and analysis. The fuel for your experiments is research. Biohacking is becoming a big business and there’s going to be a wealth of information. There are websites, videos, conferences and an ever-growing supply of products. Some of those will work for you. Some won’t.
Put your critical thinking skills to good use when doing research and always be aware of any risks. Biohacking is not an “alternative medicine”. Trust your doctor if you have serious medical conditions and inform them of any changes you plan to experiment with that may affect those conditions. For example, intermittent fasting for someone with type-2 diabetes taking metformin might not be safe and you should consult with your physician to make sure you don’t endanger your health.
Biohacking is a way of life that touches upon every aspect of our being: physical, mental and social. I hope you feel like you have enough understanding to begin this new journey and wish you all the success at meeting your goals!