Internal Culture – Voluntary Hormetic Shocks

Internal Culture defines you!

Here’s a simple yet powerful thought exercise to use at any age to drive a long and happy life, and it takes only 30-seconds a day.

By developing an internal culture of reflection that keeps track of how many hormetic shocks you voluntarily put yourself through in a typical day, you increase the likelihood of a happier and more fulfilling life.

If you understand that and will execute a plan for it, you don’t need to read further.

If you think you want to know more, you must continue to read – for the rationale behind this proposition and a more detailed explanation.

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Puru-Facts & Proposition
1234Structure and Compulsion
1234Outcomes over Time
1234567Education Years
1234567Economic Years
1234Outcome Dispersion
1234Independent Thought – Perception vs Reality
1234A Solution to the Problem
1234By developing
1234An internal culture
1234Of reflection
1234That keeps track
1234Of how many
1234Hormetic shocks
1234You voluntarily put yourself through
1234In a typical day
1234You increase the likelihood
1234Of a happier and more fulfilling life
1234Poor Internal Culture
1234Rich Internal Culture

Background [top]

When I look around me, I see people I have known for decades who were academically great but are mentally slow today. I also see those who were physically impressive back then, today compromised in their enjoyment of future decades by their current poor health. Why did things go wrong for so many? And, what can you do in just 30 seconds every few days to make sure your future is better than theirs?

Puru-Facts & Proposition [top]

Ever since introducing Hormesis – Your Best Friend, I have made numerous references to it. Even before that, I introduced the idea of Accidental Wisdom of the Painseekers to which I also refer you often.

From those two conversations, we have the following two Puru-facts based on which I propose a powerful mental framework that is super-easy for you to put into action.

Puru-Fact #1 – if you do not expose yourself to hormetic shocks, you will neither maintain what you have (small hormetic doses) nor improve from where you are (larger hormetic doses).

Puru-Fact #2 – if you do not seek out hormetic shocks, you will not have a happy and long Healthspan

Puru’s PropositionBy developing an internal culture of reflection that keeps track of how many hormetic shocks you voluntarily put yourself through in a typical day, you increase the likelihood of a happier and more fulfilling life.

Now, let’s examine this in 2 ways:
[i] the reason for this proposition
[ii] the components of the proposition.

REASON [top]

Structure and Compulsion [top]

From the day you were born, progress came naturally in your early years. Even if you were not taught how to walk, you would have learned how to, because of genetic imprinting. (In fact, it’s best to not teach your child how to walk.) You were given food that was important for your health. You went to school and were placed in a structured weekly timetable for learning and for doing things important for your mental growth and physical development. You even enrolled and attended extra classes for sport, music or art.

When you graduated from formal education you probably had an employer or a family business whose norms you had to follow in order to receive financial rewards.

Outcomes over Time [top]

Education Years [top]

In the period until you entered employment, whether your family had to pay for your formal education and extra-curricular classes or not, the goal was personal development. Perhaps you became multilingual, learned sufficient mathematics to survive and learned to play the guitar. Whether you played a team or an individual sport you developed physically to reach peak fitness.

Economic Years [top]

Ever since you started earning financial rewards as compensation for being economically productive in the world, your days have probably been busier than when you were a student. Yes, there may have been some training you received at the start of employment and again whenever the business required you to upskill. This was not for your benefit, of course, even though you may have benefitted, but for increasing the profitability of the business. You may have benefitted from strengthening your future financial path but, broadly speaking, it was about things outside of you – money, power and, perhaps, fame too!

Atempting Work-Life-Balance? Instead, plan for Time-Optimized-Living.

Outcome Dispersion [top]

Why is it that, as the years rolled by, some adults [the outperformers] do not deteriorate fast physically and mentally? Why did the physical or mental abilities, or both, of others [the underperformers] become a small fraction of what they were at age 18? (See: Genetic Potential Fitness)

Answer – Because the underperformers did not subject themselves to appropriate hormetic shocks often enough like the outperformers do.

We all have an animal instinct to conserve energy, avoid pain and seek pleasure. When we’re wise, we will use our limited intelligence to invest in our future. You have financial investments whose returns are primarily outside you. But what you wisely do with your time for what is inside you is what will lead to a genuinely better future. [Read: The Internal-External Divide]

We do not notice the structural break

Independent Thought – Perception vs Reality [top]

Many of us think we are independent thinkers. It’s worth facing reality and appreciating to what extent you are not, to what extent relying on a system works well for you, and to what extent you should express your independent thought through action.

School [top]
During your childhood years at home and school, and during early adulthood in formal education, you had very little ability, capacity or scope for independent thought. However, net-net, your life was in a growth-and-development phase.

Religion [top]
If your religion has certain physical or mental practices, for extending your Healthspan, that you follow, for example, fasting or meditation, that’s great. The key appreciation that you should have is that you must do those even if you no longer consider yourself as being part of that faith. That would be one way of demonstrating independent thought via action. I can fast during Paryushan without being Jain, and singing in a church choir to elevate my mood does not make me Christian!

Economics [top]
After formal education, there was a stark decline in internal growth beyond developing skills to do your job better. This was true whether you became an investment banker or a medical doctor. In fact, as any medical doctor will tell you – the lifestyle during a medical residency program is biologically destructive. Sure, your brain is being exercised a lot – for the benefit of the organization – but your body receives no net-positive nurturing by that same organization.

At a physical health level, if your profession required you to be physically fit, e.g., as a military combatant or a professional boxer, only then were you taking care of your health as required by your financial sponsor. But, then again, good luck to your body and your brain if you are a boxer or anything else that involves violent physical contact with others. If you are a farmer who actually does manual labour rather than sit and operate farm machinery, then you’re in a good place.

A Solution to the Problem [top]

By keeping a rough check every so often (I recommend a daily frequency, but even weekly is fine) ask yourself “what did I do voluntarily – today or yesterday, or the week before – that pushed me into a zone of discomfort that will enhance my life in the longer-term?”

The reason you need to do this quick mental check is so that you gradually create an internal culture, an identity, that works to enhance your life. At first, like any habit, you need to stay focused and remind yourself that you need to do it. Soon enough it will become second nature. When you first tied your shoelaces, you had to think hard about it. Now you can think about anything else while you tie them. It’s become second nature. You can reach that level with the mental accounting of hormetic stresses.


Here is the proposition again:

By developing an internal culture of reflection that keeps track of how many hormetic shocks you voluntarily put yourself through in a typical day, you increase the likelihood of a happier and more fulfilling life.

And, now, let’s break it down and focus on implementable guidance from its components.

By developing… Like any good habit, start small, and with time, it will become second nature. [top]

An internal culture… What is outside you that you cannot influence in order to make things better inside you, does not really matter. The deeper your practical appreciation of this, the more joyful life becomes. [top]

Of Reflection… Keeping a day-diary to write your thoughts in at the start or end of the day is a free and powerful tool that the average person around you does not use. Do not be average! [top]

That keeps track… What you do not track, you will, quite likely, never improve upon. [top]

Of how many… What you do not measure, you will, quite likely, never improve upon.

I am not suggesting that you even collect data on how many times a day you subject yourself to voluntary hormetic shocks. Instead, I want you to simply reflect on the day (or week). If you want to keep a detailed log, I encourage you to do so!

Hormetic shocks… can be in numerous ways. It can consume no extra time and need no money, e.g., a cold shower instead of a warm one. Or, it could take an investment of many minutes and money, e.g., strength training in a commercial gym. (Read why Hormesis is your Best Friend) [top]

You voluntarily put yourself through… Is pivotal and where the key distinction lies between those who have growth in all aspects of their lives and those who don’t. If you take care of your health only because, as a pilot, you have six-monthly checkups, then, once you retire, your health is likely to go downhill. I have seen this with airline pilots over the last 30 years. [top]

In a typical day… Even on the busiest days of your life, you can do something small that qualifies as voluntary hormetic stress. On other typical days, it should be easy. [top]

You increase the likelihood… The only guarantee you have in life is that it will result in death. (read: Yolo bullshit.) However, you can significantly increase the chances that you will have an awesome life if you execute my proposal. [top]

Of a happier and more fulfilling lifeEveryone has a different measure of external success – money, power, fame. Developing an internal culture of keeping a rough mental count of voluntary hormetic stresses is very likely to help you get there. And, if it doesn’t, at least you will have a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. In case you needed reminding – happiness comes from within! [top]


Poor Internal Culture [top]

A child, great academically, superb in sports, ends up in a high-flying busy career, externally makes a lot of money, does not invest internally in himself, has serious health issues in mid-life. Take your pick of health problems from depression (up there), cardiovascular disease (in the middle), erectile dysfunction (lower down) or gout (right at the bottom). He’s approaching 50 and is wondering how he will put up with pain and discomfort for the next 30 years because his money can pay for sick-care to keep him alive.

Rich Internal Culture [top]

A child, academically average, average in sports, not particularly musically gifted, had a career with no great power, fame or money. However, she continues her regular practice of music and dance, makes time for regular workouts and eats and sleeps sensibly. She continues this even now when she’s almost 90 years old and is disease-free, and an asset to her great-grandchildren.


If you have reached this point after reading through it will be clear to you what it is that you need to do for your children. In addition to executing your responsibility of grooming them for the world that they will face, remind them of the need to keep track of what independent thought and voluntary action is. Explain it from the context of beneficial stress – be it practising the violin, doing an extra 50 math questions, or walking to the mall instead of calling an Uber. And, the best way to teach, as you know in theory, and hopefully can already demonstrate, is to lead by example.



Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.


  1. Thanks Puru.
    Your articles are always insightful
    This is a good way of ensuring that one leads a fulfilling and happy life


  2. […] If you are training and never get fatigued, that’s not a good thing. You have forgotten that Hormesis is your best friend. Your ROTI is likely to be tiny. So, now fatigue is desirable! The key thing is that it is under your control. Read: Internal Culture – Voluntary Hormetic Shocks. […]


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