“Once you find your optimum level of arousal, your performance will be both flawless and enjoyable.” -PsychologyToday.com
1. What is the Arousal Plan?
The Arousal Plan is a daily 10-week program delivered through 70 daily emails (E-rousals) that help you optimize your Arousal, get motivated, and achieve your goals. It takes 70 days to complete, and each day contains information, inspirations, and activities relevant to learning about and optimizing your Arousal so you feel more excited about life. There are also daily online Arousal Forms that you fill out as you make your journey through the Arousal Discovery Process. Thus, in the end, you’ll have an online Arousal File that you can refer to when you’re finished.
2. How is the Arousal Plan structured?
In the first week, you learn all about the thrilling new science of Arousal and what it’s telling us about motivation. This science is based on what I call the Three A’s – physical Activity, mental Alertness, and emotional Availability. The more of these three elements you have in the different aspects of your life, the more optimized your Arousal will be, and so the more motivated you’ll feel to achieve your goals. Then, for the next eight weeks, each week is dedicated to one Pillar: Exercise, Food, Clothing, Living Space, Sex & Love, Work & Money, Culture, and Power Project. The Plan helps you optimize the Three A’s in these 8 Pillars through daily inspirations and activities. Then, after the concluding week, you’re all ready to move forward with your Arousal-optimized life!
3. What do you mean by “the thrilling new science of Arousal”?
Just in the last decade researchers like Dr. Donald Pfaff, Head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior at Rockefeller University, have discovered amazing things about how Arousal is THE key element in human motivation. As Dr. Pfaff says, Arousal is “an energy source for all behavior.” It emerges out of the Arousal System, a “primitive neuronal system [that] throbs in our brainstem, activating our brains and behaviors.” The Arousal System is made up of the reticular activating system, the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system, all pouring out the vital chemicals – the natural drugs – we need to think, feel and act: acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These chemicals – called “the happiness neurotransmitters” by psychologist Julia Ross – provide us with sensory alertness, mobility, and a readiness to respond. The Arousal Plan helps you tap into your Arousal System so you can optimize your Arousal.
4. Tell us more about the Three A’s.
Again, as Dr. Pfaff says, Arousal is “higher in an animal or human being who is: more alert to sensory stimuli of all sorts, and more motorically active, and more reactive emotionally.” I’ve taken these clinical findings and formulated them into something applicable to our every day lives. The more physically Active, mentally Alert, and emotionally Available you are, the more your Arousal will be optimized and the readier you’ll be to take on life’s challenges and get something great out of them.
5. How does this all link up with sexual Arousal?
I would say they’re just different expressions of the same drive. We think of sexual Arousal as being horny or hot, but really that’s just one manifestation of your deeper Arousal System. Fact is, when you’re horny or hot, you are more physically active, mentally alert, and emotionally available than when you’re not. So the fifth day of every week in the Arousal Plan is about hooking into your sexual arousal via the Arousal System so you can make the most of this important force.
6. Do your experiences as the Naked Therapist inform the book?
Very much so. I have conducted over 1,000 Naked Therapy sessions with hundreds of clients, and one theme has stuck out – the amazing Power of Arousal to transform a person’s inner and outer life. Most of the men I meet with are simply not Arousal-optimized. For example, they might have lots of physical Activity or mental Alertness in their lives, but they’re lacking emotional Availability. Or they might have lots of emotional Availability and mental Alertness, but they aren’t physically Active. In other words, their Arousal System is out of whack. So we work to get all three properly enabled in their lives. The result is that they become more Arousal-optimized and things start greatly improving for them.
7. I understand Food, Clothing, Exercise, etc., but tell me about the last Pillar: Power Project
In the Power Project Pillar, I work with the reader to really integrate everything that’s been learned over the last couple months into the development and implementation of a Power Project. This is a project that the reader undertakes in their life to give them more power. Obviously, this will be different for every reader, so the emphasis that week is on thinking about the ways in which the reader’s Arousal has been optimized thus far and bringing that into a new expression: a long-term project that creates power for him or her. It’s the ultimate ending to the entire Plan that then carries the reader into an Arousing future.
8. Tell us about the science of arousal that inspired the Arousal Plan.
Over the last ten years there has been some very exciting and ground-breaking research into one of the most important aspects of our physical and psychological life – arousal. While most people think “sexual arousal” when they hear the word, arousal is in fact something much specific than simply feeling “turned on.” New research is actually showing that arousal is:
“An energy source for all behavior” (Pfaff, D., 2005)
“The driving force behind the behaviour of all organisms” (Valdes et al., 2006).
“A fundamental requirement for high cognitive and emotional functioning” (Miron, Parkinson & Brehm, 2007).
9. So what is arousal once you separate it from the strictly sexual?
According to Pfaff (2005), Arousal is “higher in an animal or human being who is: more alert to sensory stimuli of all sorts, and more motorically active, and more reactive emotionally.” In my recent book, The Arousal Plan, I break this down into what I call the Three A’s of Arousal:
Alert – When someone is aroused, they are more aware of their surroundings, more attentive to details, and more focused on goals.
Active – When someone is aroused, they are more physically active, more full of energy, and more spacially engaged.
Available – When someone is aroused, they are more emotionally reactive, more experientially brave, and more open to novelty.
In other words, to optimize your Arousal, you need to optimize the degree to which you are physically active, mentally alert, and emotionally available. Things that get in the way of this optimization decrease your Arousal, and hence your motivation and performance (and, by extension, hurt your moods). Things that promote this optimization of Arousal enhance your motivation and performance (and, again, by extension, improve your moods). They make you far more likely to succeed (because you’ll feel motivated) at whatever goal you set for yourself, and thus far likely to feel happy because you’re actually getting what you set out for.
10. Where does arousal come from?
Arousal emerges from the Arousal System, a “primitive neuronal system [that] throbs in our brainstem, activating our brains and behaviors.” This system, which lies beneath our mental functions and emotional dispositions, “governs arousal.” (Pfaff, D., 2005). It’s referred to as a “system” because it’s a hodgepodge of physiochemical elements working together: the reticular activating system, the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system, all pouring out the vital chemicals – the natural drugs – we need to think, feel and act: acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
These chemicals – called “the happiness neurotransmitters” by psychologist Julia Ross – provide us with sensory alertness, mobility, and a readiness to respond. Sound familiar? Alertness, mobility and readiness to respond are a lot like the Three A’s. By engaging in the Three A’s – physical activity, mental alertness, and emotional availability – we optimize the performance of our Arousal System. In other words, through basic actions that are familiar to us all – moving our bodies, sharpening our minds, opening our emotions – we gain access to and enhance the benefits of the core motivating force in our being: The Arousal System.
11. How is arousal linked to performance?
There are two theories as to how Arousal and performance are linked. The Drive Theory states that increased Arousal will improve performance (Movahedi, et al. 2007). However, it has been found that achieving the optimal level of Arousal is more important than just increasing arousal, since both over- and under-arousal can be problematic. Arousal optimization is known as the Inverted U Hypothesis, which states that there are different levels of arousal, and that performance is affected accordingly (Yerkes, R. M., & Dodson, J. D., 1908). Under-arousal has been linked to antisocial and criminal behavior as well as conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder (Verschuere et al., 2006). And over-arousal has been found to cause symptoms of stress (Moodie & Finnigan, 2005; Bradley, Miccoli, Escrig & Lang, 2008).
In the end, it’s important for humans to find the optimal level of Arousal for themselves, at which point “performance will be both flawless and enjoyable” (Krauss Whitbourne, S., 2011).
This means that science has finally identified what’s responsible in you for your excitement, motivation and action. We all spend billions of dollars and hours on diets, methods and plans that try to get us excited, motivated, active, and emotionally open but no matter how detailed and developed a diet, method or plan is, you have to be AROUSED by that diet, method or plan in order for it to work for you, which means it needs to connect to your Arousal System. That’s why before you do any other diet, method or plan, you need to first figure out how to optimize your Arousal through the Three A’s – physically active, mentally alert, and emotionally available.
This basically makes Arousal the “Ur-Force” in our psychological lives. Or, as Revelle and Loftus (1990) point out, “it is difficult to find an area of psychology where the construct of arousal has not played an important role.” To feel happy, to feel motivated, to feel excited, to feel alive, we need to feel aroused. It is the force you need before you try to do anything else. Increase the Three A’s in the various areas of your life and you will be on your way to optimizing your Arousal. And then, literally, you have found the secret to success.
12. Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’d just like to stress how important I think this Arousal perspective is to us today. There are so many diets and plans and methods on the market, but the only way anything is going to work for you is if you’re motivated to do it. That’s why I think of the Arousal Plan as the Ur-Method. You should optimize your Arousal before you try to do anything else, because then you’ll be ideally motivated, and thus you’ll be far more likely to actually achieve your goals! Far too many people spend years and years trying to succeed at different things, when really they just need to succeed at one thing and then everything else will fall into place: they need to optimize their Arousal As I say in the book, “in the realm of human achievement, Arousal is All.”