A Mind of Many Rooms ( A Spartan Life Lesson)

Spartan Life Lesson


This is a guest post by Axel Page of Shameless Pride


Close your eyes and picture a sprawling mansion.

When you think of this mansion, what comes to mind?

Rooms. Lots of rooms.

Now visualize your mind as a mansion. Think of the multiple rooms, each one serving a distinct purpose.

Most are helpful; they guide you safely through life.

Others, the rooms you seldom visit, are harmful and hold you back from successful progress. You want to avoid these rooms at all costs.

In the book Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, you are part of Spartan society around 480 B.C., the time of the second Persian invasion. The book gives a vivid (fiction) account of the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan warriors inflicted heavy damage on the Persian forces, before ultimately succumbing to annihilation. The suspense and details are incredible, and the wisdom and principles found in this book are timeless.

Spartan society was ruthless. Everything revolved around warfare. From birth, men were bred to fight. Masculinity, virtue and strength were championed above all else. Fear was regarded as dangerous, weak, and unacceptable. It had to be completely eradicated from the warrior’s mindset.

Training began in youth, and most men serviced their entire lives in the military. These boys were taught a fearless sense of being. Physical repercussions awaiting those who struggled.

Dienekes is a character in the book who is a veteran Spartan warrior; a platoon commander and well-respected member of Spartan society. He is the mentor to Alexandros, a Spartan youth who will one day be part of the formidable army. In one scene, Alexandros describes a conversation he had with Dienekes:

“Dienekes said the mind is like a house with many rooms. There are rooms one must not go into. To anticipate one’s death is one of those rooms. We must not allow ourselves even to think it.”

Later, when Dienekes was speaking directly to Alexandros:

“Remember when I told you about the house with many rooms. There are rooms we must not enter. Anger. Fear. Any passion which leads the mind toward that ‘possession’ which undoes men in war.

Habit will be your champion. When you train the mind to think one way and one way only, when you refuse to allow it to think in another, that will produce great strength in battle.”

The Spartans were taught to block out thoughts of death. To dwell on death would bring about fear and affect performance in battle. This is a room that Spartan’s always needed to avoid.

This thought process is applicable to today’s world as well.

Distractions reign supreme. It’s easy to get lost in the mind; to become unfocused and tempted by vices, wasteful activities, and poor thoughts. Most people refuse to take action because they foster a scarcity mindset; they fear the unknown and think of what can go wrong, as opposed to what can be gained. These people are living in the wrong rooms of the mind. They are mentally handcuffed.

Fear. Anxiety. Anger. Envy. Greed.

These emotions can be toxic if they become your sole focus. It’s natural to fall into negative thinking from time to time. After all, you aren’t a Spartan warrior. However, you cannot become stuck there. You must upgrade your mindset if you want to win the day.

Dienekes also discusses the importance of habit formation. Spartans dedicated a significant amount of time training the mind. Every day they worked through negative emotions, primarily, fear. Such repetition created lasting habits among the warriors.

How to Change Your Ways

What are the rooms you want to avoid? What emotions are holding you back?

Are you jealous? Fearful? Insecure? Greedy?

I call these rooms dark places. You cannot allow the mind to go to your dark places.

For one person, a dark place may be to reminisce on a failed relationship. For another, it might be fear of starting an online venture. For others, it can be simple day-to-day issues, such as anxiety over work, or anxiousness over a first date.

These negative emotions are the greatest time suck. They can cripple production. Most negative emotions attach to situations out of your control.

Let’s take fear, for instance. When deconstructed, fear seems silly. What has happened is over with, and what will come, will come. The same holds true for envy. When rationally analyzed, envy seems petty. Learn to focus internally and disregard those around you. This internal focus will lead to creative success. However, this will only be realized through a re-education process, a re-wiring of the brain.

First, focus on the present. Forget the past. Stop worrying about the future. Here and now is where we will begin.

Close your eyes and breath deeply, in and out. Long, deep breaths. Do this for ten seconds. Now, open your eyes. You should feel a sense of calmness.

Now, focus intently on your negative emotions. Think of what is holding you back. Focus hard. Now, engage the logical brain.

Ask yourself: Why am I acting this way? Why am I allowing these emotions to govern my life?

Get more specific:

  • Why do I always get angry?
  • Why does it bother me when I see someone else become successful?
  • When I think about improving my life, is there really anything to be afraid of?

Deconstruct these negative thoughts, desires, and emotions. Be logical and run through your reasonings. In most cases, you will find that you struggle to understand why you are governed by these negative emotions. When thinking about them logically you realize it’s silly to worry about things outside of your control.

This breakthrough can be overwhelming at first. You’ll feel free and loose, like a heavy chain has fallen off of your back. You’re not done, though. Now comes the redirect.

You must make sure these negative thoughts do not creep back into your mind. You must lock the door to your dark places. Like any addict or obsessive, you must focus on re-wiring your brain to no longer long for negativity and drama.

Positive mantras are vital to moving forward with a productive life. Every day, look at yourself in the mirror and verbally motivate yourself to take action.

These mantras need to be repeated daily. This is how habits are eventually formed. My mantras have a heavy dose of narcissism attached because I believe an edge helps to catapult you towards success. This edge will make sure the mind stays focused and doesn’t wander to places it should avoid

Let’s apply this to the Spartan way of life.

As Spartan boys grew to adolescents, they were taught, rather harshly, the ways of Spartan society. The main focus was complete control over mind and body.

One of the most important Spartan codes concerned the battle shield. A Spartan warrior was always required to be with his shield. More importantly, it was never to be placed on the ground. To do so was the ultimate crime of ignorance; a sin equal to that of mutiny.

The reasoning was simple; the Spartan phalanx depending entirely on teamwork and trust. Each man’s shield protected the man to his left. To lose one’s sword in battle could be tolerated. To lose one’s shield was heinous. If one couldn’t be trusted to guard his shield, how could he be trusted in battle?

The boys quickly learned to never lose sight of their shield. They were reminded daily; combining both mantra and repetition. It became part of their everyday thinking. Because of their unwavering mindset, the Spartan’s often had the upper hand in battle. They had won before swords clashed on the battlefield. The enemy was faceless; it simply didn’t matter who they faced, because their training was so advanced, so brutal. They believed themselves to be the best warriors on the battlefield. And they were.

These adolescents engaged in multiple battles, which taught them consistency. This experience made them into veterans. If they were lucky, and survived, they became masters. They were now in complete control over their fears and emotions. Their training had completely re-wired their brains. Not only were they the most physically imposing army, but also the most resilient. Their mental clarity and unshakable belief in their training and their comrades led to a dominance of that lasted hundred of years.

Bottom Line

Begin by relaxing your mind. Focus, and breathe deep.

Bring forth your demons – the negative emotions and thoughts that dominate your life. Think rationally about these hindrances.

Now put yourself in the shoes of an ancient Spartan. Understand that you have the power to change; through habit formation and repetitive action.

Your thinking can be improved. Fear will be eradicated. Anger, suppressed. Positive thinking will be achieved. You will construct mantras and repeat them daily.

As you improve, you will begin to see glimmers of success. These tiny wins will begin to multiply. You’ll now have your edge. You’ll no longer be stuck in your dark places. The rooms of your mind are now well-organized and productive. The dark rooms are locked tight, no longer pulling you down.

Breath deep again.

You have arrived.

P.S. Make sure to read Gates of Fire. This book is required reading for any man.


Axel Page runs Shameless Pride, where he writes about self-mastery and mental optimization. Check out his blog for more articles like this, and make sure to follow him on Twitter.

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