It is the Tournament of Power. The battle between Goku and Jiren is raging with the highest possible stakes. The universe of the loser will be destroyed. And yet, for Goku to defeat Jiren and save his universe, he must cast such ruminations aside – they only interfere in his fighting. Instead, he must get outside of his mind and focus only on the thing in front of him. Only then will he have the power he needs. This is the mental state and transformation called Ultra Instinct. It became an instant hit with the Dragon Ball faithful, to the point that many wondered whether they could go Ultra Instinct in real life?
There’s a funny aspect about Ultra Instinct. It’s not like the previous Super Saiyan transformations, which were totally the realm of fantasy. As mentioned, Ultra Instinct is primarily a mental state, which is why Dragon Ball fans seem to love it so much. It is both the most powerful state in the series and simultaneously relatable.
The angel Whis explains the essence of Ultra Instinct early on in Dragon Ball Super:
Neither of you yet possess the necessary speed. You two are both still thinking before you move rather than just moving, and I’m afraid this habit is especially strong with you, Vegeta. All this overthinking’s limiting your fighting speed. Listen, messages only travel through your nervous system so fast. Relying on thoughts for physical action costs you precious fighting time. The end-goal for you both should be to master the ability to have each part of your body think and move independently of all other parts. I admit, this is exceedingly difficult. In fact, not even Lord Beerus has mastered this completely yet, and he’s a god, but, if you can overcome the learning curve, you’ll be able to avoid any danger, however severe.
Later in Dragon Ball Super, during the Tournament of Power, Goku gets closer and closer to the true Ultra Instinct, and Whis gives us the play-by-play:
I can feel it – not the chaos of consciousness, but the elegant purity of energy operating on impulse alone. Goku is focused only on Jiren now, or rather, on the battle itself. He’s throwing his whole body and soul into the fleeting moment of each strike, allowing the flames of his power to rage freely, unrestrained by the walls of thought, concerns for his universe, or the gap in their powers, his hesitation, his impatience, his fear. He has given them all to the fire and let them burn, so that now there is only himself, his opponent, and the fight. Soon, he will reach a realm still faster, keener, and deeper than instinct, where even that awareness will blur and fade, and beyond that…
What’s so endearing about the state of Ultra Instinct is that it reflects real life phenomena. Some people call it “getting in the zone.” Others call it a “flow state.” Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset hints at it. We know from Pre-Suasion that we can only pay attention to one thing at a time. Robert Cialdini says that the word “pay” is apt, because by shifting attention to one thing, we must necessarily take it from something else. There is an opportunity cost involved.
Circle back to Whis saying that “thinking costs you precious fighting time” and you’ll see that the fictitious Angel of the Seventh Universe is consistent with the “Godzilla of Persuasion” in our own.
Think of your own real life now. How many times have your thoughts complicated your actions? How many times has thinking actually impeded doing? If you’re a “thinking type” like Vegeta (or me), rather than a “feeling type,” you will recognize this habit as being “especially strong.”
Perhaps the most visceral example comes with “approach anxiety,” but many others abound. We “thinkers” tend to start thinking about the odds and angles, rather than just following through with our impulse and desire, increasing doubt and creating a cycle where we talk ourselves out of acting, or needlessly complicate things when we do act. Experience helps, and there are cycles where it can be better or worse, depending on how recent experiences have shaped out, but this rumination cycle never disappears completely.
The same phenomenon holds true in other activities. We tend to get caught up in thinking about the obstacles related to the things we want to do, rather than just doing them. In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams discusses how many people hesitate to start a business or the like because they fear not knowing how to do it, but in fact, the lack of information will rarely cause failure these days. I myself recently hesitated in formatting Lives of the Luminaries, because I thought it would be a pain in the ass, as I hadn’t formatted books in a while.
These things are closely related to the Excuse Demon concept I brought up years ago. Think of all the ridiculous excuses you make to yourself for not doing things you want or need to do. They can be quite bizarre indeed.
To achieve true optimization, follow the advice of Whis. You must cast all of these hesitations, excuses, and analysis into the fire and let them burn. There must be only yourself, the objective, and the motion towards it. This is how you achieve Ultra Instinct in real life. This is how life imitates the art of Dragon Ball.
As Whis said, it’s an incredibly hard mental state to achieve, particularly if you’re the strategist type, or you find it difficult to concentrate on one thing for too long. I fit both of those descriptions. So how can we get to a real life Ultra Instinct? Willpower helps, and you should use it as an initial push, but it will fail eventually.
The answer will have to be based on a system that you acquire through intense “training” and repetition. Dragon Ball emphasizes training for a reason!
You’ll also have to consciously focus on what you want to do. Maybe it’s the simple matter of telling yourself “Ultra Instinct in real life.” Such self-talk is explained in Gorilla Mindset and it’s a subtle attention shift. Getting your breathing under control when you think about the mission, particularly in those nervous situations, also helps. Meditation and/or self-hypnosis might be helpful as well, though I haven’t tried it. Remember that the mind and body are one, not separate. In real life, one follows the other.
When you inevitably get unpleasant thoughts, you should simply accept that they’re there, as opposed to desire them to be gone or try to remove them. This will paradoxically make it easier to deal with them. The pressure will lessen. This is how you “cast them into the fire and let them burn.” Similarly, don’t lament about things you have to do, but don’t necessarily want to, even if fate imposed them on you. You know they have to be done, so just do.
Experiment with what gets you closest to the ideal. Taking advantage of the human desire for consistency and the Zeigarnik Effect (the mental prioritization of incomplete tasks) will help you and make this system feel less like work.
How about rationality? Does a “real life Ultra Instinct” leave room for it?
The words of the fictionalized Alexander in The Virtues of War also come to mind:
How does one make decisions? By rationality? My tutor Aristotle could classify the world, but couldn’t find his way to the village square. One must dive deeper than reason. The Thracians of Bithynia trust no decision unless they make it drunk. They know something we don’t. A lion never makes a bad decision. Is he guided by reason? Is an eagle “rational?”
Rationality is superstition by another name.
Go deep, my friend. Touch the daimon. Do I believe in signs and omens? I believe in the Unseen. I believe in the Unmanifest, the Yet to Be. Great commanders do not temper their measures to What Is; they bring forth What May Be.
Elsewhere in the book, Alexander says that in the divine realm, where events are truly decided, Darius’ empire is already gone, it is only up to him to manifest in the material what has already happened in the ethereal.
When we look at Alexander’s career, we see that this fictitious account is nevertheless an accurate reflection of his real character. That is the real life equivalent to Ultra Instinct in Dragon Ball. He had it.
Joan of Arc was another example of someone who had the real life Ultra Instinct. What did she personify?
- An aura and distinct persona that people could believe in.
- No inhibitions.
- An implacable belief in her own success.
- The ability to completely subordinate her ego to her mission (remember, ego gets in the way of instinct, this is why Vegeta was unsuited to Ultra Instinct in Dragon Ball Super).
When you read Joan’s letters (and you will read some of them in Lives of the Luminaries), these qualities come pouring out.
The thing about Ultra Instinct in Dragon Ball is that it responds in times of need, on its own. In real life, we can look back on the careers of Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, and others you will find in Lives of the Luminaries, to see that it was their challenges that defined their ability to personify this mental state. For Goku, the challenge of Jiren was what awakened his Ultra Instinct. Let us turn again to Whis.
The Saiyan’s Spirit Bomb most likely served as the catalyst. … Most likely, Goku has used the Spirit Bomb’s energy to replenish his exhausted body, but that alone would not be sufficient to explain what we’re seeing now. It was the start, a match which lit a much greater power within. My theory is when the Spirit Bomb exploded so close to him, its tempestuous power coursed into Goku and smashed into his own energy, which was already pushing to its max. This was the collision he needed to shatter the ceiling of his power and reach an even greater potential which has always been locked within him, but he could never fully reach.
Like Goku in Dragon Ball, we all have our own baseline levels of energy, willpower, and typical capability. It’s in the face of challenges that go beyond routine that we see our true characters and power levels. Gorilla Mindset talks about the concept of mental reframing and the power of casting problems as challenges to overcome. In viewing our problems as challenges to prove our power and our worthiness of glory, we provide a further incentive for ourselves. From there, we can more easily get into the mental process of Ultra Instinct, throwing all inhibitions to the fire and just moving toward the objective – to manifest events in real life which have already taken place in the ethereal realm.
In Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich, you hear that:
We foolishly believe that our own limitations are the proper measure of limitations.
Hill would then go on to tell you to view your challenge – what you think your limitations are – as an opportunity to shatter them. Here is another choice passage:
The ether is filled with a form of universal power which ADAPTS itself to the nature of the thoughts we hold in our minds; and INFLUENCES us, in natural ways, to transmute our thoughts into their physical equivalent.
View the challenge as the energy of the Spirit Bomb in Dragon Ball Super. Let it explode and use it as the catalyst to awaken a power you never knew you had in you. It sounds romantic for sure, but everyone has experienced this phenomenon in real life more than once. Think and you’ll find numerous examples. This concept in Dragon Ball isn’t as distant from reality as you think.
So, where does rationality truly lie in relation to the real life Ultra Instinct? Rationality, Cicero and others say, is the seat of virtue, and you must keep such things in mind at the 50,000 foot level. Man’s natural capacity to reason will lead him to the best life. The surest way to glory is always to follow the dictates of reason, Louis XIV said. Furthermore, if, as the Egyptians would say, you aren’t acting in accordance with Ma’at, you will be punished later.
But we can turn back to Louis XIV for clarifying insight:
There are often troublesome occasions which may cause you to hesitate in making a decision, but once you do, and think you have seen the best course, you must take it.
This is where reason lies. Napoleon Hill goes further:
To win, you must possess DEFINITENESS OF PURPOSE, the knowledge of what one wants, and a BURNING DESIRE to possess it.
We have to consider our course, objectives, a strategy to achieve them, and contingency plans. We also need to come to grips with the nature of the problems so we can begin the process of reframing them. Even in Dragon Ball Super, Goku and his team made plans for cooperation in the Tournament of Power.
It’s in the execution of our plans that we must do as Goku did in Dragon Ball Super and “throw our whole bodies and souls into the fleeting moment of each strike.” Once we are in the execution phase, we aim for Ultra Instinct in real life, as close as we can.
You will find plenty of real life examples in Lives of the Luminaries. Alexander and Joan are only two of them.
Until then, read Stumped.
And hire me if you like this post and want me to write one like it for you.