Garbage In, Garbage Out

19th January 2022

In computer science, Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO) is the concept that flawed, or nonsense (garbage) input produces nonsense output. Goes to figure, right? Simple to understand and comprehend? So why do we cultivate bad habits in our own lives for our mental state all the time?

You have likely come across the car and fuel analogy for your diet and energy; whereby if you put in the wrong, low-quality rubbish fuel into your car it will underperform and ultimately break down. But too often we are completely careless with what we are putting into our mind without knowing the effect it is having on us. Especially so when this garbage in is compounded over time. Scary to think about. Read on to discover tools to help improve your overall mental health.

Our subconscious brain is a stunning and highly efficient, effective, and complicated processing machine. We should not undervalue the power and the effectiveness of our subconscious brain. It drives a lot of our actions, beliefs, and behaviours even without us knowing or registering. The subconscious brain will churn what it hears and what it sees. It will run these programs all day, every day. And even when you are asleep! The subconscious brain drives and directs your thinking, then your thinking drives your expectations, then your expectations drive your output. If you can become aware and appreciate this cycle, you can begin to see how important and valuable your input is. And ultimately look to become aware and change what your input may be.


Negativity bias

Scientists believe our brain has a built-in negativity bias. This negativity bias is part of our lizard brain that has passed down from our ancestors from when they were roaming the savanna trying to survive the hostile environment and to procreate. The negativity bias shows up in a lot of ways in our modern lives:

  • In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for one negative one
  • People will work much harder to avoid losing £100 than they will to make the same amount of money
  • Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones
  • Remember the one negative throwaway comment from a stranger on social media that washes away the multiple other positive things you have done that day?

Dr. Rick Hanson has a beautiful expression for this negativity bias:

“The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones”

Based on knowing about our brain’s negativity bias, it should give you pause for thought about what you are reading, seeing, and listening to on a constant basis. Who are you following on social media? What arguments or debates do you lean into? What type of people are you surrounding yourself with? What messages are you allowing to come into your subconscious stream?

If your brain is being fuelled by these negative inputs you will develop a strong frequency bias towards the negative. Frequency bias is the concept whereby the brain starts to see and notice things a lot more regularly. Essentially you are tuning into and attracting something you have been thinking about. For example, if you are deciding to buy a certain pair of shoes, you will likely notice them on people, on adverts and around you a lot more. They are not suddenly more common, but you are attuned to them to a higher degree, and you begin to “attract” them into your life. Remember the Velcro quote above? This is what will happen with the brain. It will latch onto what is being inputted into it. So be very wary and careful about what you are feeding your mind. Negative begets negative, but the good news is that positive also begets positive.



It has been said that you are the average of the five people that you spend the most amount of time with. Take a moment and reflect who these may be? Are they people aligned with your goals and where you want to go? Or are they people that fuel and empower the negative parts of your life? These associates can be broadly put into two buckets. Are they engines or are they anchors? This is a useful framework to use when looking at the people that surround you on a constant basis whether that be at work or in your personal life.

Engines are driving you forwards, positive and motivating people. People you admire and observe their habits. People who have your best interests at heart.

Anchors, on the other hand, are those people that slow you down and break your momentum. They offer only friction regarding where you want to go and who you want to be. Take stock often about the engines and the anchors in your life and who you want to be closer to.


Environment architect

You need to become an architect of your environment. You have full control over this, and you need to curate your input to help your mind. Knowing this should be empowering. You do not need to be dictated to by the “perfect lives” of strangers on Instagram. You do not need to have the sensational news stories on morning and night. You can choose not to lean into hostile debates online that leave you feeling angry and unheard. You do not need to associate with negative people. You can choose not to fall into a Netflix binge-watching session. Rather:

  • You can decide to find a personal development audiobook or podcast to dive into rather than tuning into garbage talk radio whilst driving
  • You can remove all negative and fake influences from your social media feeds
  • You can cut out the negative people in your life, your anchors!
  • You can seek out people and mentors who will be your engines and drive you towards who you want to be
  • You can reach for the personal development book rather than falling down the YouTube rabbit hole


The muddy glass of water

When you do create your environment, and your input is of a negative nature, it is like you are pouring muddy water into a glass. This is your mind. Why would you choose to do that? Do not feel despair, it is not too late. This process can be reversed. As much as you put muddy water into your glass, you can now run clean, fresh water from the tap into the glass also. With enough time and volume, the muddy water will become diluted and replaced with clean, fresh, clear, and pure water. Surely this is a better and healthier configuration for your mind? And the beauty is you can choose to do this. You have full control over this and that now gives you a powerful tool.


Practical tips

  • You need to be aware of the streams of input you are putting into your mind on a consistent and regular basis. Check in with this often
  • Be your own architect for your positive environment
  • Seek out positive quotes, stories, inspirational people online to follow and remind yourself about
  • Use the SquashMind app daily for a new generated daily quote and a new daily check in lesson
  • You can decide your own internal narrative when you encounter a difficulty in your life – Amor Fati


Jesse Engelbrecht

Sign up to the SquashSkills newsletter

Get world class coaching tips, straight to your inbox!