TAGR and habit building

Steven Barnes
6 min readMay 30, 2024


9:35 AM


“Each breath is like a little rebirth, a renaissance that can only be celebrated if we recognize that it’s happening. “

-Cristen Rodgers.

So early Wednesday morning, Jason woke me up, twice, talking loud on his video game. So as I’d warned, I turned his internet off. When I got up later, there was some upset, as he tried to evade responsibility, and I told him that if I couldn’t trust him to protect my health, I would have to protect it myself, and that meant no internet at night. This became a painful conversation, with him feeling like I was accusing him of being a bad son.

I was certainly telling him that this behavior was non-optimal. I’d have been kinder about it, but the bottom line is protecting my life and health, and he is too oblivious of the impact of this behavior: I HAVE to maintain my boundaries.

So he was upset, very. I let him stew. If I’d gone to him, it would have been counter productive. Here’s the thing: if he comes to me to discuss things, masks off, because he is afraid of external pain I am still providing his “executive function”. HE HAS TO LEARN TO DO THIS FOR HIMSELF. If he thinks to himself: “I am a good person. I am a good son. This behavior was not in alignment with this. Therefore it was non-optimal, and hurtful. I need to apologize.” And since I’ve made it clear that apologies mean little or nothing without a plan to change the behavior, he would need to present me with a plan.

He needed to work his way through this, on his own. I watched the clock, and it took him about three hours. Every instinct tried to force me to go and comfort him, but I couldn’t do it without denying him a chance to grow. But I also didn’t threaten him. This had to be INTERNAL.

And when he finally came to me, he did have a plan to stay quiet after 2am, and I gave him big thumb’s up and smiles.

And…took the chance to hammer in THINK AND GROW RICH a little more deeply.

Remember that we start with the MAGIC formula. Map or Model, daily Action, Gratitude, Intention (goals), Congruence. The very first letter, M, asks you to find more specific “maps” for your desired results. If you want to be a writer, find some set of strategies used by a writer or writing instructor you trust, that will take you to your desired goal. Etcetera.

We were about six steps into TAGR when his two-week vacation started, so this was an excuse to refresh his memory, by applying it to THIS ISSUE.

  1. Desire. Did he WANT to be courteous, and non-disruptive? Yes. Largely for pain-avoidance reasons: not losing his internet, not gaining my disapproval.
  2. Faith. Did he have FAITH that he can do this? SHOULD do this? Yes, and when he told me, I believed him. He was…congruent. Voice, facial expression, body language, tone, all strong. Eye contact.
  3. Auto-Suggestion. If he had NOT been aligned, affirmations and incantations can be used to take his brakes off, operating within a structure of Three Gates and Three Centers, his beliefs, values, perceptions, emotions, role models and maps all aligned. But…I believed he was already there.
  4. Specialized Knowledge. Google is your friend. Research “how can I set goals and keep them?” or “Are there ways of suppressing sound during gaming?” or “I laugh too loud. How can I be more polite?” or something. Get into it.
  5. Imagination. BRAINSTORM a hundred different ideas, and let half of them be absurd and silly. Good ideas come from generating a LOT of bad ideas. That’s the rule. But he came to me with two ideas, and I wanted to praise him for that, not imply he hadn’t done enough.
  6. Organized Plans. Once he has ideas about how to change his behavior, and motivations for changing, HOW will he do it? Get that? He has the “What” (being quiet after midnight) and the WHY (to protect his father and keep his internet freedom. Be a good son.) the “How” is last, and a matter of selecting the right ideas, seeing how he can implement them, and committing.
  7. Decision. He has to make a clear, strong DECISION. Then, it stops being about me, or anything outside himself…but simply about keeping his word to himself.
  8. Persistence. That means that he will NOT quit the first time he fails. In fact, he factors failure into his process. He WILL screw up. But if he notices how and why and when, if he learns, every experiment, every day becomes a chance to learn more about the situation. Keep his eyes on the goal, take a step every day, be flexible with his BEHAVIORS while maintaining the same INTENTS…and take honest joy in the very effort. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” If he does this, then, he CANNOT LOSE.
  9. Master Mind. And this was where I stopped. The “Master Mind” principle simply says that when two or more people align in a spirit of total cooperation toward a common goal, they become a “supermind” stronger than the sum of the parts. HE COULD HAVE COME TO ME. He could have said “Dad, I don’t know how to do this. Can you help me?” and I would have jumped at the opportunity.

I walked him through those steps, and he was conscious and aware. And as my goal is to take him to being an “awake, aware, adult human male” this was wonderful. I asked him to ask me one question about this to end our session. He asked about step #10. I laughed. Of COURSE he would want that. Ten is “The miracle of sex transmutation.” Basically, the thought that the human sex drive is second ONLY to personal survival in its capacity to motivate the average person. When you realize that the biological purpose of sex is reproduction, then connecting all hunting, gathering, and nest-building behaviors into that driving motivation to have sexual connection…when your desire to earn money, or strengthen your body, or refine your communication skills, or mature, or be honorable, or ANYTHING that connects with the natural drive to mate and reproduce (even if you don’t want kids!) your motivations and energy skyrocket. I don’t know about you, but I’ve NEVER been smarter than the moments when, in dating an intelligent woman, I knew that the next words would determine whether I was going to get laid or not.

Ladies and gentlemen, it was like my mind went to a whole different level. If she was smart, and had self-respect, SHE WAS MEASURING ME AS A POTENTIAL PARTNER. That’s how the game goes. And TAGR suggests that the three “emotions of faith, love, and sex” create GENIUS. I have no argument with that. And when you stop scattering your energy in all directions, chasing nookie randomly, and work instead on the qualities of mind and body and finance that create a healthy sort of power and protective capacity, as well as creative expression….

Well, if you are doing this within the MAGIC formula at a level above a “5”, you…well, how do I put this delicately? You start getting lucky. And if you reverse engineer what I just said, you’ll understand EXACTLY how we created the SOULMATE PROCESS, and why we are confident in it.

Anyway…Wow. That’s a lot, and I hope it was useful to him. And to you. Certainly helped me clarify my thoughts on the matter. And if they help my boy…that’s all I can ask.



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Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.