Most people experience difficulty when attempting to make sustainable changes in their lives. This is due to the strength of prior brain programming. Your brain has stored virtually all memorable, important and emotionally charged experiences from childhood to the present moment. This existing programming drives behavior when you need to interpret and respond to life challenges.
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s potential and capacity to continuously grow, adapt and change. It is impractical and virtually impossible to erase prior memories and strong patterns of behavior. The only way you can make big changes in the ways you think and act is to build new and more powerful programs to transcend prior programming that no longer serves you.
A common pitfall that thwarts most people’s success in keeping their “New Year’s resolutions” is their focus on what they want to change rather than focusing on new desired outcomes. The process for sustainable change can be accelerated easily by using these practical neuroscience methods:
- Clear focus on what you want. If you have difficulty defining your desired outcomes, start by describing your current situation. As an example, “I am depressed about my health situation, low energy, and cranky attitude about life.” Then reverse the words and ideas into an ideal version of what you really want. This might look like, “I am trim and slim; I have energy to do whatever I want; I have a positive mental attitude.” Establish goals like, “I weigh xxx pounds; I can run a mile in x minutes; I ride a bike xx miles; people compliment my appearance and want to know how I did it.”
- Link behaviors to outcomes. Make comprehensive lists of the behaviors and actions associated with each desired outcome. Use visual images of your desired behaviors from magazines or the internet. Create a “storyboard” and “mind map.” For the example above, your new behaviors might include “taking a 20 minute walk each day; going to a health club 3 times a week; journaling each day, eating 4 small and healthy meals every day; getting a check-up from a trusted holistic health practitioner, taking 15 minutes a day to do something relaxing and fun; being less judgmental; reading positive affirmations.”
- Practice, practice, practice. World-class athletes often practice technique in their mind’s-eye before they actually move into physical action. Imagine doing all the behaviors you have listed. Use all your senses of how the behaviors feel, look and sound. Read your desired outcomes and behaviors while looking at your visual images; a storyboard or slide show is a great way to do this. You are building new and powerful neural networks during this easy and fun process. Repetition is the key. It’s best to do these exercises for about 10 minutes just before or after sleep. These are times when your brain is in a less active mode, called the Alpha state. This state is ideal for learning, memorization and deeply embedding new knowledge and behaviors.
Trust the power of your brain. The above process is an “inside game” that only you can play. 10-minute “practice sessions” upon arising and before going to bed are all that is needed. A mid-day break in a quiet place for another 10 minutes will move you along more quickly. Soon, you will be startled to find yourself implementing the actual practices and behaviors in your daily life. This will come about naturally without exerting willpower or feeling a sense of sacrifice; it’s like being on “auto-pilot.” Experiencing the meeting of your inner and outer worlds is exciting and fun. Continue doing the inner-world practice along with your outer-world practices until you reach your desired outcomes and goals. If you have a temporary relapse, review and fine-tune your inner-world process, then restart your mind’s eye practice. Anyone willing to implement this easy and safe practical neuroscience process to improve quality of life can succeed at making sustainable life changes.
- Why It’s So Hard to Change (brainpathways.net)
- An Inside View of How and Why People are Different (brainpathways.net)