Monday, March 8, 2010

Change You Can Believe In - Part 2

Why is it that when you seriously contemplate making a change in your life, you find yourself jumping from your chair--or snapping someone's head off?

That's your "fight or flight" instinct kicking in.

Which, in turn, is a sure sign that your pre-frontal cortex is feeling a little overwhelmed. More specifically, it's due to your orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).

The OFC is a subset of the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for high-order thinking. The OFC compares your world to the maps that it has on file and whenever it perceives a difference between what's expected and what's really going on, it generates errors messages.

These messages are sent to the amygdala, which is like your own private Secret Service. It's the part of the brain that's charged with keeping you safe--and it's just paranoid enough to be good at it.

So how do you keep your brain from freaking out when it's time to deal with something new? And how do you encourage it to build new structures compatible with your new world order?

1) Focus on where you want to be, rather than on the past (which just reinforces existing neural structures) or on the change itself (which causes the OFC to make all those comparisons and start generating alarms).

Example: if you have a problem with punctuality, don't beat yourself up over being late. Instead, focus on being on time.

2) Pay attention. Lots and lots of attention. Over and over.
Neural structures are built through repetition. The first time you do something, the brain handles it as a single-use chemical message. Focusing your attention on the new thing you're trying to do or be, preferably in small increments, encourages the brain to permanently rewire itself.

Think about learning to ride a bike, drive a stick-shift, or type. Initially these tasks were challenging and frustrating, but if you keep doing them, they become effortless.

Using a combination of approaches, such as wearing two watches, setting your cellphone to warn you when you need to be somewhere and having your PC text you reminders, focuses your attention on the new behavior you're trying to learn. The actions of doing these diverse things generates the needed repetition.

3) Insight generates feelings of pleasure that calm and reduce the "fight or flight" effect.

So how do you develop insights about a change you're trying to make?

That one you have to figure out for yourself.


  1. I was waiting for a punchline there...

    ...and now I'm late for an appointment...

  2. It's funny, I could have explained this same concept through New Age Wisdom:

    Using visualization combined with positive energy will create a thought picture which eventually becomes manifested into Being.

    Thought becomes Form.

  3. Do you have any thoughts on why I can't remember where I laid down my keys and sunglasses?

  4. Interesting. I've heard that to change someone's opinion requires at least 12 exposures to a message. It probably takes more to change long-held behavior.

  5. change is more difficult as you get older..the flight part is slower:)

  6. Now I feel all challenged to be better. Damn.

  7. I'm still trying to figure out why God implied we can kill cows, pigs, and chickens and eat them, but dogs and cats have 3 aisles of food, treats and toys at the big WalMart out by the big mall.

    Even my 79 year old mother says it's a shame they can't harvest the Canadian geese and send them over to third world countries. And what about those darn coyotes?

    My brain still hurts.

  8. Oh I really liked this. I need to practice and I am going to. I tend to dwell on whats gone and not focus on what I want it to be. Good stuff!!

  9. Now, that's some food for thought! :+)


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