The neuroscience of change
Let’s face it: change is scary. Leaving our comfort zone for unfamiliar territory causes many of us to panic. So, we make excuses and justify it by saying, “There’s no rush. I can start my diet next week. Now is not the right time to quit smoking. I can wait.” But before you know it, next week turns into next year, and you are in the same exact place. The truth is, we have no idea what the future holds, but we won’t reach our end goal until we take the first step.
How can we break the cycle? How can we create new habits?
Much of the activity in your brain happens unconsciously and automatically. Over time, your neurons become so hard wired from your way of thinking that you have essentially programmed yourself to react or behave a certain way.
Change can only occur by introducing new ideas, and then strengthening them over time until they eventually become ingrained in your mind.
When you learn or experience something new, neurons join together to build new synaptic connections, which literally rewires you. Through your senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, you mentally record all the information within the brain’s synaptic wiring. And when you remember something, you maintain or sustain those synaptic connections. Then, that fact or idea gets stored as memory in the brain. This newly learned thought remains there until another experience either strengthens or alters it.
It’s important to understand that knowledge and experience go hand-in-hand. When you acquire knowledge, you are prepared for new experiences. This explains why the interaction between knowledge and experience creates insight and emotional maturity. Your ability to change is based on your ability to learn from experiences and then to adapt or modify your behavior in the future.
Break it down into small, measurable goals
Set practical steps to increase your chances of success. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, you can make it a goal to lose one pound each week. Over time you will notice the positive changes in your body, and as a result, your confidence will grow.
Don’t worry if you get off track from time to time. Let it go, and move forward with confidence. Remember your behavior is now. Your habits are now.
There’s one basic truth we have to face on the road to change. You see, it’s not just the lessons we learn; it’s how we incorporate those lessons into our lives.