As a passionate student of Behavioural Science, I’m fascinated and ever curious about what drives us to be wired the way we are. Why we think and act the way we do. And to top it all, what is it about our innate tendency to resist change even when we know that it’s in our best interest.
To be fair, change can he hard. Regardless of the level and the intensity involved, whether:
- Your exams are around the corner and you’re trying to get your eyes off Netflix,
- You’ve been working with a company in one city your whole life and have now been asked to transfer to another location or;
- You’re newly-wed and need to get used to the idea of sharing your space with another human.
All 3 scenarios involve change in certain degrees. But what makes change, from building habits to life impacting transitions, so damn hard?
Time to turn to neuroscience.
The mind loves what is familiar. This explains why the idea of change causes many to feel unsettled because of the instinctive association with uncertainty and fear.
And there’s more…
Inspired by Behavioural Psychologist Donald O. Hebb, Hebbs law states: Neurons that fire together, wire together.
In other words, the repeated activation of certain thoughts, feelings and actions strengthen and reinforce the neurons to bind together. It is these powerful neuronal networks that makes behaviour hard to change.
Our habits are built using the very same science. The more you repeat an act, the deeper it becomes ingrained in our neurons and the stronger the likelihood for it to turn into a permanent pattern.
So, if you’re a late riser, it’s no surprise that getting up early feels like a mammoth task or makes your grumpy. You need to have a pretty strong reason to wake up early and send a different signal to Captain Brain.
But what if our internal wiring was playing a greater role in how we think and operate, beyond our basic habits?
Like in the case of someone who refrains from developing close relationships after experiencing betrayal in the past or a pessimist who fears to venture out after a couple of failed endeavours.
No doubt that such instances leave an imprint on memory, but what we fail to recognise is that our thoughts drive our reality. And get this, 90% of our thoughts are actually the same repetitive ones that are played day in day out, hijacking our minds.
A typical cycle involves an ongoing loop of the same thoughts, feeling the same feelings, ending up with the same experiences, and then of course wondering why we’re stuck where we are!
In fact, we string along life expecting people and situations to change, not realising we’re following the wrong direction and need to take a U turn to make a shift within because that is where change begins.
Here is how you can initiate the process of changing your inner wiring and take charge of your life today:
Challenge your thoughts– if you wondered why I didn’t say actions, it’s because of the simple fact that thoughts are the mother of everything we do in our life. Having the right thoughts will lead to the right actions. So whatever negative thoughts may be might be dominating your life , challenge them by asking, ‘Is this my best thinking? Or Is this thought in sync with the best version of me that could possibly could exist?’
This often acts as a wake-up call for your monkey mind with a message that it’s time to get its act together.
Get clear on your motive– If you’re starting to build a new habit or struggling with learning a new skill, ask yourself why it’s important to you in the first place? We underestimate the power of ‘why’ and yet this is the driving force behind our goals and greatest actions.
On a deeper level, if you’ve been wired a certain way all your life (stubborn, angry, judgmental etc) and its’ been causing you to feel frustrated and stagnant, that should be a strong enough reason for you to explore the possibility of change.
Detach from ‘Identity’: We let our past experiences and recurring thoughts define our identity- I am a procrastinator, I am a lousy speaker, I am a failure, I experienced this pain ten years ago etc. are all internal dialogues that motivate those very neurons (referred above) to stick together and hardwire us.
Notice that this is nothing but a story we entertain. A story that drives our actions giving us the Illusion that we are the victim of our circumstances and environment.
So, drop that story and make a new choice to detach yourself from your conditioning which you know is not doing you any favours. Re-create in your mind who you aspire to be and how you want to show up in the world.
In fact, take advantage of the fact that the brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. Visualize yourself how you’d potential feel with an upgraded version of you. The pride, the joy, the rush- bring it all in!
As for life impacting changes that seem daunting, channel your fear about the unknown with curiosity and excitement!
Sometimes we need to consciously break free from our past experiences that are holding us back, to prove that we are greater than our conditioning.
As Dr Joe Dispenza beautifully puts it:
“You are either defined from the memories of the past or a vision of the future”
What’s it going to be for you?
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Good post. I am facing a few of these issues as well..