Changing Your Mind
Why We Don’t Change + The Scientific Reality That So Often Defeats Us
I’ve always deconstructed a ‘thing’ to figure out how the thing works. It’s been a preoccupation throughout my life. I’ve applied it in business as well — take a challenge then explode all the bits. It means I can understand it — modify it — then put it all back together again — hopefully better.
This works most of the time— until it comes to human beings. You can’t take a screwdriver and dismantle them. You can’t immediately get the same access to their bits and pieces. And that makes it tough to increase performance — it’s certainly not immediate or easy – but it is possible.
A 21st Century Situation Report
Being alive nowadays involves swimming through shark filled rapids with your head on fire. A roiling angry confusion of ironies, paradoxes, conundrums and dilemmas. Add to that no clear idea what’s real. We can easily be forgiven for feeling that the world isn’t working.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
A phrase we hear a lot these days. So much of what we see and hear doesn’t add up any more. I can’t remember the last time I met anyone who argues otherwise – I accept I’m in a bubble – but it’s a pretty big one.
“For most people who are caught in the addiction-loop of consuming low-quality information, it will take years to transform their brains into a state where they can truly think clearly and powerfully. It will take years of consistent positive decisions and calculated inputs to develop the thinking and decision-making capacity they are capable of.” – Benjamin P. Harvey
Whether in business, politically, globally or just in discussion with someone over coffee — it’s got a lot harder to fathom a way out of this mess. So, instead of remaining one of the horde confused by this I decided it was time to find out what’s behind the phenomena. I appear to have arrived at a foolproof scientific answer to the root cause of my frustration.
My First Insight
We’ve become used, when things don’t compute, to check the computer. We go and test the fundamental routines. Is it switched on? Is it plugged in? Does it need an upgrade? Has it run out of memory?
I know many people who won’t get that far and the computer will get thrown in the cupboard or the trash.
Hardware, Software — Wetware
In the case of the phenomena I describe the root cause is a little more complex. It’s our brains that are the problem. For a long time I’ve assumed that we aren’t using them.
Now I understand they are using us.
Full disclosure — I don’t know many people who know how computers really work. And until recently I didn’t know much about how our brains worked either. It’s a new science. The MRI (1977) and fMRI (1990) scanners were invented – and before that our brain functions were literally a black hole. The fMRI measures/shows us the actual functioning of the brain. Hence the f.
Overcoming The Cliches
We tend to talk about the issue (and the people who frustrate us) using well worn cliches – and convenient chunk. That makes us blind to what’s being said. We do this all the time and it’s part maddening and part symptomatic. How we crudely chunk subtlety into word patterns that hinder our futures is alarming – it has the potential to undo us as a species.
“She’s not open. His mindset is all wrong. Forget it she’s too old to change you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. He can’t get his mind around it. She just keeps doing what everyone knows doesn’t work. You will never change this place — everyone is completely set in their ways…”
While all these cliches are readily observable they are not actually true (or if they are) fixed forever. The fact is that learning and relearning is human biology and nature. And by understanding it we can do so much — and change so much more.
The Incredible Journey Through Sleep:
If you have any doubt of the incredible technology of our brains then read this.
Understand The Idea Of Potentiation
OK, this may sound a bit academic but it is a fundamental dimension if we are to understand how to change.
In neuroscience, long-term potentiation (LTP) is a persistent strengthening of synapses based on recent patterns of activity. Thats what makes us say and do what we always say and do. (Good or bad learning or memory)
It is one of several phenomena underlying synaptic plasticity, the ability of chemical synapses to change their strength. As memories are thought to be encoded by modification of synaptic strength, LTP is widely considered one of the major cellular mechanisms that underlies learning and memory.
We Are What We Experience
Once we realise that as we look around and listen to input (news for example) or each other we are firing neurons on our brains — they get stimulated by the senses. Because we grow older — unless we experience stimulus to the contrary we believe and behave as a result of these historic stimuli (our experiences). These stimulated neurons start to harden into fixed neural pathways and over time become difficult but not impossible to defeat.
We can’t dismantle them but luckily (because we have a 100 Billion of them) we can set up whole new ones with very different behaviours and beliefs. We have to understand what stimulates our brains and how we can improve ourselves if we wish to progress.
We can be different and do better — it’s the primal need we all have — to survive and be rewarded as human beings.
Change Your Mind.
We have a 100 Billion neurons in our brains. We use them every second of every day. Along with a few other things they form our thoughts — they inform everything we do. They are the fundamental mechanisms through which we think. The brain’s primary building blocks start with the brain cells known as neurons.
Then there’s the chemicals — the opiods, the endorphines and the oxytocisn. There’s the synapses, the ‘axons’ and the ‘dentrites’ between which all the actions take place — that’s the synaptic gap — now believed to hold the key to everything we learn and the challenges we face.
The brain is 2% of the body’s mass but it takes 25% of all the power the body consumes. The synapses, where all the action takes place that we care about here number about 100 Trillion. We have about 5.8 million kilometres of nerves wrapped up in there. The brain has two roles — to protect us from threats and to seek reward.
There are three key and interrelated elements of the brain that are important to understand if we are to alter performance:
1. Neuroplasticity — Which explains Structure, Pathways and Connection
2, Chemistry (Level & Flow) this includes the hormones and the neurotransmitters and …
3. Waves — They deal with the frequency, the neurofeedback, our thoughts and our self awareness.
The synapses connect one neuron to another and are thus through these interactions are responsible for every thought, memory or movement.
Chemical processes in the brain send out messages through the neurons that determine the mental processes along with thinking. Cells called ‘glia’ exist between the neurons in the brain.
What passes through them builds what get called ‘neural pathways’. They become the ‘main roads’ that govern our behaviours and beliefs. It may all sound a bit technical but quite profound when you think about it. It’s critical to understand it if we want to change anything.
Anything at all.
In a business the existing neural pathways exist in the minds of individuals, not just the leaders. And they all represent possible roadblocks for change and transformation.
The Devil Is In The Belief System
Beliefs start to form as stimulus fires up our neurons — this happens in our sensory memory. They start to develop into patterns (behaviours) in our working memory and then form habits because they become consigned to our long term memory.
To change anyone we have to make new memories, behaviours and habits. The only way to do this is through new stimulus and reward. Only then can we create new neural pathways.
In our work we deliberately use visual techniques to make this change happen. It happens more rapidly and through repetition – it’s more likely to stick. We make the discovery and learning of possibilities much more relevant to the situation, more interesting, more visual, less boring, more relevant and so on to get to long term potentiation — creating the anchors for recall.
Creating new neural paths and eventually permanent (new) brain structures — effectively this means creating the new behaviours by making what’s the new potential real!
Long Live Plasticity!
Neuron plasticity is infinite and can cause anyone to change. Neurons are believed to die — but new neurons get created every day. The extent to which new neurons are generated in the brain is a controversial subject — even among neuroscientists*.
* Although the majority of neurons are already present in our brains by the time we are born, there is evidence to support that neurogenesis (the scientific word for the birth of neurons) is a lifelong process.
Creating new neural pathways through new Frameworks for thought allows us to establish new ideas — different thoughts and trigger new ideas causing new pathways that are in turn our new habits. The more we can stimulate this through visuals the faster we can achieve meaningful change as a result of fresh and more valid reprogramming and reward.
Long Live Persistence!
Constant reinforcement of all this stimulation sustains transformation. Because this is wholly based on new and directed conversation the recipient is encouraged to see differently and experience the opportunity to make better choices. This rewards them on many levels as they will literally expand their perspectives and allow them to see far more than they currently may think.
Creating new thoughts, that are owned by everyone, using their own words and language is the most powerful platform I know upon which to stimulate and then build new neural pathways.
Working in a visually and stimulating way such as this is a very fast route to the fresh ideas and thinking we need. That means multiple opportunities to exceed + boost expectations in unexpected ways. This very act creates the reward our brains need and that results in higher motivation.
It’s desirable to arrange for overachievement by setting realistic visual constructs that the process is guaranteed to exceed.
This will reward the brain + change neural pathways faster.
Getting A Little More Technical:
The frontal lobe — this is located right behind our foreheads. It’s this section of the brain that’s responsible (among many other actions) for higher-level thinking skills. It’s where calculations are processed, decisions are made, and critical thinking tasks are harnessed.
The temporal lobes — these are located on either side of our head, just above the ears and these bits of our brain hold our memory.
The parietal lobes — this is the part that’s running along the top of the head, on both the right and left sides, these structures provide the body the feedback for pain, pressure, and touch.
The occipital lobe — this bit is to be found at the back of the head. It occupies 20% of the brain’s overall capacity. This bit is responsible for vision and the ability to visualize scenes. Often these can be scenes never actually witnessed before. The occipital lobe, among others, is highly engaged when a child reads a story in which there are no pictures, only words to foster the imagination of the book’s events.
Imagine seeing a dozen pictures flash by in a fraction of a second. You might think it would be impossible to identify any images you see for such a short time. However, a team of neuroscientists from MIT has found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds — the first evidence of such rapid processing speed.