The Brain and Change

Last night was intense. The whole day was since it was spent preparing for a webinar for a group of growth-minded peeps. There’s so much I want to share with them and everyone about brains and how they work and the science of change.

That’s why I made a course, and then another course, and taught a bit here and there, and then created a year-long program to help people get change done FINALLY.

My first introduction to how brains work with habits and such was Charles Duhigg’s books The Power of Habit, and Smarter, Faster, Better. Seriously intriguing books and YES I suggest everyone who is interested in being human, read them. 😉

It was the gateway and once I learned somethings about how our neural pathways behave and how the brain is wired there was no going back. That’s the best thing about our brains: once they grow from new knowledge, they can’t ungrow. We can create physiological growth in our brains and neural pathways. How freakin’ cool is that?!??!

Habits are powerful things but MAN are they hard to change or create when we’re doing it for betterment and it will cause discomfort or giving something up. (It’s far easier to add something for change than to subtract – the brain doesn’t like big changes… gotta go easy and slow.)

On that my webinar I helped them connect the dots about why nearly all habit and lifestyle change programs fail people quickly. The 21 days to a new you bullshit IS BULLSHIT. It takes far longer to change or install a habit, behavior, or belief at identity level than just 21 days. That kind of change only happens around 90 days att he soonest, and even still, relapse back into old ways happens. It needs to be expected, in fact, because it’s just how humans work. If you aren’t ready to take on the relapse part of permanent change programs, don’t start.

One of the things I talked about is how awful majority culture narrative around change is.

“If it matters enough to you, you’ll find the willpower to make it happen!” Bullshit.

“You just need to commit yourself to it.” Bullshit.

“Motivation is key!” Bullshit.

“Find someone to hold you accountable.” Bullshit.

“If you can’t follow this simple plan you’re lazy and don’t deserve change.” Bullshit.

I could go on and on and on just by scrolling through what some of my friends post. And no, I don’t go slapping them with science. Can’t coach the whole world and I’m not that person. Ok, once in awhile someone posts something particularly awful and harmful and I’ll take it on, but not often.

The truth is that brains are hardwired to NOT CHANGE. It’s how we as a species have survived: change is a threat to our reptilian brain and threats are perceived as putting our survival (read: staying alive) in jeopardy. Therefore brains resist change.

And while our survival is important, we no longer have sabretooth tigers roaming the world and we’re likely not going to get eaten by walking around the block every day for movement and fresh air. But what that survival protection doesn’t get is that just because we’re alive doesn’t mean we are THRIVING and that’s the higher evolution, higher sophistication desire within us.

That damned robot brain knows that we’re still alive in this moment so even though we’re 150 lbs overweight, eating zero veggies, nutrient deficient, and spending days on the couch HEY! Still alive so something about this is working and we’re not changing.

OMG. Even though those exact things will provide a nice early death, that brain is HARD to reason with. It doesn’t have words. It only has the 4 Fs (fight, flight, freeze and f***, and that bugger is on autopilot. Ugh, what to do?!?

Well, you kinda have to sneak up on it and it’s two companion brains. You have to engage each around the same idea and get each one wanting and willing to change. Only then, once each of the brains is ready on their own terms will they work together for you to be able to begin making lasting, permanent change. And yes, there’s a science to this – it’s specific, prescriptive, and must be done completely and in the correct order.

Here’s the hardest part of the process for most people, though. Having humility.

The scientific change process is a slow one because that’s what works for brains. You have to honor the process and kill the ego that says, yeah but I can do this faster – I’ll just work a little harder at it. Nope. Doesn’t work that way and that’s tough for people to stomach.

Everyone wants a magic formula or a silver bullet to success. But the scientific methodology for lasting change IS the shortcut, just not as short as most people want it to be. But what if it just took a year to accomplish the lasting change, change you’ll never have to revisit again because it is installed at identity level? I think a year is beans compared to the many years people spin their wheels, try, fail, try again, fail again… All the time wasted and emotional turmoil that comes with continued failure.

The worst part of the merry go round people enter with poorly composed change processes like month-long kick start programs is that they DO get results initially. They think YES!!!! THIS IS THE WAY FINALLY!

[insert that Family Feud X buzzer here]

Those programs are too much too soon and because the foundational change work wasn’t done first this stuff doesn’t stick. It might last a while, but when you still have that extra 40 lbs this time next year clearly it DIDN’T WORK. Because they don’t. Because they lack the science required. Do and do and do all you want, but the actions aren’t what creates identity level change. It’s inner work that does.

I really just want to tell you that if those programs have failed you in the past, it’s not your fault.

If you’ve tried over and over even without programs, just a deep desperate desire, maybe even coupled with some books to help guide, yet you’ve still ended up back where you started – it’s not your fault.

If you’ve ever felt like “Maybe this is just the way I’m meant to be” and resigned yourself to living less than what you really want for yourself, it’s not your fault.

And you can have what you want when you get the right science.

If you think you might be interested in learning more about change science, I have a program currently open for enrollment – The Change Lab – and you’re welcome to watch this video to help explain a little bit more about it. You are also cordially invted to join my free Facebook group where we do periodic challenges and discussions about change and brains.

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