THE LIFE COACH SCHOOL – Episode 109
Today is, of course, SO WHAT SATURDAY. And, to be able to understand the SO WHAT – to be able to understand what I am going to do in my life right now to apply what I have learned this week – let’s review a few key principles:
- PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX is the executive functioning part of our brain. It is our most evolved part of us as humans. It’s the part of us that can think about our own thinking. It’s the part that makes us human and individuals. It serves our future selves best.
- AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS wants us to survive. It likes to be efficient. It likes to be familiar and comfortable. It is also all of the things that we’ve learned and practiced since we were children. It keeps us alive.
- PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX is slow and deliberate.
- AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS is efficient and fast.
- PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX can be used to determine which neural pathways will serve us best, and to do the work to create those neural pathways.
- AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS uses neural pathways in response to our circumstances.
There are neural pathways that, after some thoughtwork, I see are not serving me well. And there are some neural pathways that I believe would serve me very well, now and in the future, if I were able to create them in my mind. These are a few neural pathways I would like to create:
- Anytime I start to feel a negative emotion inside of me, I would like my thoughts to automatically turn to You are 100% lovable, just the way you are. You are 100% worthy, just the way you are.
- I want my mind to find the humor in situations, automatically, without the pre-frontal cortex having to search for it. I want to laugh more, as an automatic response to life.
- I want to say “yes” to the children more. I feel like my automatic response to almost any of their questions – what my mind automatically goes to without thought – is “no”. I don’t want to exert the energy to think about it. The answer is “No”. What if instead I assume the children are asking responsibly, and my automatic response is “yes”, unless I decide I need to use my pre-front cortex to reconsider.
- I’ve noticed that when I have any interaction with a particular woman I know, my first thought is, “Uh oh. Here we go.” But that is just a neural pathway I’ve created. There is no real reason for reacting to our interactions in that way. I would love for my automatic response to interactions with her to be “bless her heart” or “she is trying so hard”.
“I think that’s the best way to understand if a neural habit or neural pathway is serving you is to ask, Is it ultimately producing the result you want in your life?”
And if it isn’t, it would be a gift to my future self to abandon that neural pathway, and create a new one now that will serve me better.
How would I go about doing that?
And that is what Brooke is looking at today.
“Let’s talk about what has to happen to make something an automatic neural pathway. What do we have to do to make something a neural habit? There are two main things that have to happen. You have to learn the pathway, and then you have to repeat it.
Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. And it takes effort and energy and it’s going to be unfamiliar. Your brain will not like it because it’s unfamiliar, which will make you uncomfortable. That is just your brain going, Warning, warning, we don’t know what this is. In fact, we’re very good at the opposite of this thing.
You are going to have to pay close attention to it and then repeat it enough times. It actually can replace the neural pathway that is already there. That slow, deliberate effort consistently repeated is what makes something unconscious and effortless.
I’ve talked about this before. It’s the idea of, I know where I am and I know where I want to go and I have to be willing to be uncomfortable long enough and repeat it enough times that it becomes my new reality, that it becomes my new neural habit in my brain.
Now, a lot of people ask, How long does it take to change a habit? How long does it take until what I want to do is as effortless as what I’m already doing? That’s as long as it takes to create that new neural pathway – what matters is how many times you repeat the neural pathway in your brain by either visualizing it or literally doing it. If it’s literally doing it, it may take 28 times once a day, but if you’re visualizing it, you may be able to change it within 3 days depending on how much time you spend visualizing the new neural pathway.”
Okay, my friends. I want to try this on a small thing. I want to determine what neural pathway would serve me well – what automatic response I want to a particular circumstance, for the rest of my life – and I want to experiment on Brooke’s words.
- Determine what neural pathway is not serving me well.
- Decide what neural pathway I want instead, in detail.
- Record in journal.
- Practice that neural pathway, physically, one time every day.
- Practice that neural pathway, mentally, 10 times every day
- Record in journal.
READY?! I am really excited about this! Remember, I’m starting small while I am learning how to do this:
- I am too tired at night to floss my teeth.
- Flossing my teeth is important. I will floss my teeth every night, no matter what.
- I am considering my blog as my “journal” for my purposes in this exercise.
- Every night the next two weeks, I’ll floss my teeth. And it may be uncomfortable because my brain has responded to my AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS in the past, and simple gone to bed instead, when I’ve been too tired.
- I am going to need to create a reminder in my phone, to mentally, rehearse my new nighttime routine, ten times every day.
- Again, I will record my progress on my blog.
Now, some last words of counsel, as I embark on this challenge – to create a new neural pathway:
“One thing I want to leave you with which is really important when you’re thinking about the PRE-FRONT CORTEX and the AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS and how they work together, is that you cannot rely on yourself in the future to do what you are planning without using your PRE-FRONTAL planning mode, in detail.
First, you say to yourself, I’m going to exercise every day.
Second, you say, I’m going to go exercise tomorrow. I’m going to go at 5:00 right after work. Details, right?
Third, you plan on what your AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS is going to say and do in that moment, at 5:00pm. You can’t reopen the decision at that point because your automatic brain will win and you will go home. The decision has to be made the day before and then it has to be non-negotiable once you get there. Because in that moment, again, you will want to be efficient, and your PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX will give up very easily. But if you’ve created a non-negotiable situation and anticipated what will happen with your AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS, then you will have an answer for what it’s saying, and you will go work out.
The way that you do this is you think about what will my neural pathways be firing at that moment? I’m too tired. It’s not going to make a difference anyway. There’s too much traffic. Anticipate those automatic familiar thoughts.
This is true for anything you want in your life. You have to use your PRE-FRONTAL CORTEX to plan what you want, but you also have to anticipate what your AUTOMATIC CONSCIOUSNESS will give you in that moment. Recognize your brain for what it’s programmed to do. Anticipate the chatter.
Then use your highest executive brain functioning to design your life instead of letting your automatic lower brain functioning decide for you in the moment.”