People CAN Change

Posted by Trevor on 17 May 2012 | Post a Comment

 Every day – together with the sun – God gives us a moment in which it is possible to change everything that makes us unhappy.

—-Paulo Coelho (  5/11/12)

Human beings are not static.  We might feel locked into an undesirable habit, or we might feel that we’re too old or too set in our ways to learn a new skill.  But these are limitations we place upon ourselves.  Change is possible.

“Possible” is not of course the same as “easy.”  The work of change requires commitment.  It requires repetition and activity.  But for those willing to work at it, I firmly believe that real change is attainable.

In fact, science indicates that we can actually rewire our neural networks.  It can become natural for us to create brilliant ideas, or to think more perceptively.  As late as the 1980s, it was believed that neurons wouldn’t regenerate, and that they would atrophy with age.  But newer studies show that neurons are continually born throughout adulthood – and, with work, we can build on this, as we would build any new muscle. Take the example of a 2007 Harvard University study:  Neuroscientists asked volunteers to learn and practice a five-finger piano exercise.  Every day for five days, the volunteers practiced for two hours.  When tested, it was revealed that the stretch of motor cortex devoted to these finger movements took over surrounding areas.  In other words, greater use of a particular muscle caused the brain to devote more cortical growth to it.

Interestingly, another group of volunteers was asked to merely think about practicing the piano exercise. They played the simple piece of music in their head, holding their hands still while imagining how they would move their fingers. When scientists compared the test data on the two groups, they found the region of motor cortex that controls the piano-playing fingers also expanded in the brains of volunteers who imagined playing the music. This discovery showed that mental training also had the power to change the physical structure of the brain.

So, how do we harness this?

There are of course practical steps to take toward achieving specific goals:  taking piano lessons, say, to learn how to play the piano.  But what about less tangible changes? Can we learn to think more creatively?  Can we train ourselves to be more insightful?

I believe we can.

The first step is to recognize patterns of unwanted behavior.  Any kind of change is difficult without a clear understanding of where one is starting from.  Second, we must consider the implications of changing our patterns, and then commit to changing (or keeping) them.  Change is challenging.  Remembering that just by definition, change means that we are not the same person we were before changing, we must be sure we are ready for it in our lives. Third, we train our brains, so that moments of insight and inventiveness become commonplace. You can do it by making small changes in your life.  These small changes have the potential to produce tremendously big results.  There is so much more to this, more than we have the space to devote in this environment.   Three Simple Steps will help you gain a better understanding, and give you a roadmap to help you change from the person you are to the person you want to be.

In the meantime, it’s also important to see the magic that exists in the everyday.  It’s magical when a painter turns a blank canvas into a sunset.  It’s magical when you plant a seed and it grows into a flower.  Cultivating the ability to view the world in this way is excellent training for thinking more expansively.



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