“What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The ancient Greeks had the saying, “Know thyself,” inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
In her book, A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson describes why we are reluctant towards getting to know ourselves by saying that, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is we are powerful beyond measure.”
The biggest fallacy that I read about in many self help books today is that your thoughts and dreams alone are sufficient to give you the results that you want. As you will see from the neuroscientific research below, these half truths are very dangerous and can often lead to unexpected failures.
The real secret is that your thoughts are simply neurons in your brain that are wired together and fire together. Therefore, any thought by itself is nothing more than an electrical or chemical response caused by your neuronal network. However, which thoughts you decide to focus your attention on will determine your actions and have an impact on your results.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Let’s look at the Mind…
When we think about our brain, all of us immediately focus on our head. For most people the brain simply consists of what you are thinking, or your conscious thoughts. Rarely do you even give a second thought to your unconscious brain acting as the Command Center for your bodily functions and habits. Furthermore, as your conscious brain is constantly flooded by external sensory data and internal messages from your unconscious mind, your conscious thoughts are normally focused on what you think is really important at the moment. The thousands of other thoughts in your head simply float in and out of your consciousness without you doing anything about them – which makes sense since your neurons are simply firing together causing those thoughts.
As everyone is familiar with the brain in the head, let’s begin your study of the mind here. In his book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Dr. Daniel Siegel gives a very easy to understand visual of your brain:
If you put your thumb in the middle of your palm and then curl your fingers over the top, you’ll have a pretty handy model of the brain….The face of the person is in front of the knuckles, the back of the head toward the back of your hand. Your wrist represents the spinal cord, rising from your backbone, upon which the brain sits. If you lift up your fingers and raise your thumb, you’ll see the inner brainstem represented in your palm. Place your thumb back down and you’ll see the approximate location of the limbic area…Now curl your fingers back over the top, and your cortex is in place.
These three regions – the brainstem, the limbic area, and the cortex – comprise what has been called the “triune” brain…Since they are distributed bottom to top ….we could call this vertical integration…. The brain is also divided into two halves, left and right, so neural integration must also involve linking the functions of the two sides of the brain.
Dr. Joe Dispenza gives a quick overview of our triune brain in his book, of Being Yourself: How to Lose your Mind and Create a New One:
Our “thinking brain” is the neocortex, the brain’s walnut-like outer covering. Humanity’s newest, most advanced neurological hardware, the neocortex is the seat of the conscious mind, our identity, and other higher brain functions…
Essentially, the neocortex is the brain’s architect or designer. It allows you to learn, remember, reason, analyze, plan, create, speculate on possibilities, invent, and communicate. Since this area is where you log sensory data such as what you see and hear, the neocortex plugs you into external reality.
In general, the neocortex processes knowledge and experience. First, you gather knowledge in the form of facts or semantic information (philosophical or theoretical concepts or ideas that you learn intellectually), prompting the neocortex to add new synaptic connections and circuits.
Second, once you decide to personalize or apply knowledge you have acquired – to demonstrate what you learned – you will invariably create a new experience. This causes patterns of neurons called neural networks to form in the neocortex. These networks reinforce the circuitry of what you learned intellectually.
If the neocortex had a motto, it might be: Knowledge is for the Mind.
The limbic brain (also known as the mammalian brain) is located under the neocortex….Just think of the limbic brain as the “chemical brain” or the “emotional brain.”
…the emotional brain manufactures and releases chemicals in the form of peptides. This chemical cocktail has a specific signature that reflects the emotions you are experiencing in the moment. As you now know, emotions are the end products of experience; a new experience creates a new emotion (which signals new genes in new ways). These emotions signal the body to record the event chemically, and you begin to embody what you are learning.
In the process, the limbic brain assists in forming long term memories: you can remember any experience better because you can recall how you felt emotionally while the event was occurring….
If the limbic brain had a motto, it might be: Experience is for the body.
The most active part of the brain, the cerebellum is located at the back of the skull. Think of it as the brain’s microprocessor and memory center.
The cerebellum stores certain types of simple actions and skills, along with hardwired attitudes, emotional reactions, repeated actions, habits, conditioned behaviors, and unconscious reflexes and skills that we have mastered and memorized. Possessing amazing memory storage, it easily downloads various forms of learned information into programmed states of mind and body.
The cerebellum is the site of nondeclarative memories, meaning that you’ve done or practiced something so many times that it becomes second nature and you don’t have to think about it; it’s become so automatic that it’s hard to declare or describe how you do it. When that happens, you will arrive at a point when happiness (or whatever attitude, behavior, skill, or trait you’ve been focusing on and rehearsing mentally or physically) will become an innately memorized program of the new self.
In an essay entitled, The Unconscious Mind, John R. Tkach, M.D. and Edgar A. Barnett, M.D. propose a new way of thinking about the mind and how it functions: (http://www.bozemanskinclinic.com/rrp/unconscious-mind.php)
These authors suggest that we have three parts to our mind’s consciousness and functions.
- Conscious Thinking (5%)
- Unconscious Physiologic Brain Functions (25%)
- Unconscious Thinking (70%)
Therefore, your conscious thoughts reflect only 5% of what goes on in your mind. Whether or not these percentages are accurate, neuroscience is definitely changing our perception of the mind since potentially up to 95% of what your mind does is unconscious; that is, you are not consciously aware of it.
So here our your tasks for observing your thoughts in your head brain…
1) You must differentiate your thoughts based upon language. Thoughts based on language come from your conscious mind, and more specifically – your cortex. Due to the high volume of stimulus that your mind encounters from your external surroundings and your own internal neurons firing random thoughts, take a few minutes at least once an hour to pay conscious attention to what thoughts your mind is focusing on and why.
2) When your brain gets messages from your senses, (ie. sight, hearing, taste, feel, and smell), it recreates an image of what this raw data represents in your mind. By itself, this mental representation is neither good or bad. However, the meaning that you attach to this stimulus will have a direct impact on your reaction – making you happy, sad, mad, indifferent, etc. Whenever you feel an emotion rushing through your body, you should be aware that this is a chemical cocktail that your brain has requested based upon the meaning that you just attached to whatever happened to you. It could be as simple as a thought you had about something. Whenever you feel an emotion which you do not like, take time immediately after that negative emotion has passed to identify what cues, routines, or expectations caused that reaction.
Let’s quickly examine what I mean by cues, routines, and rewards? Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do And How To Change It, discusses how a habit loop is formed:
This process within our brain is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future…
When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically….
Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us, because it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the rights cues and rewards….
Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life. People whose basal ganglia are damaged by injury or disease often become mentally paralyzed. They have trouble performing basic activities, such as opening a door or deciding what to eat. They lose the ability to ignore insignificant details – one study, for example, found that patients with basal ganglia injuries couldn’t recognize facial expressions, including fear and disgust, because they were perpetually uncertain about which part of the face to focus on. Without our basal ganglia, we lose access to the hundreds of habits we rely on every day.
As an example of how the habit loop impacts people on a daily basis, Charles Duhigg gives the following example:
Researchers have learned that cues can be almost anything, from a visual trigger such as a candy bar or a television commercial to a certain place, a time of day, an emotion, a sequence of thoughts, or the company of particular people. Routines can be incredibly complex or fantastically simple…Rewards can range from food or drugs that cause physical sensations to emotional payoffs, such as feelings of pride that accompany praise or self-congratulation….
Studies indicate that families usually don’t intend to eat fast food on a regular basis. What happens is that a once a month pattern slowly becomes once a week, and then twice a week – as the cues and regards create a habit – until the kids are consuming an unhealthy amount of hamburgers and fries. When researchers at the University of North Texas and Yale tried to understand why families gradually increased their fast food consumption, they found a series of cues and rewards that most customers never knew were influencing their behaviors. They discovered the habit loop.
Every McDonald’s, for instance, looks the same – the company deliberately tries to standardize stores’ architecture and what employees say to customers, so everything is a consistent cue to trigger eating routines. The foods at some chains are specifically engineered to deliver immediate rewards – the fries, for instance, are designed to begin disintegrating the moment they hit your tongue, in order to deliver a hit of salt and grease as fast as possible, causing your pleasure centers to light up and your brain to lock in the pattern. All the better for tightening the habit loop…
3) Realize that your thoughts are not real. They are simply neurons in your brain which are wired together and fire together. Therefore, before you decide which thoughts are worth focusing your attention on, make sure that you align your thoughts, the core values that are important to you, and the outcome that you aspire to meet into a common mission.
Time to Learn the Real Secret of Your Mind…
Recent research about neurons has shown that your mind is so much more than the brain in your head. In a Scientific American article, published February 12, 2010 and entitled, Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being, Adam Hadhazy states:
“The second brain doesn’t help with the great thought processes…religion, philosophy and poetry is left to the brain in the head,” says Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, an expert in the nascent field of neurogastroenterology.
Technically known as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system, Gershon says.
We likely evolved this intricate web of nerves to perform digestion and excretion “on site,” rather than remotely from our brains through the middleman of the spinal cord. “The brain in the head doesn’t need to get its hands dirty with the messy business of digestion, which is delegated to the brain in the gut,” Gershon says. He and other researchers explain, however, that the second brain’s complexity likely cannot be interpreted through this process alone.
“The system is way too complicated to have evolved only to make sure things move out of your colon,” says Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.). For example, scientists were shocked to learn that about 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around.
The second brain informs our state of mind in other more obscure ways. “A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut,” Mayer says. Butterflies in the stomach—signaling in the gut as part of our physiological stress response, Gershon says—is but one example. Although gastrointestinal (GI) turmoil can sour one’s moods, everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above. For example, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve—a useful treatment for depression—may mimic these signals, Gershon says.
If having a second brain is not astonishing news to you, how about a third brain in your heart? In an article on the website www.heartmath.org, entitled Science of the Heart: Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance, An Overview of Research Conducted by the Institute of HeartMath, the heart brain is described as follows:
After extensive research, one of the early pioneers in neurocardiology, Dr. J. Andrew Armour, introduced the concept of a functional “heart brain” in 1991. His work revealed that the heart has a complex intrinsic nervous system that is sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a “little brain” in its own right. The heart’s brain is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells like those found in the brain proper. Its elaborate circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain – to learn, remember, and even feel and sense.
The heart’s nervous system contains around 40,000 neurons, called sensory neurites, which detect circulating hormones and neurochemicals and sense heart rate and pressure information.
Dr. Armour describes the brain and nervous system as a distributed parallel processing system consisting of separate but interacting groups of neuronal processing centers distributed throughout the body. The heart has its own intrinsic nervous system that operates and processes information independently of the brain or nervous system. This is what allows a heart transplant to work: Normally, the heart communicates with the brain via nerve fibers running through the vagus nerve and the spinal column. In a heart transplant, these nerve connections do not reconnect for an extended period of time, if at all; however, the transplanted heart is able to function in its new host through the capacity of its intact, intrinsic nervous system.
I hope that you are beginning to understand that new neuroscience discoveries are transforming our understanding of the mind-body connection significantly.
So here are the last tasks for this section…
1) Learn how to get out of your thinking mind and tap into your emotions and habits. In regard to your emotions, I suggest that you go into my blog and listen to some of the Great Legacy Songs, Great Love Songs, Great Inspiring Songs, and/or read the Great Legacy Poems. Pick your favorite song or poem and feel your emotions, think about why it is your favorite song or poem, consider the meaning of your thoughts and emotions that you are experiencing, and imagine how you can improve your life story by simply sharing your true feeling with others (we will discuss how to improve your communication skills in a later secret.)
In regard to your habits, thinks about a behaviour you would like to change and focus on how the habit loop described above applies to that behaviur. Remember that you can only change a routine when you really understand the cues and rewards attached to that behaviour. To better understand your conative mind, I strongly recommend that you take your Kolbe A Index test by clicking here.
2) It is only by becoming aware of who you are, where you are in your life journey, and why you are doing what you are doing that you awaken to the truth about yourself. A life unexamined usually fails to achieve its life purpose or leave a positive legacy. What I mean by this is that even a broken watch is right two times a day. My recommendation is stop hoping that you will be right a few times in your life and start nourishing the seed of greatness within you so that you can become the best version of you while making a difference to others. After all, your life is not a practice run but your main event in history.
As the last task in this section, buy a journal or notebook and take regular notes on different aspects of your life story over the next 30 days. Pretend that you are a reporter who is about to write an article on you. The real advantage you have over an outside reporter is that you are the director, star, and writer of your own life story so you know what you really intended to do and why. Especially focus on what is working, and not working, in your life story. Be brutally honest with yourself since you can only transform your life story by making the necessary adjustments in your thoughts, values, attitudes, and habits today so you can move in the desired direction.
A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.
Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.
An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.
What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.
They succeeded by transforming habits.
In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.
Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.
At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.
Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and pointed anecdotes, Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, service, and human dignity–principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.
The world has changed dramatically since the classic, internationally bestsellingThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was published, influencing tens of millions. The challenges and complexity we all face in our relationships, families, professional lives and communities are of an entirely new order of magnitude. In order to thrive, innovate, excel and lead in what Covey calls the new Knowledge Worker Age, we must build on and move beyond effectiveness…to greatness. Accessing the higher levels of human genius and motivation in today’s new reality requires a sea change of new thinking — a new mind-set, a new skill-set, a new tool-set — in short, a whole new habit.
This groundbreaking book, from one of the global innovators in the integration of brain science with psychotherapy, offers an extraordinary guide to the practice of “mindsight,” the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence. From anxiety to depression and feelings of shame and inadequacy, from mood swings to addictions, OCD, and traumatic memories, most of us have a mental “trap” that causes recurring conflict in our lives and relationships. Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, shows us how to use mindsight to escape these traps. Through his synthesis of a broad range of scientific research with applications to everyday life, Dr. Siegel has developed novel approaches that have helped hundreds of patients free themselves from obstacles blocking their happiness. By cultivating mindsight, all of us can effect positive, lasting changes in our brains—and our lives. A book as inspiring as it is profound, Mindsight can help us master our emotions, heal our relationships, and reach our fullest potential.