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Is it possible to change the way I think?

This is a frequent question we ask ourselves when we’re feeling stuck. Don’t fret or feel immobilized. In fact, feel optimistic. Asking this question is usually what comes before we get serious about real change. What’s important to know is that the human brain isn’t a static organ. It’s unbelievably interactive with everything outside of it. Any time you’ve traveled to a new place, tried a new recipe, met a new person… Your brain had to modify itself, adapt, lay down new neural paths. All learning is based on changing the brain and it doesn’t stop because we age. So the answer is a resounding YES, we can change how we think.

One problem…

The brain has its own agenda. It doesn’t like to change unless it’s important to do so. It takes work and resources to change, and like a good work-out, can feel exhausting. It would rather change the world around it or keep things the same. It’s not sitting in our cranium always hungry to learn unless we (and we are our brain) consciously give it permission and push it forward. Otherwise, its default setting is to keep everything steady and familiar, even trimming reality a bit here and there to fit its view of things. As we enter adulthood, we tend to trim more and more. In other words, we cut reality out along with squeezing things to fit current ways of thinking. That’s why it seems hard to reverse course and let our brains adapt to what’s new. The great psychologist Jean Piaget had a name for this. He called it accommodation. We don’t like accommodating our brains to brand new ways of seeing the world. Some of us even do more than avoid it – we fear it.

So accept the fact that learning is uncomfortable, even hard at times, but we should welcome and not resist that feeling. It means we’re thinking differently. We’re growing. getting better. When we allow ourselves to change our thinking, behavior will soon follow. Better viewpoint leads to more positive, optimistic actions. We’re more likely to get out of our ruts, stay healthy, and have better interactions with children, spouses, family, and friends.


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