What if your brain was a programmable computer? This isn’t some crazy sci-fi stuff. This is reality.
The first week of our post-summer schedule is officially under our belt. For many of us, the kids are back in school, clocks and routines are back in their place of prominence and the end of the year is no longer an undefinable picture rather a much clearer inevitable reality. Now, some of us are quite excited by this and some of us are lamenting quite vigorously that which comes every single year ...every single year Labour Day arrives regardless of our reaction to it. And the question I am encouraging you to ask yourself is, does my reaction to my current reality help me, propel me, hurt me or hinder me?
Quite a few years ago I was encouraged to read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, by my personal trainer, Brent Bishop. It will definitely go down as one of the top 10 books that influenced me the most. It was during the digestion of Tolle’s words that I realized that our brain is not who we are, rather the computer that we are responsible for programming. In other words, we are not our automatic thoughts. Can I get an “Amen!!!!!”? Phew, because let’s be honest, some of my thoughts could get me in a whole heap of trouble. (And that is saying a lot as I am one of this century’s biggest proponents of honest conversation.) So, even though many of my thoughts seemingly come out of nowhere, I have the ability to pick new thoughts?! What Tolle’s words taught me was my brain (and yours!) is really just like one gigantic computer. And computers are programmable. And once I got this concept through my head I realized pretty quickly that with this new superhero power of computer programmer, if my thoughts weren’t supportive I could in fact code new, more helpful thoughts. Oh my God, can you hear the chorus of angels? Can you? Because the harps are going full throttle. You can’t hear them yet? Ok, let me try again. If you are not limited to your automatic thoughts - you know the ones: this is hard; it’s awful that summer is over; we don’t have enough money; I don’t know how to do this; my team will let me down; this economic environment makes it impossible to hit target; the board will think this idea is stupid...ok I will stop now, but trust me I could keep going…if you are not limited to your automatic thoughts and you can actually CHOOSE thoughts and therefore CHOOSE a mindset that is more helpful to your desired destination, LIFE IS ABOUT TO GET A WHOLE LOT EASIER! 💣
And this is science people. Neuroscience to be specific.* I realize I am taking a highly complex theory used to treat everything from anxiety and depression to sufferers of OCD and compressing it into a blog post. While I am grateful that most of us are not diagnosed with a mental illness I have noticed a trend to the negative, to a glass half empty attitude, whether it be the news, entertainment programming or our personal dialogue. If you don’t believe me spend 30 seconds on Facebook. And this unfettered, often unconscious negative programming makes life heavy, difficult and joy-sucking. All it takes to make the hard take a left turn to Easy Town is practicing your programming skills. More often than not, at some point in the coaching journey I will look my client in the eye and recommend a meditative practice. That eye roll you just did is the exact reaction I get from my clients. There seems to be a resistance to sitting in stillness. But it is in stillness that we can first notice the dialogue running through our head. Taking just a few minutes - literally just a few - will allow us to implement this three-pronged approach:
1) Acknowledge what is. I’m not advocating a sense of denial, rather simply notice if the automatic program running amuck in your mind is serving you and your goals or hindering you.
2) Articulate a new, more positive, more helpful thought. In the very moment you do this you are beginning to change your mindset.
3) In this new mindset choose an action. With your mind almost free of negativity choose the actions you are going to take to keep it that way.
And just like that, you have become a computer programmer with the ability to program the most powerful computer in the world - your brain! And just like that, well let’s be honest, with a little practice, those year-end goals you have set for yourself will be realized.
* The Brain that Changes Itself - Norman Doidge M.D.
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life - Daniel G. Amen M.D.