Change your brain; release your potential

by | Nov 1, 2018 | Living Money, Me, Self discovery

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Your brain can and does change.
By learning how it works and taking steps to change your brain
you can tap the unused potential in you.

You probably don’t pay too much attention to your brain. In fact, you probably take it for granted. After all, it is out of sight behind your eyes. You don’t normally feel it unless you have a headache. What little you do know about it tells you its a complex organ, difficult to understand.

Yet everything you think, do and say originates there. Your brain is you. It perpetuates your habit of making a pot of tea every morning, then only drinking half a cup. It was responsible for your terrible decision to invest your money in a ‘too good to be true’ scheme. Or, it makes you keep your money in ’safe’ cash to slowly loose its value in real terms.

Elsewhere, a part of your brain generates enthusiasm for saving money for a big treat. Unfortunately, another part indulges in regular self-sabotage by dipping into these savings for impromptu after-work get togethers. Or else one part of your brain shouts ‘My job sucks’ whilst another refuses you permission to quit. And as for those fights over money and life with your partner…

Your brain is you

It is your decisions and actions, your values and beliefs, your hopes and fears, aspirations and plans. It is a place of inner conflicts, especially over money and life. Work or play, salary or family, spend or save, guilty or gratefulness, make a fortune or make a difference? It is also the repository of your consciousness. It enables you to be aware of yourself and others and to build relationships with them.

You can do without many bits of your body. However, you would not have the ability to make choices and decisions without your highly developed brain. The willpower to prevent harm to others or delay gratification wouldn’t be there. How could you break bad habits or get into new good habits? You would not be able to set goals and make plans to achieve them.

The science of the brain

For many years scientists studied human behaviour to learn about what goes on inside our heads. After all, they couldn’t look into your head and see what was happening. Instead, they studied anomalies in human behaviour, often as a result of brain-related disease or injury. Then magnetic resonance imaging gave scientists the means to ‘see’ your live brain and measure its activity and processes.

This deep exploration of your brain, known as neuroscience, has four core elements.

  • understanding the processes in your brain and adapting your behaviour in the light of this understanding.
  • neuroplasticity and your brain’s ability to change, leading to change in your behaviour.
  • debunking false beliefs, practices, solutions, etc (of which there are many).
  • refining your ability to absorb information, process it and act on it.

Your personal development and growth will benefit from all of them. However, neuroplasticity is arguably the most important of the four. Neuroscientists now agree that your brain is ‘plastic’. It can and does change. Indeed, Paul Maclean’s 1960s triune brain model demonstrates that it has evolved throughout human history.

Your evolving brain

MacLean believed that our earliest brains consisted of only the basal ganglia. This is the reptilian brain, responsible for instinctual behaviours especially freeze, fight and flight reactions. The paleomammalian or limbic system, where motivation and emotion occurs, was the next development. The final development occurred with the evolution of the neomammalian or prefrontal cortex complex. This is where planning, language, problem solving and the higher cognitive functions of perception and self-awareness take place. It is the centre of our intelligence.

Not all scientists agree about this model. For one thing, there is evidence that the neocortex may have been around in the earliest mammals. Equally important, some birds have sophisticated cognitive and language abilities without a cerebral cortex. However, the model does provide evidence that your brain can and does change and evolve.

Having said that, neuroscience is not a panacea. For instance, understanding how your brain functions is not a substitute for taking a course to improve your skills. However, neuroscience can tell you how to maximise your learning and make the most of the course. It can, of course, also tell the trainer how best to present the course.

In conclusion

So there is real value in understanding how your brain works.  If you understand the processes going on inside your head you can work out how to change them. With that you can improve your creativity, decision making, communication and all those functions so necessary for a fulfilled life.

There is plenty of literature on this topic, some of it written for the lay person. However, neuroscience is an ongoing project. Consequently, not every scientist agrees with the next, so beware of overly rigid positions and oversimplification. A good place to start is the ‘3D-Brain’ app, developed by Cold Spring Harbour Laboratories. The basic version is free. The premium version costs only a few dollars. For this you get good descriptions of each part of the brain and links to associated research papers. It is a great place to start exploring what goes on behind your eyes.

Nick Fewings Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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