The Power of Programing Your Mind
I used to think that positive thinking as an avenue to success was a bogus “woo woo” type of advice. I watched The Secret. I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The Power of Positive Living by Norman Vincent Peale.
But I'm too data-driven, technical and educated in science to believe that you can program your mind, right?
To be honest, I've been kind of critical of books, movies, and even people, who claim that we can “think” our way to success. I feel like I've met too many people who WISH for things to get better, or hope things will change, and not enough people who ACT to make those things change.
In short, I'm a believer in ACTION over wishful thinking.
Over the past few weeks, I've begun to slowly come around to the idea that our minds are stronger than we think they are. I'm starting to realize that I may have missed something, and my studies of psychology and neuroscience might have left something out.
In October, I got to see John Assaraf speak in San Diego at the Thrive Conference. John has spent a good deal of his career studying the brain, how it works, and the science behind thinking our way to achieving our goals.
Here's a short synopsis.
Our brains function by connecting one neural pathway to another. The left side of our brain connects with the right side of the brain through a web of these pathways. Our fear centers connect to our logic and reasoning centers, and our personality connects to our programming.
When we experience something new, and then experience it again, and again and again, more pathways are formed, and the connection becomes stronger. Think of a rope with an increasing number of strands. The more we experience something, the stronger those neural connections, and therefore the more likely we're going to experience that thing again.
For example, the more positivity we experience, the more likely we are to see positivity in the world.
**NOTE: My neuroscience is a little rusty, sorry. I may be getting some of the details wrong, but hopefully, I'm creating a visual picture for you.
When I heard John talk, all of this “woo woo” stuff I'd heard all of my life, like wearing metal bracelets to ward off spirits (I still think that's crazy), and putting things out into the universe (a la The Secret), began to make a little more sense.
What I've come to realize is that our brains can make physical changes to our body, if we simply hold a certain belief both strongly enough and for a long enough time.
But let me go into a little more detail.
The Car Buying Experience
What kind of car do you drive?
Before you purchased that car, how many of that make and model did you see on the road?
Most people who've bought a car can remember a time before they were aware of the type of car they purchased. Then, like a light switched was tripped, after the purchase, we see that car everywhere. Just bought a red Honda, you see red Hondas.
If you've experienced this phenomenon, comment below and let me know. If you haven't, then DEFINITELY comment and let me know!
Two things are happening here.
First, Cognitive Dissonance
Our brains cannot tolerate cognitive dissonance, that is, we do not like holding two contradictory beliefs.
If we believe that the red Honda we're about to buy or just bought is the best car to buy, our brains will start picking up information that will confirm our decision. Thus we see cars like ours being driven (by people we assume are both attractive and intelligent too I'd guess). Seeing other cars like ours helps us reinforce our belief that we made a good car buying decision.
Our brains are wired to receive information it expects to receive.
If we expect the car salesman to be sleazy, then they'll likely seem sleazy, even if they're not. We bring bias into every interaction, and our brain, which has been trained to view the world a certain way, will seek out information that confirms our worldview.
As Jack Canfield wrote in his bestseller Success Principles,
We spend our whole lives becoming conditioned… because our brain expects something will happen a certain way, we often achieve exactly what we anticipate.
The Placebo Effect
Here's where things really get weird. The placebo effect shows us that our brains can literally alter how we feel and experience pain, joy, sadness and other physical sensations.
A placebo is when a doctor (or other authority) figure tells their patient (or subject) that what they're about to experience is the real thing.
Sometimes that real thing is an injection of pain medication, other times it's a pill that makes you stronger or faster. The experiment comes into play when the same doctor tells a set of patients that they're getting the real thing, but in fact, they get a saline injection or a sugar pill, neither of which will have any pain-relieving or performance-enhancing qualities.
When our brain expects a certain result, we often achieve that result, even if we don't have a technical or biological reason to do so.
There are hundreds of studies out there where a subject receives a placebo but still experiences the benefit of the actual drug they think they're getting. Our brain can manifest results it has no reason to manifest.
Like the confirmation bias from the car buying experience, our brains can (and often do) manifest the results they expect. Imagine what we could achieve if we'd just program our minds!
While The Secret may tell us that if we wish for something it will appear, I've found different results. As I mentioned before, I focus on and encourage ACTION over WISHFUL thinking.
However, what I have seen is that people who share their goals usually achieve them. (TWEET THAT!)
When we tell other people about the things we want to do and the goals we want to accomplish, the weirdest things start happening. When we program our minds, opportunities come into existence that weren't there before. Social connections come out of the woodwork to help us make progress. And, our brains start to notice things we hadn't been able to notice before.
Maybe this is our brain seeking out information that will make our goals a reality. Maybe that's why it's so important to state our goals as if they've already been achieved. And maybe that's why it's so important to for us to vividly visualize ourselves in achievement.
I've grown up very skeptical of these types of things, and my background in science didn't help. But remember, there was a time before the invention of the x-ray when seeing inside the body was pure fiction. Remember, there was a time when seeing electrical signals inside the brain was impossible.
Some of the most successful people in the world practice visualization. They use positive affirmations. They eliminate negativity. They create vision boards and write out their goals.
Maybe there's something to it.
QUESTION: Do you think it's possible to program your mind? Do you believe you can change your physical environment just by changing the way you think?