Positivity is a requirement for lasting change

There are no shortages of “reasons” to convince us to change something important in our lives.

We get it!

So can we finally understand that long term change comes from our brains, not from a pill or a heavy dose of shame?

 

And here’s the thing, your brain makes decisions for you all the time and usually, you have no idea it’s happening. And, all these decisions are based on one simple but important principle:  minimize danger and maximize reward.  Making what is good, even better and avoiding as much as possible any kind of threat.

Which works pretty well, until you realize the status quo, is not what you want for the rest of your life.

To put this in perspective, imagine your brain as a ship with a captain and crew.  Only your captain has two major flaws “just performing his job makes him exhausted and he can be a pushover.”  Resulting in a crew that runs the ship.  The problem with your crew though, is they don’t have the ability to plan, they can only react, so it’s impossible for them to reach a destination, without the captain.

Instead, all day, every day, the crew spends their days avoiding danger. All while finding ways to maximize anything they believe is a reward.  Now, here’s the thing, the world didn’t come with a neat instruction booklet.  To determine what is dangerous and what is rewarding, your crew relies on complex stories they wrote to make sense of the world, all based on past experiences.  And unfortunately, while these are just stories, your crew sees them as facts with a lifetime of proof.

This is what happens to many of us when we try to reach a difficult goal.

Without your PFC, it would be impossible to set a goal, plan out a strategy to reach the goal, and control your brain’s impulses.  Unfortunately, these tasks exhaust your PFC and every time your perform them it makes it harder to do the next time.  So, you have to rely on the stories the rest of your brain uses to make decisions.

That’s why it doesn’t matter how motivated you are or how dire the consequences.  Lasting lifestyle change doesn’t arrive from using stories based on shame and fear to force your brain to act.  Thoughts like:

“It’s too painful, I’m an idiot, I can’t do it, I’m too exhausted, I just don’t have the time,”

These thoughts are labeled as dangerous to your brain. Instead, call them what they are……stories, and get curious about how you can write a new one.  One that uses rewards and positive language to make small manageable changes.  Knowing that setbacks will occur and those, too, are not dangerous.

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