Neuroplasticity is the term we use to indicate that the neurons in our brain, can change themselves time and again, based on our experiences, our thoughts and the situation we’re in. And that’s a hell of a survival tool.
If our brain was a static apparatus – like a computer – it would only function within certain parameters. Within an ever changing environment, that would render it obsolete in e few years. But Neuroplasticity allows us to change.
We can change, so why don’t we?
This excellent tool we have doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Change is often perceived as ‘bad’. People want to have consistency. Even for themselves. Once a point of view is declared, changing it – what would be the smart thing to do when we get new insights – seems to be ‘not done’.
The result is an ever growing array of disputes, conflicts, discussions. It’s no longer important if our viewpoint is correct or not. It seems to be so much more important to cling to our original statement. We’re even proud of the fact that we didn’t change (just listen to a politician defending his politics). In fact, when we do this, we’re defending our unwillingness to improve (change is not a danger, but an opportunity).
Neuroplasticity, we’re wired to change
What’s so strange about this rigidity we all seem to embrace, is that it’s completely contrary to our biological default. Our brain has the capacity to change at any time, regardless of age. We call this neuroplasticity. It means that we can learn new things, change our default attitudes, our thought patterns and default reactions. At least, if we want to.
It’s not even that difficult, it just takes some time and persistence. The outcome is always rewarding and the impact on our life can be huge. An still, we stick to our old selves. We complain and show of, we indicate how we would do things better or different, almost regardless of the subject we’re talking about. But when it comes to change, we’re as movable as a mountain.
The result is obvious. Who we are today, is who we will be tomorrow. We do not change, take pride in that and become more and more disconnected from reality (but do not notice it).
Why not use this power
Change is a natural, organic process. However, we’ve got the power to instigate this process ourselves, to decide how we’ll change and to create that new and better ‘us’. So allow me to challenge you. Change one thing, just one, however insignificant and see what happens.
For your first experiment, take something easy and something relevant. If – for instance – you’ve got the bad habit to interrupt people when you think you know what they’re going to say, change that. Or if you have some set opinions about any give issue, try to inform yourself in depth and reach a new and better conclusion and so on.
Why change is so hard
And still, change is hard. What makes it so hard are 3 distinct factors. First, as we’ve said before, it takes time and persistence (a few weeks). Second, it takes energy (and we do not like to waste energy) and third, we’re hindered by our social brain. Neuroplasticity is nice, but our social behavior originates from times when change was not so fast and social stability was enforced by a subconscious feeling of permanence and consistency.
If you can overcome these 3 factors, you can change. Try it and reap the rewards.
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Article by Peter Stinckens