The first time I read that my brain was plastic; I thought it was a joke. That was until I realized the author wasn’t talking about plastic as in a plate, but as in pliable. As brain imaging technology has advanced, so too has our understanding of how the brain works. One of the most significant findings has been the discovery that our brain doesn’t stop growing when our body does; that is, that it has the ability to adapt and change right up to the end of our life. This means that just because we have well established ways of processing information and responding to our environment, we are still capable of developing new and more constructive ways in the future. While a deeper understanding of neuro-plasticity is extremely relevant for people who have suffered from a stroke or other traumatic brain injury, what has piqued my interest most is its application for those of us whose brains already work perfectly well. Most days, anyway.You may find more details about this at brain scan.
Neuro-plasticity research now proves what many have long known: that you are never too old to change, and more so, that you can rewire your brain to think in ways that lead to greater happiness & success. I must admit though, my enlightened understanding about my brain’s “plasticity” has been both a help and a bother. No longer can I justify my inability to figure out how to back-up my computer with excuses like “I’m just not a technology person.” And though at times I’ve cursed my new found knowledge about my brain’s ability to master skills that have long eluded me, develop healthier habits, and learn new ways of responding to environmental triggers, ultimately this knowledge has been extremely valuable. I now know that the old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is really just a false and convenient belief that spares us from the effort involved in learning new tricks – like backing up my computer!
Last week I attended a coaching conference where Dr. Jeffry Schwartz, UCLA Professor of Psychiatry and author of You Are Not Your Brain, spoke about his research findings on neuro-plasticity. What he shared reinforced my understanding and confirmed what I intuitively knew and wrote about in my book. Which is, that by intentionally choosing to view your environment in new ways, rewrite your personal narrative, and step into action in the presence of your fears, you become more competent in whatever those actions may be, but also build your “courage muscles” so you can respond more effectively in other areas of your life. Whether in the conversations you have with your work colleagues, your confidence in asserting boundaries in your personal life, or your willingness to take on goals that you’ve previously shied away from, by practicing new ways of interacting in your environment, you are able to build new pathways in your brain and produce new (and better) results in your life.