By Brian Eagar
When exploring this topic, I can’t help but think of Nelson Mandela’s journey. Being imprisoned for conspiring to overthrow the state, he could have easily resorted to aggressive behaviour and seeking retribution. Imagine that he allowed his mind to be poisoned by feelings of hate – where would we be now? If he had not taken the time to purposefully direct his thinking and change his mindset, would there have been a peaceful change process for South Africa? If it wasn’t for his deep desire to unify our nation with his love, we would not be the rainbow nation today. This is what changing thinking to change behaviour is all about.
However, it’s not only extreme people who can change and not only extreme things that need changing. Everyone is changing (either by default or by design) and to survive and thrive, we need to do so On Purpose. Whether change is imposed or initiated, it always involves adapting behaviour, which requires effort and dedication.
Behaviour is difficult to change. We often blame our DNA or our conditioning for how we show up. However, neuroscientists like Dr. Caroline Leaf, David J. Linden, David Eagleman; as well as spiritual writers such as Eckhart Tolle and Richard Leider, have proven that what really holds us back is our mindset.
You are a unique and valuable human being and therefore, a unique and valuable brand. If we want to change thinking to change behaviour and build our personal brand like Madiba did, we have to be willing to be vulnerable and truly honest with ourselves. We really have to take a look at what is inhibiting us beneath the proverbial surface.
Your brain is constantly processing messages which inflluence your perception of reality and it does so based on what is going on beneath the surface. Memories, values, beliefs, attitudes and language all play an unconscious role in how we perceive and engage with the world. This process of distilling information also has an impact on how we direct our thinking and ultimately on how we behave (good or bad). Thus, if we are unaware of what drives our thinking, we cannot change thinking nor behaviour to improve our personal brand.
The good news is that Neuroscience proves that we can indeed change our thinking, regardless of DNA or conditioning. Where it was once believed that we are born with all the potential we will ever have, neuroscience studies show that we have limitless potential to develop because of neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) and neuroplasticity (the malleability of neural circuits).
Research in neuroscience has shown that although neurogenesis slows down as we grow older, there are two parts of the adult human brain that continue to grow. These two parts of the brain impact learning and memory. The brain changes and develops all the time as we learn new things unconsciously. For example, when we go to a new country, we learn so much without even being aware of it: we learn about the food, the public transport, the language, their customs and we learn to adapt.
What is especially encouraging about the brain’s ability to keep growing is the fact that changing your thinking physically changes neural pathways. Simply put, the brain births new brain cells all the time, but to harness this source of potential to develop and address what needs to change, you have to tell these new cells where to go. You can use the new cells to build disabling or enabling pathways in your brain, depending on how you direct your thinking.
We have the ability to direct thinking in such a way that new pathways render the entrenched, debilitating pathways obsolete. The brain abandons the engrained pathways that underpin the debilitating behaviour and takes the new path you built. This consequently entrenches the behaviour we so desire.
Why should you mind?
We can all adopt a mindset that enables real change like Madiba did. No matter how you may or may not be contributing to this world at the moment, each of us has the potential to be a greater contribution to all those around us. However, if you are not intentional about unlocking and enhancing your inherent value, you are robbing yourself of a life of meaning and you are denying those around you the contribution only you can make to their lives.
Remember, to reach full potential we need to change our mindset which will change our behaviour and enhance our personal brand and our lives.
This article was first published in Premier magazine.