Making friends with CHANGE


Habits, Brain Changes & Brain Aging
Why your brain resists change
and how you can make it do what’s good for it – Part I

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Brain-Based Series
Collaboration with
Jodie’s Touch of Style

“A mind equipped with a wide range of
previously formed
pattern recognition devices
can withstand the effects of neuroerosion
for a long time.”

~ Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, PhD, from
The Wisdom Paradox 

About the Brain that Changes Itself

It took science a long time to agree that an old idea was not only obsolete, but completely WRONG.

Until 1970, it was generally believed that the brain might as well be carved in stone after a certain childhood window of a great deal of change.

What is practically universally accepted these days is that our brains change and grow throughout our lives.

In fact, learning anything new after a certain age would be impossible unless the brain were capable of forming new pathways, which also involves the ongoing creation of brand new brain cells (neurons) and connections (synapses).

Another way to say it

Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain’s Way of Healing and the New York Times best-seller The Brain that Changes Itself (the all-time bestselling science book in Australia) puts it this way:

Plasticity simply means that the brain can change its structure and its function depending on what it does.

And that means, depending on what we react to when we’re sensing and perceiving, our brains will “rewire” depending on the actions that we commit ourselves to, and most intriguingly, depending on what we think and imagine.

ALL of these things can change the structure of the brain.

More about Doidge here: The Brain Science Podcast Turns TEN!

HOWEVER, since the brain is, essentially, a pattern-recognition organ, most human beings kick and scream when we are forced to change. Many of us who would like to change – maybe even those of us who are eager to change – struggle still.

Change is not easy

Change requires our conscious attention to doing things differently. Consciousness is a resource-intensive process. Your brain REALLY doesn’t want to burn up those resources dealing with the same information and making the same decisions over and over again.

Brains like the easy-to-pattern-match same ole/same ole, despite the fact that it’s not particularly good for them long term.

Even though it’s a huge help to put what I like to call the treadmill tasks on autopilot (like laundry, dishes and dusting) – a practice I highly recommend – that old saw about variety turns out to be an understatement where moving through the rest of life is concerned.

Unless spices are the main ingredients in the meals at your house, you are underestimating the importance of change to healthy brain functioning over your entire lifetime.

And still, we resist

Almost ALL of us, ADD/EFD or not, have a small – perfectly “normal” – part of our personalities that balks unless a new idea or different manner of approaching a change in something familiar is totally appealing in the moment we are “supposed” to take it on.  Why?

As I began in an earlier article, Change, Growth and Decision Dilemmas, it is essential to understand a fundamental, psychological truth about all human beings, ADD/EFD or not.

We are conflicted about growth and change.

At bottom, most of us crave safety as strongly as we crave freedom and adventure, although not in equal measure at all times and about all things.

The fact remains that there is a conflicted relationship between making choices at all – and new choices in particular – and preserving the freedom to do whatever we want.  To escape the discomfort of the conflict, it is all too tempting to fall back on “the devil we know” – and so we usually do.

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