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There’s a well-known, but somewhat surprising phenomenon that occurs when people face disaster in their lives… they find it easier to make substantial, life changes.  

There’s a biological reason for this. See, actions (habits, traditions, behaviors, etc.), at their most fundamental level are simply physical pathways formed between neurons in your brain.

In order to perform an action, your neurons have to change – sometimes they change their structure, sometimes reach out and make new connections, sometimes they change the signals made with existing connections, etc. But once a pathway is created that produces the desired reactions, that pathway is a physical manifestation, or representation of that action.

The more you repeat that action, the stronger those pathways become (increased connection ratios, redundant connections, better chemical flow, etc.).

To change a behavior, means that when the electrical flow (or the sequence of events that lead up to that action) reaches a certain point, you’ve got to demand an intervention in this pre-established neural pathway. You have to force your brain to reach out and create new connections, to change itself structurally. This requires enormous discipline, and dedication, because your brain is highly adept at following the path of least resistance. It’s an efficient mechanism.

But it’s also adept at survival. And so when disaster strikes, it forces itself to create new connections so that it can adapt and survive. Otherwise, when change is not associated with an imminent need, it relies solely on our own discipline and desire, which is usually not compelling or persistent enough.

Rusty

This post describes how you can increase the success of your change initiatives by understanding the biological foundation of change.

A lot.

Car dealerships are experts in the art of motivation.  It’s an exact science for them.  They’ve invested tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in perfecting the practice.  The whole experience from the moment you walk into the dealership door is architected to instill in you the maximum motivation to sign that paper and drive away in something new.

One of their greatest tools?  The test drive.

See, it’s one thing to just think about a buying a car, maybe even thumb through one of their marketing brochures, each page bursting with stunning graphics that make the cars seem larger than life. Still, at this point, it’s just intellectual.

But once you open the door, slide in and sit down, once you grasp the wheel, smell the leather, and hear the engine turn, and most of all, once you put your foot on the gas and drive away from the lot, they’ve set you up in an optimal position to purchase.

By doing this, they’ve accomplished something crucial. They’ve gotten you to visualize yourself, in the most compelling and realistic way possible, what it would be like to drive away in that vehicle.  That vision, that experience, is now indelibly imprinted into your memory, stored mostly in your brain’s hippocampus.

At this point, you’re brain is also producing mass quantities of dopamine, the neurotransmitter primarily involved in reward and motivation.  Once increased dopamine levels are associated with a particular experience, the drive to repeat that experience is profound.  It’s how we learn new behavior.  And they know that. They’re highly proficient at what they do.

So if you are interested in figuring out how to create enduring motivation, either in yourself or in others, you should look to and learn from the experts.

If there’s something you want to accomplish, if there’s a position you want to hold, if there’s someone you want to be, if there’s a goal you want to achieve, then go through the dealership process.  All of it.

The first step is to get to the dealership, figuratively speaking, and look through the marketing brochures.  Find out about what you want to do, deconstruct it, soak it up, learn all about it, envelop yourself in it.  At this point your mind will be absorbed in it.

A famous plastic surgeon who studied behavior commented that people tend to move toward their most dominant thought process.

Make the achieving of that goal your most dominant, recurring thought process.

Then, take a test drive.  In as much detail as you can, imagine yourself in that position, or having achieved that goal.  This type of visualization creates a compelling experience for your mind, an experience that your mind wants to repeat, but in a more tangible way.

Cognitive psychologists know that the mind does not distinguish between what is real, and what is imagined.  This is why when you think about something that angers you, even if fictitious, your heart rate will accelerate, and your body will respond as though it were actually real.  It’s why you can wake up from a dream in a cold sweat.

The more you visualize yourself at the end of the road, the more compelling will be your motivation to get there.

This is why professional athletes spend hours watching video of other professionals, studying their golf swing, or their technique at whatever it is they do.  This is why the worlds best leaders spend so much time painting as clear a picture as possible of the destination.  Visualization is a powerful and compelling mechanism in motivation.

So if you know what you want to do, take a mental test drive.  Feel the wheel, smell the leather, and listen to the hum of that engine.

You’ll find your desire to make that vision a reality increases a hundred fold, an important aspect engineering yourself to persevere as you set out to accomplish your dreams.

Good luck.

Rusty

Want to change your future, change your life, reach your goals, then change your thoughts.Your mind is extraordinarily powerful.

Without even thinking about it, you breathe, digest, circulate blood, release endorphins, feel, hear, taste, and see.  All these things are processed instantly and automatically within your brain, with no apparent effort.  Enough processing occurs within your brain, and without your attention, to keep your body – the most complex creation on the planet – running smoothly.

What’s even more powerful and amazing though, are the impact of our conscious thoughts.  The ones we actually devote time and energy to.

Every dream that was ever realized… every invention that was ever created… every innovation, every milestone, every leap of any significance once originated as a simple thought.  A thought that was nurtured, and refined.

It has been said that we tend to move towards our most dominant thought pattern.  If those are primarily negative, then the direction our life inevitably turns the same direction.  There’s a reason the most successful people you meet are predominantly upbeat, optimistic, can-do kind of people.

The more positive you think, the more positive you feel.  The more positive you think and feel, the more inclined and motivated you are to act, create, improve, and change.

Indeed, thoughts are the seeds of action.  And actions are the seeds of our future.

Want to change your future?  Then change your thoughts.