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