Ten years ago, I chose to make massive changes in my life. During this period, I stumbled across several major insights that shed new light on the way my brain was working. This knowledge transformed my life, unlocking clarity and boosting confidence in profound new ways in my personal and professional lives.
I have spent the subsequent years expanding my understanding of fundamental and applied neuroscience. There is no doubt in my mind that a single scientific finding has revolutionized our approach to unlocking our own immense potential as humans: Today, we know that we can literally reinvent ourselves by upgrading the structure and function of our (already-impressive) brains.
For many dark years, we scientists believed that the brain was a static organ. We thought that it peaked in childhood, then slowly decayed through the remaining years of our life. Today, luckily, we know better!
Our brain, the control center for our every action and the organ that separates us from all other life on this planet, is known to be highly adaptive. It is not built with cold hard-wiring like the supercomputers with which we’re all increasingly familiar. Instead, it is a dynamic organ that dramatically adapts its inner working, giving you the capacity for radical transformation throughout your life.
We refer to this property as neuroplasticity.
To clarify, the brain is not elastic, an organ that can stretch only to snap back into its original shape once the stretch-stimulus is ended. Instead, it is plastic—pliable enough for us to bend and shape, throughout our lives, to serve our current needs.
Norman Doidge, MD, describes the emergence of neuroplasticity theory in his fascinating book The Brain That Changes Itself. He travels through pioneering laboratories to interview key scientists who have driven the neuroplasticity revolution…and to meet their research subjects.
While the material can be a little challenging at times, Doidge is, or at least was, a practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. The text is littered with clinical examples that demonstrate the relevance of the underlying science. The book carries an appropriate subtitle: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. If you read the book, you will encounter, through vivid clinical descriptions, the lives of real people with autism, sensory loss like blindness and deafness, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as lively tales of love and lust.
You will learn important overarching principals relevant to anyone who owns a brain and understand the implications of “use it or lose it.” You will learn about competitive plasticity and the struggle for precious real estate that happens every day within your central nervous system. You will appreciate the significance of critical periods in brain development and understand why parents obsess about creating the best educational contexts for their children. You will grasp the science of learning and unlearning and its significance in the development of good and bad habits.
Perhaps most important of all, you will be left with a prevailing sense of optimism for the future of neuroscience and a deep belief that many of your own struggles are surmountable.
I certainly was.
Today, I work with high-performing clients from many fields. Some seek performance tweaks; others strive for radical transformation.
My coaching guides them to unlock hidden potential. In each case, I help my clients to understand optimal brain function. More importantly, we modify their beliefs, attitudes, and actions by embracing the incredible plasticity that Mother Nature has incorporated into our wondrous design.
When you can see your brain as a lump of immensely powerful clay, your future truly is in your own hands!