The little badge appears on your phone screen, indicating that there’s an upgrade available for the operating system. You touch the icon: “Version 10.3.2 - minor bug fixes and improvements”, it tells you. “Ooh yes please”, you say, without further investigation, as you touch “Install” and the process starts. You're very clear that you want the latest version, even if you're not totally clear what that entails. It’s natural, it’s normal, it’s part of modern life. So why is it that when it comes to upgrading the effectiveness of our thinking, so many of us are so reluctant to take action?
Us modern-day humans are serial upgraders. Think how obsessively we upgrade in every area of our lives. A new version of the operating system on our phone is the least of it. Most of us upgrade the phone itself at least every 2 years. And it’s not just a tech thing. We upgrade our bathrooms and kitchens, the houses themselves: more rooms, bigger garden, better transport links. And of course the car in the driveway: larger engine, more gadgets, fancier paint finish. Bigger, faster, shinier - it’s almost a religion.
But when it comes to the way our brains work and how we think, the mental processes which are at the very core of our existence and which shape our experience of the world, our own operating system in fact, most of us fail to do anything about it. And moreover, a lot of the time we don’t even see that there’s anything to be done. Many people even actively resist or dismiss the notion with a casual “I’m not into that sort of thing”.
Others remain stuck with a fixed idea of themselves in the “it’s just the way I am” camp - in other words, according to them, “there are no upgrades”. Others still are in the “I like the way I am” camp, even if being that way doesn’t get them the results they want - in other words, “there may be upgrades, but I don’t want them”. As a former work colleague once said to me: “I like being stubborn. I’m worried that if I did any personal development work, that would change!”
It’s time to welcome to the stage… neuroplasticity, the ability of your brain to reorganise itself, both physically and functionally, due to your environment, behavior, thinking and emotions. The prevailing belief used to be that the brain was very “plastic” during childhood and pretty much static in adulthood, but recent scanning technology amongst other things has revealed that plasticity is maintained throughout your life.
The particularly high level of brain plasticity during childhood means that necessarily there are “bugs”, neural pathways that were laid down as a consequence of something in your past that are not useful or helpful to your thinking. But now it’s clear that you can quite literally re-wire yourself, physically laying down and reinforcing new neural pathways. In simple terms, you can upgrade your own operating system.
So how do you go about this? Certainly, there is no shortage of 3rd-party fixes and upgrades available, in fact more so these days than ever before. And whilst these things might have felt a little out there and unproven 20 or 30 years ago, there are now millions of people worldwide who have attended a life-changing weekend course or completed a transformational programme with a coach and can bear testament to the effectiveness of such things. And yes, if you have uncommon levels of discipline and application, you can do it on your own too.
So back to our objectors…
“I’m not into that sort of thing” - well, it’s certainly not compulsory to improve your experience of life, but why wouldn’t you at least have a look?
“It’s just the way I am” - no it isn’t. You can change it if you want. Scientific fact.
“I like the way I am” - that’s great, and why not look at how you could love the way you are?