Why are you the way you are and how to rewire your brain for who you want to be?

navigation america Dec 13, 2023

Intriguing right?

Exploring why we are the way we are and what stands between our current self and our ideal self is a fascinating journey into psychology and neuroscience. Psychology sheds light on how our personalities are shaped by our experiences and actions, revealing the intricate puzzle of our identity.

At the same time, neuroscience dives into the workings of our brain, focusing on neuroplasticity – the brain's ability to change and adapt through learning and experience aka Rewiring of your brain. This journey between who we are and who we aspire to be involves understanding and leveraging these psychological and neurological insights. It's about harnessing our mind's potential and our brain's adaptability to overcome challenges and achieve personal growth, guiding us closer to our ideal selves.

Let's dig in.

Concept of self and Identity Formation - Psychology

Our self-concept is like a mental picture of who we are, and it's a big part of our identity. It's not just born out of nowhere; it grows and changes as we go through life. From the time we're children to when we become adults, our experiences and the people we meet play a huge role in shaping this self-concept. For instance, if you're often told you're good at something, like art or math, you start to see yourself that way too. This is also influenced by our social interactions - how we fit in with our friends, family, and even at school. Every little experience adds up, like pieces of a puzzle, to form a picture of who we are.

And we're social creatures so our social environment has an uncanny ability to shape our identity.

But what about Personality

Think of personality as a unique mix of characteristics that make you, well, you. Psychologists have identified certain traits, like whether you're outgoing or more of an introvert, that help define our personalities. These traits influence how we act, feel, and see the world. For example, an extroverted person might love being in big groups and find energy in social situations, while an introvert might prefer reading a book at home or meditating. 

Now, that's basic information but even our personality is based on our beliefs and what we were told or what we learnt and what we believe and choose to identify with. Genetics play a part in your personality but our experiences, inputs and chemical composition of our brain also plays a major role. You maybe an extrovert at 21 but as grow older and wiser , you now prefer differently. 

Impact of Life Experiences

Our life experiences, both the good and the tough ones, also shape who we are. Think about a big event in your life, like moving to a new city or school or a big breakup or divorce.

Such experiences can have a big impact on your self-concept. They can challenge you, teach you new things, and even change the way you think about yourself and the world. It's like each significant event leaves a mark on your self-concept, influencing the kind of person you grow into. 

Odd scenario but think about someone growing up thinking they're a product of their Mom and Dad only to find out later in life that they were adopted or one of their parent is not their biological parent. But this whole time they spent their life aligning with their parents and thinking they are the way they are because of Dad. 

Which causes to show that our brains can be told something and we will not only believe it but also find reasons for that belief and turn it into a conviction.

The Neuroscience Behind Being You!

Brain Plasticity and Identity

Neuroplasticity is a cool word that means our brain can change and grow, even as we get older. It's like our brain is made of clay and can be shaped over time. This shaping happens every time we learn something new or practice a skill. For example, if you learn to play the piano, parts of your brain change and grow to help you get better at it. This idea of neuroplasticity is super important because it shows that our identities and behaviors aren't fixed; they can evolve. We aren't just born with a set personality and skills; we develop them over time with our experiences, which shape our brains.

Similarly if you start a new business, you may suck at it at first but embrace the suck. If you fully infuse yourself into learning and growing you can become whomever it is you need to become to achieve what goals you set. Which is why year 1 in business is different than Year 10. ( That is if you survive and continue to pivot, learn and adapt throughout the process) 

Emotional and Cognitive Processes

Our brain is responsible for how we think (cognitive processes) and how we feel (emotional responses). These two parts work together to help us make decisions and understand ourselves. Imagine you're trying to solve a difficult challenge that has stunned your growth in your businesses. Your brain's cognitive part works hard to figure it out. At the same time, your emotional side might be feeling frustrated or excited when you're close to solving it. This combo of thinking and feeling is crucial in making decisions, like when to keep trying or when to ask for help, and it helps us to be more self-aware, understanding why we feel a certain way in different situations.

Subconscious Influences

I like to break up my blogposts in these mini sub headings just fyi for better reception.

Now, let's dive into something mysterious and my favorite  - the subconscious mind. This is a part of our brain that affects what we do, but we're not really aware of it. It's like an autopilot that guides a lot of our actions and choices. For example, have you ever picked up your phone opened Instagram or Facebook  without really thinking about why? That's your subconscious at work! Looking for a dopamine hit for you, but when you're on vacation or on a beach or having a lot of fun you don't go to your phone that much because your dopamine needs are being met in the real physical world. It plays a big role in our habits and reactions, often based on our past experiences. Sometimes, it can make us act in ways that surprise even ourselves, because these actions come from deep inside our brain's programming. Especially because we spend up to 40-80% of our waking hours subconsciously.

The Gap Between Current Self and Ideal Self

Psychological Barriers

When we think about becoming the best version of ourselves, we often face psychological barriers. These are like invisible chains in our minds that can hold us back.

  1. Fear: It's like standing at the edge of a diving board, scared to jump. Fear of failure, rejection, or even success can freeze us in place, stopping us from taking risks or trying new things. Fear will also lead to self-sabotage, ring a bell?

  2. Self-Doubt: This is when we question our abilities and worth. Imagine wanting to close out a deal but thinking you're not good enough. Self-doubt whispers in our ear, filling us with uncertainty and shaking our confidence. And the other person can sense that subconsciously and will hear that voice telling them to find a reason to say no.

  3. Cognitive Biases: These are like filters in our brain that can twist our thinking. For instance, a 'confirmation bias' makes us only see things that agree with what we already believe, blocking out new perspectives that could help us grow. So if you believe that making big in the music industry is like finding a needle in a haystack, well then you've already programmed your mind to fail. 

Neurological Factors

Our brain also plays a huge part in this journey from who we are to who we want to be.

  1. Neural Pathways and Habits: Think of your brain as a garden, where paths are formed by walking the same route over and over. These paths are like our habits. Some make our lives easier, like brushing our teeth without thinking about it. But others can hold us back like thinking about that can go wrong about a possible positive situation which creates a giant Mt Everest in your brain rendering you defenseless. Changing a habit means creating a new path in our brain, which takes time and effort.

  2. Brain's Adaptability: The good news is our brain is adaptable, thanks to neuroplasticity. Just as we can form new habits, we can also reshape our brain to overcome fears and self-doubt. It's like training a muscle; the more you use it in a new way, the stronger it gets. Why do you think military training guarantees to make you stronger, prolonged and adaptive use of physical and mental resources.

  3. Emotional Regulation: Sometimes, our emotions can get in the way of our goals. Learning to understand and manage our emotions – something our brain helps with – is key to moving towards our ideal self. It's like being the captain of your ship in a stormy sea, steering yourself towards calmer waters. There is a small gap and I mean fractions of a second between when a thought comes into your brain and when it produces emotional, physiological and mental response. This gap can be grown and enlarged by meditation and mindfulness which allows you to control your emotions. Which means no more getting mad or upset or worked about just about anything. That is the point where I'm at currently in my life.


Now that you've read all of the above, lets talk about the 'how to' part

Bridging the Gap: Strategies for Growth

Psychological Approaches

To move from our current selves to our ideal selves, psychology offers several effective strategies:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Principles: CBT is a widely used approach that helps individuals change negative thought patterns. The idea is to identify and challenge irrational or harmful thoughts and replace them with more constructive ones. For example, if you often think, "I can't do this," CBT encourages you to transform that thought into, "I can learn to do this with practice."

  2. Goal Setting and Motivation Theories: Go to Navigationamerica.com/resources and use the neuroscience based goal setting worksheet, that will change your goal setting game for good. Also, understanding what motivates you (intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation) can help tailor your goals to what truly drives you.

  3. Self-Reflection and Journaling: Reflecting on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through practices like journaling can increase self-awareness and aid in personal growth. It's a way to track your progress, understand your emotions, and clarify your thoughts.

Neuroscientific Insights

Neuroscience offers insights into how we can rewire our brains for positive change:

  1. Neuroplasticity and Habit Formation: As our brains are adaptable, we can form new neural connections through repeated practice. Establishing new, positive habits is a way of rewiring our brains. For instance, regularly practicing gratitude can shift your brain towards more positive thinking patterns.

  2. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices have been shown to affect areas of the brain involved in attention, awareness, and emotion regulation. Mindfulness meditation, for example, is linked to increased gray matter density in the prefrontal cortex, associated with higher-order brain functions like concentration and decision-making. 15 minutes of regular mindfulness for 3 weeks will start the rewiring process

  3. Learning and Cognitive Enhancement: Engaging in continuous learning and challenging cognitive activities stimulates the brain and can lead to improved cognitive function. Activities like learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, or even engaging in complex puzzles can help keep the brain sharp and adaptable.

  4. Exercise and Brain Health: Physical exercise not only benefits the body but also has a positive impact on the brain. Regular physical activity is associated with improved brain function, including better memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Simply by releasing the neurochemicals your body needs and making you look better at the same, physical exercise is my drug of choice.

In concluding our exploration into the depths of self-identity and personal growth, it becomes evident that the path from our current self to our aspirational self is a blend of challenge and enrichment. Understanding the psychological and neuroscientific underpinnings of our behavior and identity equips us with the tools for informed self-development. This journey, enriched by practical strategies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness, is ongoing and dynamic, a process of continuous learning and adaptation. It's an invitation to embrace the complexities of our minds, the potential for transformation, and to actively engage in shaping our journey towards a richer, more fulfilling self.

As always, you are worthy, you are enough and I love you.
If you are interested in how I help people rewire their brain, reach out to me at [email protected]

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