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CHANGE IS HARD: YOUR BRAIN MAY BE KEEPING YOU STUCK



Are you tired of trying to make a change in your life but not making that change stick? Do you get tired of talking about making change, but never actually managing to take action to do anything about it?


Before you write yourself off as lazy or unmotivated, read on to learn how your brain is designed to keep you stuck and how to overcome this.

The secret to change:

The secret lies with your brain. Your brain and nervous system are your ‘command centre' for your body. The brain and nervous system are responsible for everything you think, everything you feel, your actions and behaviours. What’s going on in your brain, plays out in your life.


If you want to fulfil your potential: whether if it’s to do well in your career, grow your business, have successful relationships, or meet your health and fitness goals, then the one think you really need to do is get to grips with your brain.

When you understand the science, and understand what’s actually going on in your brain you will then be able to ‘take control of your command centre’ and create true success in all facets of your life.

If my brain slowing me down

Why do you feel lazy?

When you want to do something new, make a change, form a new habit, or break an old one. You start by thinking about it. You may begin to talk about it, perhaps even planning it.

But, you never actually do it. Or you start and give it up quickly.


So, you decide this means you don’t have what it takes. You decide you aren’t blessed with willpower, drive, or discipline. But what you haven’t realised is that it is your brain that is making difficult for you to make that change.


The neuroscience of change:

The most important point to understand about the brain is that it is designed to conserve energy. Our brain is a very high consumer of our energy and uses nearly 20% of our overall energy budget. So it looks for ways to conserve our calories and perform as much as we can ‘reflexively’ or automatically.


When we do something the same way often enough our brain puts us in autopilot and automation mode as a matter of energy conservation. These actions become habitual and easy to perform.


So, when you want to do something new, you need to activate new pathways in the brain. Activating new pathways takes effort. Effort uses energy. So, your brain acts to try to slow your efforts down.


How the brain works:

In order to do something new, we need to find focus and in order to do so we need to activate part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex controls cognitive functions. In order to focus and to take action, the prefrontal cortex needs to override an area called the Limbic system. The Limbic system governs our emotions. It try to work against the prefrontal cortex to slow us down. So it creates feelings to tell us that we are either too anxious or too fatigued to do this new thing.


The process of the prefrontal cortex overriding the limbic system is not automatic or reflexive. It is deliberate and requires energy. This creates a feeling of resistance. This feeling of resistance has been given a name: Limbic Friction (coined by neurobiologist Andrew Huberman https://hubermanlab.com/ from Stanford).

Limbic friction:

  • Occurs when the brain has to overcome either feeling too fatigued or too anxious in order to get things done.

  • Is how much effort is needed to undertake an action

  • The more friction, the harder it is to complete the action. This is why some habits are harder to form than others.

So, now you understand your brain you can take control of your ‘command centre”.


How to make change effectively:

  • Shift your perception. Recognise your resistance and see the feeling of friction as a good sign. The feeling of resistance is sign that you are making a change. Lean into it. You are on the precipice of doing something new and different!

  • Start with small changes and repeat these small behaviours until you notice that they are easier to do, with reduced ‘friction’. As it becomes easier you can add on additional behaviours.

  • James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits https://jamesclear.com/ sets out a wonderful story of a man who met his fitness and health goals, dramatically reducing his weight through making really small changes and slowly adding on new behaviours until they became habitual. His goal of going to the gym daily and losing wight started with him getting up each morning, putting on his gym kit and lacing up his trainers. Once he had mastered that, he added on another small step going to his car. After that driving to the gym. And so he went. He now goes to the gym most days and is at a healthy weight. The science has shown that starting with really small micro-goals is more likely to be successful long term than aiming for a really lofty goal and giving up within days or weeks of starting.

Synch learning new activities with different phases of the day.

  • In the first 8 hours after waking, your neuromodulators and neurotransmitters are active. This makes it easier to support an alert and focussed state. Choose activities to suit this phase of the day. These would be the activities you find the hardest to form or undertake: new habits, new activities, new learnings. In the first 8 hours of the day your body is naturally in a primed state to override ‘limbic friction’.

  • You can enhance this more active state through morning exercise, morning daylight viewing and cold exposure e.g. cold swims, ice baths, cryotherapy

  • 9-15 hours after waking, your neurochemicals dip, and at the same time the ‘feel good’ hormone, serotonin rises. This will leave you in a more relaxed state. During this time do the things you find easier, that require less focus. Habits that you are still working on but becoming more reflexive

  • Sleep - Make sure you are getting good quality and quantity sleep. When you sleep, new habits and learnings are programmed into your brain and neural system. Over time these will then become increasingly automatic or reflexive.

In summary:

  1. Accept the feeling of resistance to change and work with it, embrace it. The resistance is a good thing, it means you are on the brink of something great.

  2. Know there is nothing wrong with you, you are not lazy. What you are experiencing is normal. Your brain is just doing its job. Now you must do yours.

  3. Take control of your ‘command centre’ and start with small steps to create your own true success in whatever area of your life you choose


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