The Secret to Personal Change

Great advice from my favorite Deepak Chopra, which I found here:

Most people want to change something about themselves. In this country we have an optimistic tradition about “getting somewhere” and “reaching higher,” which includes getting somewhere with the self. Change and optimism go together. It seems, in the current economic downturn, that optimism is lagging, but there’s still a strong motivation to succeed, which means overcoming obstacles. Many, if not most of the obstacles that people face in their rise to success, are personal. Which is why almost everyone wants to change a habit, a personality trait, a chronic state of anxiety, and so on.

The problem with personal change is that if you attack your old habits directly, the task is quite difficult. The mind that desires change confronts the mind that is bound by old conditioning. The result is inner conflict, with one side pushing and the other side resisting. Countless people feel trapped inside this war, whether their goal is to stop overeating, manage their anger, become more assertive, or stop being fearful – the desire to change isn’t enough, and keeping up the motivation to change soon wears out.

The secret to personal change is to stop fighting against yourself. If the inner war was winnable, you’d have won it long ago. I’m not advising you to give up. Giving up takes you out of the war zone, but that’s not enough to create positive change. Your brain is still trained to follow the pathways set down by habit and conditioning. This is where the secret to personal change comes in. Change occurs by giving the brain new pathways. Without these new pathways, your default reactions will remain in place. Brain wiring isn’t the same as house wiring. Even if you are “wired” to overeat or to lose your temper quickly, these reactions can be over-ridden.

The process has a few steps that need to be repeated anytime you find yourself having a familiar, undesirable reaction.

1. Notice what you’re about to do.

2. Pause, close your eyes and wait until the surge of your reaction quiets down.

3. Ask yourself if you really need to react this way.

What you’re doing with these steps is bringing in the higher brain, which is the only part that can decide to change and then carry out the change. The part that keeps you from changing is emotional and impulsive – in other words the lower brain. The lower brain has quicker access than the higher brain, which is why you jump when you hear a car backfire and only seconds later make the decision that you are not in danger. Survival impulses like hunger, aggression, and fight-or-flight aren’t stronger than reason; they are just faster and thoughtless.

By pausing and waiting for the surge to pass, you give yourself time to do the things that the higher brain is expert at: considering, reflecting, weighing options, etc. But here comes the tricky part. If you have given in to impulse and habit many times, ignoring the choices available to your higher brain, grooves of habit become the path of least resistance. In a word, the more often the lower brain is favored, the weaker your decision-making becomes. That’s why overeaters feel helpless to change their eating habit. They aren’t hungrier than other people; they’ve weakened their other choices.

So your campaign, whatever kind of change you are aiming for, is to take back your power to choose. You must do this over and over. Only repetition can rebalance your brain, allowing stronger pathways to be built and older grooves to wear out. Besides the three steps given above, the following are also very useful.

– Write down how you feel.

– Make a note whenever you make a better choice.

– Appreciate your good choices and celebrate the fact that you made them.

These additional steps reinforce higher-brain awareness. They reconnect you to your emotional brain and teach it to see that it doesn’t feel good just to overeat, lose your temper, or act aggressive. It feels just as good to make a better choice. Celebration, which many people leave out, reinforces the positive emotional side of making better choices. When you put all these steps together, they make change possible, not by fighting against yourself, but by adding the fulfillment of knowing that you are the author of your own life story and can turn the plot in any direction you want.

SMART or SAFE? Setting Goals and the Leadership Brain

Think this article is really amazing and it relates to my previous post.

Goal setting is vital to the success of every team – and the process also increases brain performance. According to neuroscience consultant Marilee Sprenger in ” The Leadership Brain for Dummies,” the brain sees goal-setting as an extension of itself – it takes ownership of the goal and the accomplishment.

But what do you do when your team has different kinds of “brains” trying to set goals? Could it be that you need to consider two kinds of goals?

The SMART approach to goal-setting is linear, logical, and very left-brain oriented. Those teams that think in a left-brained format appreciate this type of goal setting because it is easy to track and measure. SMART goals are:

  • Specific – each goal specifies your target exactly.
  • Measurable – each goal must be measurable so you know when you’ve reached it – or not.
  • Achievable – a goal that is within reach…

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How To Actually Achieve Your Goals for Right Brain Thinker


If you’re a left-brained thinker who behaves in a calm, focused manner, read another article. You already think rationally, schedule fastidiously, document your objectives clearly, and check them off your list. So stop reading this already.

For the rest of you–the right-brainers, the multi-modal people, who are known to be gregarious and abstract thinkers–pay attention.

You need to set big goals in 2013. You already know that. The challenge for you is to turn those big goals into action, keep yourself accountable, and do what you say you’re going to do.

You have the ability to do this, but, the truth is, when it comes to setting goals, especially in business, it’s a left-brained and logical, process-oriented, structured world.

Your challenge is that you’re not going about goal setting and goal attainment in a way that aligns with the way your brain works.

You’ve been coached on goals the old way:

1. Write down your goals.

The stats even back up how important this is. People who write down goals are 33% more likely to achieve them!

2. Cull a detailed, organized list.

Tie your goals to specific dates with smaller deliverables every step along the way.

3. Make each goal SMART.

SMART goals are specific, meaningful, achievable, relevant, and timely.

These steps are useful–for left-brainers. They won’t work for you. You probably wrote down a careful list of SMART goals, but how many times did you look at it? Are you still even working on the same goals you wrote at the beginning of the year (or even the day)? I doubt it.

The key for you–an outgoing right-brainer–is to look deeper at what your goals are about. Give yourself manageable and actionable deliverables that will result in productivity. And tap into your brain.

Here’s how:

If you’re a social thinker, record your goals on paper, but also in conversations and interactions with other people. Have others keep you on task. It’s amazing how well this works and you’ll actually enjoy it!

If you’re conceptual, writing down goals probably seems pointless. Instead, dream big and trick your brain by thinking of your goals as a vision for the future. Draw a metaphor of your goals and revisit those images frequently.

If you tend to think in a multi-faceted way, you’ll find many different goal-setting models helpful. Don’t be constrained to one; instead experiment with many to find the best (or a few strong) fits.

In addition to how you think, know your natural behavior propensity, and set goals that match it, to help you succeed at your goals.

If you’re quiet, you’re probably perfectly comfortable writing down your list and personally checking it. But if you’re more on the gregarious end of the spectrum, you should use that fact to your advantage–get others involved with your goals, and ask for their help. Be loud about what you want to achieve.

If, however, you have a competitive and driving personality, try not to push objectives purely for the sake of it. Or if you’re more of an amiable person, create goals that will make a difference, and commit to doing them even if you rock the boat.

When it comes to flexibility, if you prefer clearly-defined situations, you probably already know that goal setting comes naturally–just make sure you revisit goals frequently to know if and when you need to change something to achieve them. If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable with flux and welcome change, goal-setting probably seems tough. Use your adaptability as a strength; since you’re open to new things, try out different goal-setting styles to hone in on the right path.

Goals are made to propel you to be successful. Use your brain to achieve big things in 2013!

This post originally appeared at Inc.