When Your Mental Fitness is Weak: It’s a Top Down Job

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We are creatures of habit – or are we?

Background – Setting the stage

From a very early age, perhaps even in utero, our brains are developing and learning how to make sense of and operate in this world.

Neuroscience studies inform us that from the moment we are born, our brains are fast at work creating new neural pathways of connection to support our growing “need to know”, ways of thinking, believing and behaving.

What does this neuroscience have to do with how productive, happy and successful we are in our lives, careers and/or businesses?

EVERYTHING!!!

Because of these early biological developments, we think a certain way. We process information, create a belief system, perceive our world, others and, yes, even ourselves in a certain way. In short, our earliest of childhood experiences shapes us into the adults we are to become, for better or worse.

The major influencers to shaping what is being transmitted into our developing brains are those closest to us – – parents, relatives and caretakers. If those influencers did not pass along positive and/or healthy thoughts, beliefs and values, we face unimaginable consequences from having their belief system and values passed along to us…without us even consciously knowing a thing about it. (Reference: Brain Architecture, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University).

By the time we are seven years old, 95% of our neural pathways are developed and have created a belief system that sets us on a certain trajectory, perhaps for the rest of our lives.

Most people are clueless of this fact that is steeped in neuroscience (Reference: The Science of Early Childhood Development, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University) and directs the decisions we make, often subconsciously.

When we live in this space, we think and behave in ways that are not healthy or useful to our overall wellbeing. In fact, 70% of our thoughts are negative each and every day. We are hardwired for survival, not happiness.

Examples may be:

  • Avoiding conflict and saying yes to things you do not want.
  • Practicing “in-your-face” communication interpreted by others as anger or criticism.
  • Being highly focused on external success, leading to unsustainable workaholic tendencies
  • Having a high proclivity for skepticism and debate
  • Being overly anxious, with chronic doubts about yourself and others.
  • Having a strong need to be liked by others and attempts to earn it by helping, pleasing or flattering them.
  • Being easily distracted and scattered.
  • Perfectionism and a need for order and organization in excess

These are sabotaging behaviors and stand in our way of reaching peak performance, happiness and rewarding relationships.

As we reach adulthood, become more thoughtful and perhaps question our beliefs, we may even challenge the “it’s always been this way” mindset (aka a “fixed mindset”) from our early influencers.

If we experience too much negativity and difficulty, we may focus on shifting (or completely overwriting) what we believe and value about how we navigate our world, which can directly impact many facets of our lives.

Here’s the thing: Most attempts at positive change fail because we stop at insight and don’t build habits.

Sustained change towards a more positive mind requires laying down neural pathways to form new habits and beliefs through consistent daily practice.

And, this is where things can get interesting AND amazing!

What are some of the ways you self-sabotage? How do these hold you back from creating the career and life of your dreams?

In my next installment, I’ll outline steps you can take when you’ve come to the place of “being tired of being tired” (cue up: Madeline Kahn, Blazing Saddles) and want a life of ease and flow. It exists. And, having an easier life minus the stress and anxiety, constant worry and so many other negative emotions is within reach.

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