Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?
– Carol Dweck
Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can change our brain.
There is a scene in the new movie Dr. Strange in which a character describes how he healed an impossible injury through the strength of his own thinking. True, that’s a Marvel Comics movie, but growing research suggests this isn’t entirely fiction, and that it’s possible that the words we use not only affect those around us, but also affect our mind and body.
Joe Dispenza shattered several vertebrae after getting hit by a car while on his bicycle. As a chiropractor, he knew that the recommended solution of fusing vertebrae together would lead to a lifetime of limited mobility and pain. Instead, he thought his way to healing.
Nine months later, he was able to walk and function as well as he had before the accident, and he credits a large amount of that recovery to the power of his own mind.
Every time you learn something new, your mind physically and chemically changes.
– Joe Dispenza
Where we place our attention and focus defines who we are. The words we choose to speak, the thoughts we visit and revisit over and over in our mind reinforce those ideas and affect the words we choose to say out loud. Those words and ideas not only affect those around us, but they affect who we are and how we think about the world around us.
Feelings of unworthiness, or ineptitude, can creep into our consciousness. It’s easy to recognize those same thoughts over and over as we repeat and again reinforce them. Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe how the brain continues to reinvent itself, constantly changing over time depending on what we focus on, while older, unused pathways shrink and become abandoned, and new ones, with repetition and focus, emerge.
Not that long ago, many scientists believed that our brains were fixed, hard-wired, and unchanging. Not we know instead, that what we think about actually rewires our brain.
“Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic and reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes.”
– Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman
Our brain is an artifact of our past experiences and emotions. If we do the same routines, and spend our time with the same people, who push our same emotional buttons, we can not honestly expect anything to change. In order to truly change the way we think, and the way we interact with the world, we need to exercise new neural pathways in our brain.
To create new neural pathways requires that we envision a new and powerful future experience. Our minds will then begin to change, and form new neural pathways, to align with the envisioned future. And when we practice those envisioned outcomes regularly, our brain will begin to believe these dreams are not simply possibilities, but destiny.
Right now in Sao Paulo Brazil, the Walk Again project is using virtual reality therapy, working with paraplegic patients to help build new neural pathways which can reactivate dormant fibers in their spinal cord, and miraculously allow them to move and feel their extremities again for the first time in years.
Eight patients, each with a long-term spinal chord injury and no lower extremity sensation, performed 2000 hours of virtual reality brain training. Results varied with each patient, but for the most part they all went from a total absence of touch sensation to some capacity to sense pain, pressure and vibration. One patient has progressed to walking without the aid of a therapist, using only the aid of crutches and braces.
Try envisioning a better version of you and your world. Over time, your mind will begin to build the language and habits which will make it destiny.
To learn more about adopting a growth mindset, and reinventing your future, take a look at:
- Steve Shapiro on Out-Innovate the Competition
- Marilee Adams on Question Thinking: The Key to Transforming Mindsets
Shawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.