A mentor of mine, David Krueger, MD, has been instrumental in my training as a coach and mentor to others. Dr. Krueger spent many years as a psychiatrist, helping individuals one-on-one, doing what he could to help them restore mental health and balance. He left that practice to become a coach and to help people like me to grasp the art of coaching. Due to his background, he is able to provide great insights on neuroscience and details on how the brain works.

Through David, I have come to understand that our patterns of thought etch pathways in our brain chemistry. These etchings are neuropathways. The repetitious thoughts we often experience – the route to work we repeat, the response we conjure to the mother we both love and can be so easily annoyed by – these thoughts re-occur because we have created deep and strong patterns in the neurochemistry of our brains. These patterns can often corrupt our best intentions. We may consciously desire change but we often repeat the same cycle of misery. These repeated behaviors  are way more than just habits; they are electrically powered and chemically etched into our being. Changing these repeating patterns is not done with the click of a button. Serious work is involved. It is my belief that this work and simply being “open” to change foster miracles.

The Difficulty of Changing Our Perception

How might we see anew by incorporating an understanding of our own neurocircuitry and the patterns we create? By simply being aware of what our brain can do “to us” and not just “for” us. For example, our optical nerve sees and perceives what the eye sees. To make this perception make sense, our brain automatically inverts what is seen because the eye is seeing the world upside down. The brain constantly reverses those signals in the course of our daily lives, nanosecond by nanosecond.

In his fantastic book Outsmart Your Brain, Dr. Kreuger writes about a group of astronauts who were assigned the task of wearing a sort of helmet that interrupted this reversal process. The test was to see if the neural pathways could be reversed so that what they saw would remain inverted and new neuropathways would be established to accommodate this change. They were literally retraining their brains so they could see and experience the world “upside down.” Each subject was asked to wear the apparatus for an extended period each day. Those who did so and remained on task were in fact observed to create new pathways, a new wiring of the brain.

After twenty-five days, each of the astronauts who carried out the experiment uninterrupted were successful in causing their brains to reorient their perceptions. Those whose lives were interrupted in such a way they did not consistently wear the apparatus did not achieve the goal at first. Each person who did not create the new pattern for themselves, the twenty-five consecutive daily pattern of wearing the apparatus, interrupted the process. Because they interrupted the 25 day process,  their brains did not comply. If they interrupted the pattern on day fifteen for instance, they did not pick up where they left off on day sixteen – they went back to square one. Only after twenty five days of uninterrupted practice were they able to realize the shift in perception that was their goal.

All of this demonstrates that we can’t expect to change overnight; it takes consistent work and energy to create new pathways for ourselves.

Creating Change is Possible

Our patterns of seeing the world around us are very fixed, but they too are subject to conscious alteration. We can, with repeated practice, teach ourselves to see the world in a very different way. It just takes consistency and dedication. Our brains are wired to disbelieve what we can actually accomplish. The circuitry we develop early on remains with us, convincing us that what we see simply is, when the reality is that we have the power to change what is by changing how we react to it. I find it helpful to simply recognize that this state of being, which we so often take for granted, might be me holding me back from achieving my true potential.

The neuroscientific understanding that I am doing to myself some of the very things I wish to be freed from has been liberating. Knowing that it takes twenty-five days of consistent application to create new ways of seeing is helpful to me. It provides a new baseline from which to consider my reality and empowers meaningful change.

The Miracle of Overcoming Limitations

In the knowledge that we can reprogram and even outsmart our own brains, I see the potential to make miracles happen. It may sound trite, but unleashing our true potential comes from seeing the limitations we have created and liberating ourselves from them. It takes consistent work to overcome patterns of the past, to free ourselves from the patterns that can bind us, but miracles occur in the awakening to the possibility that there is another way.