Mind Muscles: The Basics

You know what you need to do to improve your business and investing behavior, but somehow circumstances seem to dictate different responses in the moment. With hindsight you know that had you been more “disciplined” you would have been more successful.

Self discipline is hard!

Why is it so hard to be “disciplined?” Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep? Why does it feel like you are acting from a different brain when making critical trading or business decisions than when researching? Why does learning a new, more satisfying behavior feel so hard to do?

The brain has an incredible ability to automate our repetitive behaviors so we can focus on more critical or creative activities. What this means is that repeated behaviors, thoughts, stories and activities create neural pathways and complex network connections that become a working unit.

This entire complex of neural activity can be fired by a single trigger.

Neurons are the building blocks of brain activityHere is how this works. Neurons are the building blocks of brain activity. Each neuron extends an arm, called a dendrite to “shake hands” with the receiving axon of another neuron at swellings call “boutons.” Each dendrite may “shake hands” with multiple axons before “deciding” which one to maintain a connection with.

It appears that the more popular a neuron, the more dendrites prefer them. (Just like high school!) The axons receiving the incoming dendrites after time shed extraneous connections and form longer lasting connections with a single dendrite. Complexity is possible because neurons that “fire together, wire together.” This way the brain can gather a large number of experiences, concepts and behaviors to operate very efficiently without expending a lot of energy.

Often, these complex neural patterns (what we at Mind Muscles™ have labeled NEMES, or Neuro Meta Structures) are copies of earlier patterns that were created when we were younger and had fewer options.

Even if our current response does not serve us, we still repeat it time after time. Your internal processes are more important than anything else.

But now we are ready to build new, more effective behaviors in our financial or business world. As we attempt to make these changes it feels so very “hard,” like swimming in molasses. Why is this? Because the old patterns are so well developed, so easily connected to multiple neural circuits and complex neural structures that executing the old behaviors feels easy even if it doesn’t feel good! The gap between your current state and your desired state is simply the gap between the multiple synapses.

Creating new behaviors means that you are building new neural circuits where none have been before.

Imagine blindly hacking a path through thick jungleImagine driving down an interstate highway with its overpasses, bridges, fuel stops and connecting highways. Now imagine a broad canyon with jungle, boulders and sheer cliffs. Your job is to build a new foot path to a new destination on the other side. To make it even worse, as you hack your way through the jungle, you don’t know where you will end up or if there is anything of value on the other side. It is tough to be motivated to keep hacking, when you can hear the cars on the freeway zipping right along the eight lane bridge above you to their familiar destination, even if it isn’t where you want to go.

That is why we recommend a different process of creating new positive, rewarding and more functional business, investing and trading behaviors. This is because our understanding of how we think, feel and act is improving everyday with new developments in neuroscience. Mind Muscles™ is born out of neuroplasticity…the abilty of the brain to change itself.

This process can be visualized by imagining that broad canyon we described earlier. Your desired destination connects to a new destination Imagine sailing over the jungle effortlessly on a zip lineaway from the bridge. What if, rather than climbing down into the valley and hacking your way through the jungle to build a new foot path, you could have an experience of hooking on to a zip line and simply whizzing to a better place?

What if, even if just for a millisecond, you can taste the satisfaction of experiencing the results of the new thinking pattern or behavior? Think of Mind Muscles™ as a zip line across the canyon. With the zip line you can pull a rope. With a rope you can pull a cable and build the bridge that takes you to the place you want to be.

It is the same way your brain works. As our clients articulate what they want, we can then create a simulation, visualization, or experience that replicates the desired results and is rewarding in the moment. We have established the zip line across the canyon without hacking through the jungle. Now, having that experience once, we can expand it. If we can do it for a millisecond, we can expand that experience to a second…a minute…an hour and then for all of our lives.

The beautiful bridge over the jungle at sunset

That is why our Mind Muscles™ coaching, team training and publications and materials create simple scenarios that allows you to experience that positive new behavior for a moment. When we work with our clients building new Mind Muscles™, we play out scenes that allow new behaviors to be fully appreciated and savored. This savored moment gives you the golden thread to build that bridge across the canyon.