HOW YOUR MIND WORKS
Your brain is a complex and powerful tool. To best explore the potential of your brain, let’s first study its evolution, properties and characteristics.
As far as evolutionary scientists know, the human brain evolved in three main stages. First, the Reptilian brain, at the innermost core, is the most ancient and primitive. It is located at the brainstem, near the top of your neck. It controls many of your body’s instinctive functions, such as breath- ing. Next evolved the Mammalian brain with new functions and ways to control the body. It also controls your emotions, your sexuality and is a key component to memory. Then evolved the neocortex, the gray matter, as the third part of the brain. You use this portion for talking, seeing, hearing, thinking and creating. This “human” brain is the bulk of the whole and has two symmetrical hemispheres which communicate. These three brains interconnect and determine human behavior.
The left and right hemispheres are often talked about, though not always understood. The detail-oriented, verbal and sorting side of the brain is on the left. The intuitive, spatial, non-verbal side of the brain is the right. To best remember this, learn that left is logical and right is creative. Both sides are connected by the corpus callosum and this is the actual pathway or switching system for information exchange between the two hemispheres. When these different aspects of the brain integrate, learning is much more profound.
Within the brain there are six intelligence centers, each having different functions and interrelating in thousands of ways on a constant basis.
1. The Prefrontal Cortex: thinking
2. The Motor Cortex: activity
3. The Temporal Cortex: speech center
4. The Parietal Lobe: spatial ability
5. The Occipital Lobe: visual center
6. The Cerebellum: “little brain,” balance and posture (handy when learning a skill like riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument)
Finally, there are three key relay points that are often referred to as the three gatekeepers.
- The Amygdala: relays the instinctual fight-or-flight reaction to various parts and organs in the body.
- The Hippocampus: relays information to other parts of the brain
- The Caudate Nucleus: also a relay of information to parts of the brain
THE ELECTRICAL INFORMATION NETWORK BETWEEN YOUR EARS
At birth we are born with between 100 and 120 billion glial (the Greek word for glue) cells or active neurons in the brain. In fact, you could put thirty thousand neurons on the head of a pin, and they would not touch. Around the turn of the twentieth century, William James discovered that we lose the use of roughly 90 percent of our active neurons. This natural process, called pruning, actually strengthens the neuronal connections by reducing the interference and leaves us with 10 billion neurons, a number more than sufficient. This fact is responsible for the general consensus that humans only use 10 percent of the brain.
Nature’s way of improving the efficiency of the brain is to refine thought processes. This is the reason for the profound importance of childhood experiences. A majority of the pathways and connections are sculpted in the early years. It is understood that by the age of six much of the way we think and will learn is firmly established.
Each active neuron in the brain has up to twenty thousand different connections (dendrites) with other cells. In his book, The Amazing Brain, Stanford University professor Robert Ornstein says that the number of connections is probably more than the number of atoms in the universe. I repeat, more than the number of atoms in the universe. Sound incredible?
Think of it this way (as described in the book The Learning Revolution, by Gordon Dryden and Dr. Jeannette Vos):
Consider what happens if you took only ten everyday items—like the first ten things you did this morning—and combined them in every pos- sible sequence. The result would be 3,628,800 different combinations. Take eleven items, connect them, and the number combinations is (ten- fold) 39,916,800! So now try combining 10 billion cells in every possible way—when each one can make up to 20,000 different connections—and you get some idea of the creative capacity of your own brain.
THE ANT AND THE ELEPHANT
You have one mind, but it is separated into two distinct functions—the objective and the subjective mind. In other words, the conscious and the subconscious act as the waking and the sleeping mind, the voluntary and the involuntary mind, respectively.
The primary use of the conscious mind is what you currently, logically embrace as your thinking mind. The subconscious is actually the engine, drive train and central computer system running the whole thing. Moreover, the conscious mind knows what is real and what is not. The sub- conscious mind, on the other hand, takes in information as fact. It does not know the difference between real and surreal.
Research by Dr. Lee Pulos from Vancouver, Canada, has uncovered that in one second the subconscious mind uses 4 billion neurons all at once. In that same second the conscious mind uses a paltry two thousand neurons. That is a massive difference.
Imagine a tiny fire ant on the back of an African elephant. The ant would be the conscious mind. The elephant would be the subconscious mind. As you read this book, you are reading these words with your conscious mind. You are processing the meaning and storing it with your conscious mind directing this informational traffic. Yet your unconscious mind in the very same second is guiding all bodily functions, keeping your balance, monitoring your body temperature, processing things that happened in your life, repairing a bruise, fighting a virus, thinking about tomorrow and the list goes on. If at any given time you think that you are in control, think again.
Let’s say you look in the bathroom mirror and decide (with your conscious mind) to go on a diet. Meanwhile the subconscious mind might be programmed very differently. In fact, you may have a myriad of subconscious reasons why going on a diet is a bad idea.
Think of the ant walking on the back of the elephant. The ant is walking north saying “I am going this way, in the direction of a diet.”
Meanwhile, the subconscious mind (the elephant) is walking south saying, “I don’t think so. I like that food. I’ll start another time. I don’t deserve to feel good about myself. I need to eat to feel better. I can’t control my urges, etc., etc.”
Which way is the ant really going? South!
Here is another example. A sales person decides to make more money. A year later, she looks at her commissions and sees the same production as the last two years. She wonders why.
Ant = conscious mind
Elephant = subconscious mind
It is likely that she made a conscious decision to make more money. The ant, still on the back of the elephant, walks in the direction of “more money.” Meanwhile the elephant thinks, “Hey, I got into sales because I wanted more free time. By making more money I would have less time with my family. Plus, more money would certainly bring more taxes, problems and decisions. Then there are the negative perceptions around money to contend with. Moreover, I grew up knowing that money is the ‘root of all evil’ and people that have money are ‘filthy rich.’ Oh, and by the way, I’m not worthy of success. So I’ll just stay right where I am and not go the direction the ant is going.”
When you can get the ant and the elephant to go in the same direction, the result is success—success that is often beyond your expectations. In some cases, the subconscious mind knows exactly how to set things right.
There, now you know about that noodle between your ears. What you do with it has everything to do with the choices you make and how you align your subconscious agenda.
Look to ELEPHantPOWER micro-learning in the column on the right for the way to align your ant and your elephant.
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