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Remodel Your Mind: Counter Negativity Bias and Create New Neural Pathways

If I were to choose a word to represent the theme of my life for past few months, it would be: remodeling. The remodeling has been mostly physical and mental but nothing in life exists in just one domain so there has been spiritual, intellectual, and all the other -als you care to name remodeling as well.

Remodeling Your Physical Space: Downsize and Declutter, Creep Happens.

In my house I’ve scraped the last remaining vestiges of the early 80’s popcorn texture from the ceiling, painted my bedroom a sunny yellow, had seashell-laden stone tile installed in the entryway and guest bathroom, had a friend install a set of his beautifully crafted custom cabinets, and tested the limits of my home improvement skills by installing a particularly tricky bathroom fan, new lighting, toilet, and sink, and adding knobs to the cabinets.

The end result? I love it.

I make excuses to do laundry in my spiffy new machines. I use the guest bathroom just to enjoy the surroundings. If I were a cat, the home improvements would be my catnip and I’d be blissfully rolling around in my bathroom and my house reveling in the updates.

But you don’t need to redo your bathroom to reset your physical space. A friend often tells me your physical space is a direct reflection of your mental space. I try to live by the rule, if I haven’t touched it in a year, I don’t need if. Take the clothes to goodwill. Craigslist items that you’ve been storing just in case. Recycle or shred unnecessary paperwork. Creep happens one object at a time. You may not notice. Clear the clutter. Downsize.

Remodeling Your Mental Environment: Create New Neural Pathways

The remodeling hasn’t just been in the physical space of my home. There has been just as much work in my mental space. Scientific evidence proves that neurons that fire together wire together. In other words, whatever we repeatedly think, feel and experience becomes a well-worn pathway in our brain and those neurons fire more quickly than a lesser used pathway.

Think of it like a river. Water flows more quickly down the main channels of a river. It isn’t that the water can’t go other ways, but it is faster and more likely to travel through the swiftest channel.

Remodeling your mind to think differently takes deliberate, conscious effort. Carving out new neural pathways can feel like taking a machete through a jungle that grows back nearly as quickly as you hack though it. The chaos of home remodeling was obvious to anyone who visited my home. Mental changes aren’t so obvious but they are just as messy, difficult and uncomfortable.

Counter Your Negativity Bias

Our brains tend to give more weight and react more strongly to negative experiences than positive experiences. This is termed Negativity bias and makes sense from a survival standpoint. Paying attention to that which hurts us or makes us sick is critical. Negativity bias has you replay the things that didn’t go so well throughout your day. It has you dwell on what isn’t going right in your job and with your relationships when for the most part things are going really, really well.

Rick Hanson Ph.D, neuropsychologist and Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence suggests actively looking for good experiences, savoring them and letting them soak in to your brain and your body as a method to counter negativity bias.

Let Go of Limiting Beliefs

In addition to paying attention to good, I’ve been letting go of thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve me. Limiting beliefs may or may not be true but we often live as if they are true. They might sound like:

  • I can’t ___ or I could never _____.
  • I’m not ____ (athletic, pretty, capable, smart, good) enough to _____.
  • Or even common sayings like: It takes money to make money.

Limiting beliefs hold us back from achieving our dreams. I was in the midst of a rolfing session a while ago and as the rolfer was working on the golf ball-sized knot on my right shoulder-blade I said, “That’s where I hold all my tension.” She replied, “What are you saving it for?”

What am I saving it for? 

What are your limiting beliefs? What are you saving them for?

Clearing Mental and Physical Clutter Allows You to Be More You

In addition to remodeling my physical home and the mental pathways in my mind, I’ve been remodeling my online home. I’ve rebranded Big State, Big Life to lorenaknapp.com.

Remodeling your home or your neural pathways and launching a website feel much the same. There are weeks and weeks where it doesn’t seem like much is happening. Links are broken, the plug-in that seems like it will be ideal doesn’t actually work like I had hoped.

As I well know from remodeling my bathroom, the last bit of effort to complete all the little details seems to take forever. There is one more outlet to be changed, one more towel bar to be hung. And another layer of construction dust to wipe away. (Did I mention the dust? Where does it keep coming from?)

You Will Encounter Resistance and Perfectionism

The new routes and ways of thinking feel slow and awkward. You will encounter resistance.

Whenever you take on a really big project perfectionism will move to center stage. It might stop you from getting started or it might stop you from completing a project. Like most things, perfectionism has both positive and negative aspects. It gives us high standards and can drive us to achieve. But it can also keep you tweaking and retooling forever. “Not yet,” it whispers with its’ seductive voice. Perfectionism is a way to hide and play it safe. You must remind yourself that nothing is ever perfect. Even though it isn’t perfect, you can declare it finished.

The site still has the same focus: letting go of our “somedays” and creating our own Big Life. But I’ve put my name out front in what feels like a big, bold spotlight. Partnering with a supportive and strategic business coach along with an awesome web designer and masterful copywriter helped me clarify my purpose, strip away the clutter and make the site more cohesive.

I love helping other people achieve their dreams. It is my personal go-go juice. We’ve honed the BLAST program (group coaching) and BL1SS program (one-to-one coaching) and I’m now offering coaching for people who want to tell a powerful story.

Poke around. Get involved. Dig in.

I welcome you with open arms and a big juicy love hug to our new site. Poke around. Get involved. Dig in. This is a place for you to dream big, speak your intentions loudly, and share your imperfect actions. Together we will overcome our negativity bias and our not enough thinking and pay attention to the good. We’ll inspire one another. We’ll live with attention and intention. We’ll do more of what matters and let go of our limiting beliefs.

Ready? Take a look around, think of this as an open house for our new online home. Then please share the site with a friend that would enjoy being part of our community.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Kathleen Jones September 9, 2014, 7:24 pm

    Lo….this is great! What an active concept! A friend told me that “outer order creates inner order!” I look forward to what’s next. Chris and I are on a positive adventure thru the southern states right now….life is good! Take good care. Xo

    • Lorena September 9, 2014, 7:57 pm

      Thanks Kathleen! Happy travels to you and Chris and congrats on living an intentional life. You inspire.

  • Edward September 10, 2014, 5:57 am

    Inspiring.

    • Lorena September 10, 2014, 6:59 pm

      Thanks Edward!

  • Veronika Bond November 9, 2014, 4:16 pm

    Lovely article. Always good to be reminded of clearing out some clutter. It also works the other way round – clearing inner clutter makes it easy to let go of the outer stuff we’re hanging on to ‘just in case’…

    • Lorena November 11, 2014, 6:20 am

      Absolutely! It seems like clearing clutter is a positive spiral for both the inner and outer landscape.

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