“You become what you think about most of the time.”
– Earl Nightingale, American radio personality and author
“It’s just the way I’m wired,” said John. “That’s an electrician’s joke.”
I was speaking with my buddy, John about healthy self-esteemers. He’s one of them. John is an electrician, and despite challenges and setbacks in his life and career, he has always remained upbeat – confident and capable. To me, John epitomizes the individual with a grounded sense of self and a healthy, positive outlook on life.
John’s comment about being “wired” in a particular manner got me thinking. Is healthy self-esteem genetic – wired into our DNA – or is it a state-of-mind, an attitude to be cultivated? Many of us strive to attain a healthy level of self-esteem, but many of us have great difficulty maintaining it. I think a lot of us believe our mind is hardwired meaning that change is impossible, but new research is suggesting the opposite.
A few years ago, I read a book by American best-selling author, Joe Dispenza. Joe has written a number of books, but the one I was most intrigued by is called Evolve Your Brain – The Science of Changing Your Mind.
In the book, Dispenza makes two radical statements about our ability to reprogram our brains. The first: “Cells that fire together, wire together.” The second: “Cells that no longer fire together, unwire together.” Dispenza says we, as humans, have the ability to energize or, should we choose, de-energize neural pathways in the brain.
In layman’s terms, a neural pathway is like a highway that connects one part of the brain – one town – to another. The more “well-travelled” the highway, the smoother and wider the route. Any persistent pattern, empowering or disempowering, follows a familiar neural pathway. And once we master that pattern, it becomes the property of the unconscious mind. We no longer need to think about it – it has become second nature.
Think back to when you were a child; you had to learn to drink from a bottle and later from a cup. You had no understanding of the cup or its purpose. A new neural pathway needed to be developed. Over time, with instruction and perseverance, you learned that the cup contained something you desired. In the same way that a seed germinates and sends roots forth into the soil, your new neural pathway began to grow. Over time, you mastered the skill of drinking from a cup – the pathway became deeply entrenched, fully-energized – and the action of drinking became unconscious.
If “cells that fire together, wire together,” then so do like states-of-mind. If you’re feeling happy, capable and deserving, then you will begin to wire together a series of corresponding emotional states and associated memories. This powerful, positive network will grow larger and more potent with daily use and, ultimately, begin to influence your day-to-day state-of-mind. The same routine is at play when you’re feeling depressed and inadequate. One approach will lead you to happiness and healthy self-esteem while the other will lead you to sadness, disappointment, envy and regret.
This knowledge is reason for celebration because “cells that no longer fire together, unwire together.” In other words, if an existing neural pathway no longer fires with the same power and consistency that it once did – especially when awareness is introduced – the connections begin to break down. Unconscious patterns can be brought back to the surface where – with perseverance and faith – we can unlearn them.
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you,” wrote James Allen, British philosophical writer. “You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
Whether it’s developing a positive and purposeful outlook like John or just enhancing your self-esteem, you’ll doubtless need to run some new wires and establish some new neural pathways. It will require awareness, perseverance and repetition but it will be worth it.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert.