For many people, your nervous system is like our government. You do not know how it (your nervous system or your government) has grown into such a fix; you have no realistic idea of how to fix it; and you feel trapped, unable to create a new future. Now, in the prior blog, where I discussed our Congress and Obamacare, I promised that I would not to become overtly political. I will keep that promise. But here is my perspective. Your nervous system is like our government. It does not perform best when handling massive changes. In fact, it often does what government does: it freezes, self-destructs, and can cost you your style of life.
Other similarities? Our government was created relatively quickly; it has endured through several centuries with only periodic reluctant changes; and it (or at least some of the people in it) seem to fight any major change with a vengeance that seems almost suicidal. Well, 90% of your nervous system was created in your first two years; it settled into a pattern of automatic behaviors that have sustained you for decades; and at this age – or any age – it is reluctant to steer away from those long-ingrained behaviors or habits.
However, there is some good news. Our government, with Social Security and Medicare, successfully incorporated major changes. Your nervous system can do the same. The truth? It just takes effort and perseverance. Do you remember how the NASA program trained the early astronauts? How they were worried about the physiological response of spatial disorientation (a condition that was expected to occur in space)? Do you remember how their short-term experiments increased their fear that the astronauts would self-destruct? Do you remember the unexpected lesson that was learned when those experiments were allowed to continue?
Each astronaut was required to wear, day and night (even while sleeping), a set of convex goggles that flipped their world upside down. When the astronauts stared through the goggles, the floor became the ceiling and the ceiling became the floor. It was a difficult transition for every single astronaut, causing many marked changes in blood pressure, pulse, etc. Those changes make it very difficult for the astronauts to function; and it made their survival precarious. However, something unexpected happened during the experiment as it progressed longer and longer. It’s a lesson for you – and a lesson for our government.
Around day 26-30 of the experiment, the astronaut’s world, while still wearing the goggles, flipped right side up. Their brain adapted, correcting the disorientation. But there was a critical requirement. The astronauts had to wear the goggles every day and night for that change to occur. If they skipped a single day at any point in this convex goggle experiment, they were back to the starting point, day one; and they had to wait another 26-30 days for the brain’s adaption. In short, change came only through consistent, daily efforts. Taking a single day off? Or changing the program? It defeated (and postponed) the upcoming successful change.
Well, for you, changes to your nervous system are similar. You need to work on them on a consistent basis, staying the course. If you do, your nervous system will change and a new behavior (a new group of connections) will emerge. What type of actions am I discussing? There are many possibilities. It could be a change in your eating style, a shift in your exercise, a new habit of meditation, an extra night with friends each week, etc. – anything that allows you to reduce your stress, decrease your unhealthy cortisol levels, and establish new neuron connections. Those basic actions will lead to massive changes in your nervous system.
There is a generally accepted belief that 75-90% of your energy is devoted to daily survival while only 10-25% of your energy is focused on the changes that need to make for your long-term survival (and prosperity). My suggestion? Make certain that you take the time (and make the effort) to activate that additional energy. How will you know when your efforts have worked? You will have developed new habits. You will have changed in a dramatic manner; it just won’t be an overnight change. And, at some point, you will be feeling much happier and far more relaxed. Plus, you will actually be healthier.
So, how does that relate to our government? Again, I try not to be political. But I am a great believer in neuroplasticity – the ability of your nervous system to change. And I am a great believer in working toward change, not away from change. So, my suggestion for you (re: all of my habits in my book) is to try them! Make those changes. If they do not work (and I, of course, think they will work!), well … you can always go back to your old ways. And that’s my recommendation for Congress. Let the new changes have their own chance. If they fail, they fail. But you never know until you try them. Just ask NASA. They succeeded! You and our government can do the same. Don’t we deserve the chance?