Making Mind Muscles Exercise
Introduction to the “Making Mind Muscles” exercise:
One of the challenges of behavioral change is that we don't distinguish between the sensations of creating new neural connections (Mind Muscles™) and the new behavior we want to experience.
As a result, the combined experience can feel overwhelming and negative.
Let me repeat this again!
You can’t create new behaviors without creating new neurological connections.
Since this is the case, doesn’t it make sense to know what it feels like to create new neural connections (Mind Muscles)?
This exercise is designed to give you the raw experience of creating new neural connections, building new neural structures and automating a new set of behaviors.
Since this exercise doesn't trigger any critical or sensitive behavioral change or negative history, it will give you the pure experience of building Mind Muscles™ alone.
What you need for this exercise: Quiet space, pen, and paper. (No, not a computer.)
Time to complete: 10 minutes
Goal: Experience the raw creation of new neural connections
What I want you to do is to pick up a pen and put it in your non-writing hand…for most of you this will switch the pen from the right hand to the left hand. (Except for us lefties!)
Write this phrase, “Making Mind Muscles” with the wrong hand.
After a few moments, stop and notice what you are feeling, thinking, and any physiological response you are aware of.
Take the pen in your normal writing hand and jot down a series of words or phrases that represent your experience.
Put the pen in your non-writing hand again and repeat writing the phrase "Making Mind Muscles™".
After a few minutes, stop and jot down the words that represent your thoughts, feelings, and/or physical responses.
Repeat this cycle up to five times and enter your experience each time. Notice the words that you wrote that represented your experience.
Once you have reviewed your notes, turn the page or scroll down.
Typically, what I hear from clients in the first cycle are words like:
- Swimming in molasses
- Out of control
- Have to concentrate so hard
- Tight stomach
- Feel stupid
- Silly and giddy
- Can't concentrate
Your words may be similar or very different. The important point is to note your own experience. This is critical because what you just accomplished was the start of creating new neural circuits, or new Mind Muscles™.
Now repeat the exercise and note the experience in the raw, without interpretations or judgments. Notice the experience just as it is. Interesting isn’t it?
You are a fascinating person.
The more you are able to experience the sensations in their raw form, without your conscious mind making interpretations, the more you will find your responses to be amazing to behold.
Now, this is the glue that makes this exercise stick and it may seem a bit silly. That is ok because this anchors the experience physiologically, so you can get back to it when you need it.
Write with your wrong hand, and notice the experience in the raw, put down your pen, clasp your hands together, and move them up and down while saying “Making Mind Muscles” while the experience is fresh.
We are doing is wiring these two events together.
The next time you are creating new Mind Muscles™, clasp your hands together, and move them up and down in rhythm to the words you say out loud, “Making Mind Muscles.”
Give yourself a pat on the back, much like you do after a great workout.
Once that experience is second nature, when you find yourself wanting to cancel a stop, or open the fridge for a high-calorie snack, do the Mind Muscle™ Movement!
I want you to feel so proud of yourself as you experience a new behavior that feels better, serves your goals, and honors who you are.
Imagine you went to the gym and you didn't understand that the muscle fatigue you experienced was how you built new muscle fiber.
What if you didn't understand that the soreness you felt the next day was part of the process of getting stronger?
Would you return to the gym? NO!
Normally, when we want to create a new behavior that serves us better than our current behavior, our experience is conflicted. We may experience a mix of general anxiety, fear of loss, possible survival threats, negative feedback from those we care about; AND the frustration of building new neural circuits.
The combination of these experiences seems daunting and is what has made changes feel so difficult in the past.
As you continue to build Mind Muscles™ you will become more aware of these distinctions and be able to separate the experience of creating new neural circuits from the other real-world challenges.
My goal is to give you the experience of separating the sensations of building new neural pathways from the behavior itself.
This way you can feel proud of yourself, just like you feel proud of yourself when you feel those sore muscles after exercise, knowing that you are building a more successful body. With Mind Muscles™, you are building a more successful life for yourself.
As much as possible, we want to create simulations and experiences that give instant, positive rewards, so the new behavior just simply feels better than the old one.
The simulation itself creates new neural connections without the effort of discipline and internal brute force.
For example, to build my Mind Muscles™ website, I needed to learn the WordPress application. Nothing worked as I wanted it to!
All my prior experience learning new applications led me down the wrong path. I began to interpret my raw experience as frustration. This experience of frustration was my negative interpretation of my raw experience.
In reality, I was simply building new neural circuits!
Having had the experience of initial frustration turning into new skills or behaviors dozens of times before, I could re-frame my frustration into the understanding that I was "building Mind Muscles™".
The more we can distinguish the raw experience of building new neural circuits from our habitual interpretations of this experience as frustration, the easier it becomes to build the next Mind Muscle.
If If you refer back to the Virtuous Cycle diagram, you will see that we are creating the physical movement of the hands and the words spoken out loud as a way to break the habit of escaping from the “Vicious Cycle” to the “Virtuous Cycle.”
It is at that juncture we focus our attention. If you can stay in the virtuous cycle just once, you can do it again and again.
The more you stay in the virtuous cycle, the more you are rewarded and the easier it will become next time. In fact, it will soon become a way of life for you.
As a side benefit, if this happens often enough, you may even have to adjust your identity upward a notch or two as a capable person.
After a while, you just won’t be able to deny it. Oh, yes!