I was a long distance runner in high school.
I know right.
A few times each week I’d join my running mates at lunch and run laps around the perimeter of the school. When we first started this loop, it was a grass path. But over the years of us constantly trampling it, it gradually changed to a dirt one.
It really pissed the school gardener.
It had taken us years to create it and you could just look at it as evidence of all the hard work we were putting in. The idea of running somewhere else didn't even enter our minds. That was the path we'd be taking.
It was familiar.
It was just the path we ran.
Your brain and grass paths
There’s a really boring word that scientists made up called neuroplasticity.
It's just a word used to describe the fact that our brains are far more malleable that we'd known up until this point. Just because you've used it in one way for so long, doesn't mean it needs to stay like that.
Think of it this way.
Your brain a big connection of grass paths.
Every time you think in a certain way, tell yourself a certain thing or practice certain task, you’re travelling down a particular grass path in your brain. After doing this continually for a long time, that grass path starts to become like the one I used to run around at school. Familiar, worn it, convenient. The more you use that route, the easier it is to go down.
That's great news if you're happy with the way you think. But not great if you aren't.
So what do we do?
Well, we start taking a new path.
In other words, rather than constantly going down the same path in your mind. Choose to take a new one. Learn a new skill or language, change a bad habit, think something differently, start speaking positively to your self.
Initially it's hard because you have to force yourself through all the weeds and bushes and sticks that have built up on that path. But the more you take it, the more clear the path becomes. Over time, with enough practice, the new path will become the natural path to take.
It might just take a while for the path to become clear.