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Find the joy in your life!

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"Thanks for reminding me of the importance of joy and loving myself – zoot, zoot! When the student is ready, the teacher appears"
- Sue Oetting

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FARC - the secret to change

You CAN change!

Neuroscience is showing us that we CAN change!  A leopard CAN change its spots and you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!  

What we have learned is just what we have learned and hardwired into our brains!
It can be UN hardwired and RE hardwired differently and that means we CAN learn new behaviours and ways to think and perceive the world. YAAAAAAAA!

Try this.  Stand up for a second and stand as you normally would.  Look at where your feet are pointing.  Most people will stand with their feet to some degree like Charlie Chaplin!  Or women will stand with their feet like a ballerina. This feels comfortable and "natural' for you.  But here is the interesting news!  It is NOT comfortable for your body - it is in fact causing all sorts of things like flat feet and strained knees and painful hips!  

Now, let’s try putting your feet the way they were meant to be and the way they were when you were a toddler  - 


stand with your feet parallel and about 4 inches or 10 cm apart. ONLY 4 inches now!!  How do you feel?

I bet you feel pigeon toed or at least strange! But there is no reason for this other than you have learned to go against the natural hard wiring of your brain.  You literally taught yourself or re-hardwired your brain to think that standing like Charlie Chaplin is now comfortable!  As toddlers we copy our parents and adults to look cool! Or kewl as they teach me to say! We might think we look cool but we are actually stressing our joints and I think we look odd! 

So number 1, we really can re-hardwire our brains and change our behaviours but it feels strange while we re-learn the ‘new’ way.

WHY change appears difficult

When we are asked to do something new, or we practice something new, the prefrontal cortex at the very front of our brains begins to work really hard.  It is a relatively new part of the brain and sits just behind your forehead. When it works hard or performs something new, is sucks up tons of oxygen and makes us feel tired and sometimes drained!

Remember when you were learning to drive?  How challenging, scary and hard that was because there were so many new things we had to pay attention to?  Mind you, it was probably more scary for our parents!    Well what happens now?  Sometimes I bet you drive home and you cannot remember one thing about driving!  After you have mastered a new skill or behaviour, it is relegated to and stored in the basal ganglia - another part of your brain that is like the archives of all stuff you now know how to do!
     I started learning how to play the harp when I was 50 and it was enormously difficult, as I didn't even know how to read music! To coordinate my hands to do separate things, have them in the correct position, remember where the strings were AND read the music was wayyyy too much initially!  But I persevered with my saint of a teacher and eventually it became easier.  A little.  And we all know that! Practice makes perfect!  In my case, it was practice meant at least I could identify the strings! 

Change is often something that makes us all feel the F word!  FEAR!  Which is the REAL F word... because… there is a little part of the brain - the oldest part of the brain often called 'the lizard brain' that lies right next to the prefrontal cortex.

It's called the amygdala - I call it AMMY for short!  Anyway, it's easy to trigger Ammy when we are doing new things because of its proximity to the prefrontal cortex, and Ammy's life is dedicated to our survival not our success. It tells us to keep things as they are; to avoid anything that seems difficult or strange or new. It sees risk in anything that will bring about change.  

And that was really useful in the days where doing something different could mean we could be attacked by a sabre tooth tiger and die!

In scientific terms, it's called the amygdala hijack (found in Daniel  Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence). This is when we are instantly transported to a state of terror and we can no longer think clearly. It might be called panic or an anxiety attack.

But learning how to do a new behaviour or think differently does not often expose us to potential death! So although Ammy is trying to protect us, it often slows us down.  Anytime we are doing something like a new job, Ammy can send such bolts of terror through us that we can no longer learn or be effective and we do stupid things - or worse, we give up!

In Seth Godin's book Linchpin, he talks about the lizard brain being 'hungry, scared, angry, and horny."!  He mentions The TED clip of Elizabeth Gilbert the author of "Eat. Love. Pray", in which she talks about the 'daemon' or inner genius that we all have. He says that the daemon has no control over the Ammy as it tries to get you to " shut up, sit down and do your day job', and not be noticed.

Ammy is extraordinarily clever at creating all sorts of distractions, rationalisations, procrastinations, fears, illnesses, worries and anything else that will stop your genius being released. Because releasing your genius is stepping into the unknown and the unknown is a panic button for Ammy!

I remember as a little girl I was terrified of the dark - and yet as soon as the light went on, the fear went away. For no particular reason other than I could see my bedroom!

So we need to understand what is going on physiologically when we approach anything new. And by understanding the fear - hopefully we can shine a light on it and see that really we are safe.

Hopefully, with better understanding of what happens, we can learn to calm our Ammy down and allow our genius to emerge!  

HOW TO CHANGE - The easy and fun way!

Neuroscientists have come up with a bit of a formula for change that seems successful and I have made a funny version of it! You can download it here:

Wake Up Where Are You Wake Up Where Are You (1347 KB)

 To re-hardwire our brains we need to FARC!  Which stands for;

F Focus 
A Attention and awareness
R Repetition 
C Celebration

So the secret is to FARC as you work your way through the Joy U online experience! Knowing what we know about FARC, we have designed it to try and make it as safe for your Ammy as possible, and to help you work through the stages. The elements of FARC are integrated throughout the program because we know it works to effect change. 

As a young physiotherapist or physical therapist, I had a patient who had suffered a stroke. One day we were desperately trying together to help him move his foot on the paralysed side and to my utter joy, I saw his big toe move! So did he!  I can't tell you how hard it was for him to create a new pathway in his brain to do this - such a small thing - but I remember saying to him:

"the first time you do this movement it's like a tiny hairline scratch is put onto your brain.  And each time you do that particular movement, the scratch grows deeper and deeper until you have repeated it so many times, the scratch is a groove and the movement is now automatic!”

Which basically was FARCing!

But a gazillion years ago when this happened, no one had ever heard of neuroscience! I just knew that we had to find a way for him to repeat the movements in an isolated way.

So we just did it naturally. I believed that no matter what had happened to him we could teach him new pathways to learn how to do the movements again.

We focused on just a simple, relaxed isolation of that one movement - which sounds easy but was enormously difficult and he was a courageous man who persevered in the face of tremendous frustration.  We kept paying attention to the single movement and also gave him an awareness that it was possible because he had done it once. But it would take a LOT of repetition and many attempts of what others would call 'failing' and I would call efforts!! 

And I can't tell you how we celebrated each time he did it!  Well, he smiled a lot and I danced around the room shouting with joy and pride for him! The celebration part apparently is really important for the brain to cement the new learnings and rewiring.  

Now, of course neuroscientists are helping people who have had a stroke or other neurological damage years before regain movement and function - it's SO exciting!  And all they have to do is FARC!  


© The Joy Project 2011 |