Neuroplasticity – is based on Donald Hebb’s theory that “neurons that fire together wire together”.
We are big on habits because that’s how the brain works – its default mode is to cut down on the time we need to think before acting, more efficient use of the brain.
Problem is, some of these habits are unproductive.
If unexamined, these habits keep on operating and become our default reactions (unconsciously). As Hebb says, the more they are practised, the more these neurons have the chance to fire together and become more hardwired as pairs – stimuli x causes neuron A to fire with neuron B resulting in emotion y. Emotion y is not how we want to react. What do we do?
Habits are hard to break. The more they are hardwired, the harder they are to be redirected.
If Hebb Theory is true, then the reverse of it must be true too. Therein lies the key to breaking habits. The less we act on a habit (consciously) the less they fire together, the less “walked on” the neural pathway becomes. See faded out neural pathways on the left of diagram. As we train a new habit, the more we practise and walk the same pathway, the more the new habits will be formed, as depicted on the right of the diagram.
If we were to stop for a moment to consider now, we will realise that there are many habitual activities and reactions (especially the unconscious ones) that we have relied on and defaulted to, like the many neural pathways that have formed in our lives (see middle of diagram).
However, to remain sharp in our thinking and relevant in our reactions, we need to be aware of our habits. It’s time to prune those unproductive ones.
Train (and prune) your neutral pathways before the war to serve during the war.
Define your own “war”.