In Norman Doidge MD's book The Brain That Changes Itself, he details amazing stories…
If you just got diagnosed with ADHD, learning disabilities or something similar, it’s a bit of a heavy cross to bear at first. You know you’re different; but you feel like you’re “less” than other people, which is not only bad but it’s completely false.
For me getting my first diagnosis was actually a weight off my chest initially. I had thought I was stupid for most of my life. When I found out I had a real condition, I felt smarter and more confident immediately. I had struggled and made my way pretty far in life with a serious handicap others didn’t have. I was beating the odds. Hell yeah!
Yet it’s tough to accept that there’s no easy way to fully fix your problems. For anyone with “brain differences” as I like to call them, every solution has its downsides. Medication has side effects. Drastic changes can happen (The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing are full of stories of drastic brain changes), but they take time, money and most importantly resilience.
So right away: wrap your head around the idea that you CAN improve these things. Then get comfortable with the idea that you’ve gotta make this your mission, your mantra, your goal. You’ve got to believe it’s possible, and be willing to keep experimenting until you get results.
The Mindset of Persistence
If there’s one thing I learned from Learned Optimism (a book by author Martin Seligman that had a huge impact on me), it’s that success at anything doesn’t come from raw talent; it comes from persistence. The most successful people in any field aren’t the “naturals” or the richest, best looking or most naturally talented people; they’re the ones who keep trying when they fail. And, they recover from failure faster.
This is the mentality you need when trying to change your brain: resilience, and trying again quickly when things don’t work. And if you don’t have that mindset already, the good news is you can get it. It’s very learnable; I didn’t always have that same level of persistence, but after reading Learned Optimism I believed I could improve it. And with practice, I sure as hell did.
I used to be the person that would ask only once for what I wanted. If the answer was “no,” that was it. I thought that was the end of it. I didn’t give up, I just thought that “no” was the only possibility.
Martin Seligman taught me that there’s always another possibility. And whereas I’m far from a master persuader or relentless superhero type, I’ll never try just once at anything anymore. And the results I’ve gotten in my career, relationships, and all other areas have been much better as a result.
Persistence = Results
And so it goes for brain improvement. I’ve tried dozens of different techniques and treatments before, ranging from medication, to 10-day silent meditation retreats, to occupational therapy to neurofeedback and so on. I’ve changed up my nutrition, my exercise habits, my sleep and rearranged my lifestyle.
I’ve had a myriad of successes, as well as failures. Overally I’m in a far better place than I was when I started. The work has not only paid off, but it’s shaped the direction of life, and redefined my life’s purpose.
But I’m not even close to done yet. I know I’m nowhere close to the limit of where my mind can go, and I won’t stop until I’m satisfied.
My point is this: commit to this. Commit to changing your brain. Believe that it is possible. And get ready to keep experimenting along with me. Eventually we’ll both have some amazing breakthroughs the world will want to know about.