I have been researching certain areas of neuroscience and psychology recently. The advances in these fields have been quite astounding over the last decade or so, especially concerning neuroplasticity. However, I wonder whether most of us have truly embraced this now accepted concept? In particular, have we thought about how neuroplasticity relates to our view of the self and human potential?
Human potential is our greatest asset. It is more important than the technology it creates. Warrant Buffett recently commented that he primarily invests in ‘human potential’. Business people know our personal potential, and that of our team is what determines success and failure. Innovation and the fast pace of change in the 21st Century, now bring human creative potential into sharp focus.
However, have we taken a deeper look at our own potential and asked about its limits, if any? Have we thought about limiting beliefs, values or mental scripts we personally have which can interfere with potential? Have we examined any orthodox belief systems or even ideologies, and questioned if they unfairly or incorrectly limit human potential?
Neuroplasticity is simply the power of the human brain to repair itself- to ‘rewire’ itself by making better and new neural connections. I remember studying early neuroscience in the 1980s. The prevailing orthodox belief was the opposite- brain cells cannot repair themselves, they are fixed. Once they die, that’s it. You are born with what you have, and that’s it. I remember squarely questioning my teachers at the time. I never did see any clear, firm evidence for the orthodox view. Frankly, it seemed to be a needless limitation on potential. Potential to me inherently, intuitively seemed limitless. This orthodox view for much of the 20th Century led to people being unfairly classified as ‘bright’ or ‘not bright’ in our education system and beyond. This limited individual lives, again needlessly. It limited business and societal growth, needlessly. Inclusion and facilitating multiple dimensions of human potential made much more sense to me back then. It still does today.
Now in the 21st Century, if we apply neuroplasticity and beliefs flowing from this science, it follows that human potential is infinite. There is no limit to how an individual mind can rewire- quantitatively or qualitatively. There is no limit to the potential of two or more such creative minds getting together in a garage and creating a company that could change the world. Now with AI and other advances, there is no preconceived limit to what human minds coupled with cutting edge technologies can achieve in one, ten or one hundred years.
Preconceived limits based on incorrect science or belief systems have now, thankfully been removed.
If we accept the infinite potential that flows from the concept of neuroplasticity, does this square with the beliefs about our selves and our own potential? Do we have fixed, limiting beliefs about our own potential or that of others? Do we think, ‘I cannot change, this is just the way I am?’ Or, ‘I will never understand this…. it is just beyond me?’ These seem like erroneous beliefs hung over from the orthodox science of a fixed brain from last century.
“Everything having to do with human training and education has to be re-examined in light of neuroplasticity.” – Norman Doidge.
I am currently re-reading a brilliant, watershed book by Carol Dweck, ‘Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential’ (2012). Here, the author draws from recent research in psychology showing people have two dominant mindsets. First, the Fixed Mindset, which says our potential is fixed- we are either ‘smart’ or not. This is apparently based on our genetics- our potential is fixed from birth. Second, the Growth Mindset, which says our potential is never fixed, we can grow, learn and train to do anything.
It is clear, if we take the now established science of neuroplasticity, the Growth Mindset makes sense. The Fixed Mindset, like some of our personal beliefs or scripts, is a hang over from 20th Century thinking. However, the problem of limiting beliefs or scripts is still acute today in many people from many walks in life. From CEOs, government leaders to young entrepreneurs or even teenagers. Many of us are still stuck in the old wrong paradigm. We still believe we are either ‘smart’ or not, that we ‘have it’ or not. This can then link to other negative beliefs or scripts, such as ‘I am just not good or good enough…’. Many of these beliefs are subtle, but guide other higher thoughts, emotions, behaviours and things that drive us. They can direct or change a life.
This is wrong, very wrong. The plain truth in the 21st Century is human potential is unlimited and we, like things in nature can grow, adapt, evolve, in ways not yet known or imagined. We are all that good. We all have infinite potential. We just need to change our limiting beliefs and make them accord with the modern science. Potential is inherently inclusive.
Further evidence comes from general science. In the book, ‘The Biology of Belief’ (2005) by Dr. Bruce Lipton, the author mounts clear evidence about the power of beliefs and how they shape our potential. Not only this, but beliefs can change our genes! The consequence is clear- positive beliefs facilitate unlimited potential, negative, limiting beliefs inhibit potential. Positive beliefs accord with both the neuroscience, the general science and evidence from modern psychology and beyond.
What do you now believe about your potential? What do you believe about the potential of your business partner, your team, your organisation, your son or daughter? If we truly embrace our infinite potential, then another thing becomes clear- anything is possible in the material world. If anything is possible, then how will you use this unbridled potential in your life, or that of your family or organisation? It seems a higher duty arises. We just need to ‘rewire’ beliefs, scripts and cells. We just need to create a new alignment more suited to the 21st Centaury and beyond.
“The plain truth in the 21st Century is human potential is unlimited and we, like things in nature can grow, adapt, evolve, in ways not yet known or imagined.”
Lee Spano, Creatness International, www.creatness.com
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