Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels? Your father, mother, brother or sister ran alongside you while your hands desperately clung to the steering handles, the bike wobbling every which way. When they finally felt you were ready to ride without their help, they pointed out a rock in the middle of the dirt road 50 feet ahead and warned you, “Now don’t you run into that rock!” They gave you a little shove and off you went. And to keep yourself from running into that rock, you kept your eyes fastened to it. Despite your best efforts, you know what happened, BAM! Right into the rock!
This illustrates a very interesting brain principle.
Our brains are teleological: They seek the strongest picture.
They are like a guided missile. Just as a missile seeks objects, our brains seek pictures or ideas. Unlike a bullet which never veers from its path, our brains are continually correcting ourselves to find whatever target we are searching for. And what is that target? It is simply the ‘strongest picture that YOU have chosen.’ And that strongest picture is found in your self-image.
For example, when I weighed 230 pounds for many years, my strongest picture (i.e., my self-image) was that of a 230-pound man, because that was who I was. My brain then followed it and never veered away.
However, as I began to learn the principles we have learned together in this column, I imagined myself as a very slim 200-pound man. As this new picture became the stronger one, I found myself eating and exercising like a 200-pound man and over two years, the 30 pounds gradually came off.
All of this is accomplished through your self-talk. You give yourself an idea of what you are seeking. If you don’t, your mind (more specifically, a part of your mind I like to call the ‘creative subconscious’) simply keeps you the way you are, with no change.
The best example for understanding how our brains follow the strongest picture is the story of Sarah’s birth, our youngest daughter.
When she was being delivered, some severe complications arose, and she was barely breathing. I followed the ambulance as they rushed her to Children’s Hospital in San Diego and after Sarah was admitted and the pediatrician examined her, he told me she had about a 50 percent chance of living.
It felt like an arrow had pierced my heart.
My sister Sallee was a perinatal RN who had cared for newborn babies for over 13 years. She met me at the hospital, listened to Sarah’s prognosis and sat me down in the waiting room.
She looked at me squarely in the eyes and declared, “You cannot give up on this child!” I didn’t know what she meant. “Sallee,” I protested, “She is only three hours old. What do you mean?”
“I mean that it is up to YOU to give her the desire to get well! YOU must paint an amazingly vivid picture of the wonderful place she is going home to, rather than the picture she now has of lying in a Perinatal Intensive Care Ward so heavily medicated she cannot move.
“Sallee…she can’t even see me…or hear me…or probably sense my touch! What good can I do?”
“I’ll repeat it again, Steve. It is up to YOU to give her a stronger picture; a picture of your wire-haired fox terrier licking at her face when she comes home, her older sister holding her in that big brown chair and Mary taking her for walks in the park.”
So, for the next five days, I stood by her isolette talking to her for 12 hours a day, stroking her back and feeling kind of foolish. I did not see how my standing and talking to her could be doing any good.
On about the fourth day, the pediatrician pulled me aside from Sarah’s isolette and told me they were at a critical stage in her care. You and I normally breathe about 30 percent oxygen and other gasses), while Sarah was receiving 100 percent. He told me that over time, this is very destructive, especially to the brain. He said that she must lower her oxygen requirements over the next 12 hours or else they would have to lower the oxygen intake themselves and then just wait and see.
At my wit’s ends, I went home and brought back my guitar. For the entire night I stood by the isolette singing gentle children’s songs to her, touching her back, talking to her, telling her about her sister Abbey (who is also a redhead), our dog “Tobe,” and all the wonderful things she has to look forward to.
When they took her blood gas levels the next morning, her oxygen requirement had decreased from 100 percent to 40 percent in 12 hours and she was home with us three days after that.
I believe, and my sister agreed, along with her pediatrician, that somehow after her magnificent mind saw a stronger picture of her home and family, it simply said, “Enough of this! I want to go home now and meet my sister!”
This leads us to a wonderful brain principle.
We move toward and become like that which we think about and our present thoughts determine our future. In other words, we move physically and emotionally toward that which we think about.
This is the reason that worrying can be so destructive. Worrying is simply a negative goal setting. When we worry about something (and the events about which we worry seldom happen the way we think they will), we are making those worries the strongest picture. For example, Formula One race drivers, the ones in the big speedways, are taught that if their car is going out of control and heading to the wall, they must fasten their eyes on the “recovery point.” Now ordinarily you look where you are going. However, if you keep your eyes fixed on where you are going, you will steer your car right into the wall. So, the discipline is, even though you are heading to the wall, you focus your attention on where you want to end up.
Studies have shown however that significantly successful people always think in the future, as if it has already happened. Stephen Covey, in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” lists this as the second habit and titles it “Begin with the End in Mind.” We lose that weight because we already see ourselves as weighing 120, or 140, or 200 pounds, a year before we have actually lost it. If you are to change and learn and grow, you can learn to think this way. You can learn how to make what you want for your future the strongest picture, and the brain will follow it like a guided missile follows a target.
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent” and conducts “The Winners Circle” every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. Contact Steven at 480-5007 or go his website at stevenrcampbell.com to ask about free seminars.