The web is full of feel good pictures about taking back control of your life. They serve as good reminders to keep striving for the life you want. Sometimes though they minimize the difficulty of actually going about it…they fill with promises of how easy it is if we “just” change our thinking or push ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

It’s not just pictures of course; other media, people around us and even ourselves can minimize the hard work it takes to overcome our misery, low self-esteem and other issues which muddy our potential and keep us stuck in a life we do not find forfilling.

So what does science say?

There’s a period of our lives, up until we are around 18 months old, where our fresh brains are developing and adjusting to the world. During that crucial time the areas of our brain must learn to communicate with each other in order to make sense of the world around us – they are called our neural networks.

How those neural networks learn to communicate depends on our experiences with our caregivers to provide us with food, warmth, safety and security.

If that provision is experienced as reliable then our brains adapt those neural networks into a ‘learning’ network, however, if the provision is experienced as unreliable then our brains adapt those neural networks into a ‘survival’ network.

Those neural networks form the basis for our experience of the world and our approach to it. Our lives throughout the rest of our childhood reinforce or counteract that initial neural network communication pattern.

Not as Simple As That

It’s not as simple as that of course, our responses to life now are not solely based on our life up until we were 18 months old. Neither are they a direct result of our childhood experiences – there’s a whole range of biological, social, inherent and environmental influences that effect how we experience life.

Nonetheless though, research has demonstrated this neural network development which shapes our response to the world. Imagine how different an emergency response team and a research & development team would react to a given task…

But Not Impossible!

It doesn’t mean that you cannot change your life or achieve the life you dream of having. Research has also shown that it IS possible to change those neural networks in your brain – it’s called neuroplasticity.

It does mean that it might take you a bit longer than other’s who developed more of a ‘learning’ network.

Mindfulness is one of the keys to this. Through increased awareness you can become more aware of your ’emergency responses’ and learn to adapt it into more of a ‘learning response’.

So next time you see a picture or hear someone say how easy it is to change your life and you feel like a failure….just remember that it’s not always that easy….be kind to yourself.