How To Build A Self Sufficient Brain
You and I have a problem. This world is set against us. It does not promise happiness, or a good life.
Instead life promises that you will suffer. It promises things will go wrong. People will betray you. You will will hurt people, often people you love, sometimes badly.
The Bible would say it like this: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”v - Romans 8:22
This world is broken at its core. From the Christian perspective we would say that sin, human folly, entering the world, broke it. Death entered the world and everything pushed towards decay and entropy.
What we can all agree on is that you will face trauma in this life. Not everyone will believe in you, not everybody wants to be your friend. Instead, you will have marked trauma throughout the different seasons your life. These experiences, these traumas, have the ability to shape who we are as individuals.
There is beauty there too though. Anxiety, trauma, and the brokenhearted places in life give us a glimpse of ourselves underneath the facade we show everyone else, and even ourselves.
In these moments, we were given the power of choice! Visceral experiences will shape your life by the sheer force they have to barge in. How they shape them is completely up to you!
In my undergrad at Texas A&M I remember sitting in the classroom listening to the psychology professor lecture us on the power of negative experiences. He shared the thought: “It takes 5 positive experiences to balance the scales from 1 negative experience.”
At the time I had no reason to argue with his belief. It made sense, and I could point to several instances in my life where something along those lines ended up being true. I can’t count the number of encouraging comments towards my work ethic before I truly believed I wasn’t lazy.
For years, the innate power of negative experiences was cemented in my brain. This changed when I got referenced to the book:“The Gap & The Gain” by Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan.
Their premise is that we can view all of our experiences through the lens of a “gain.” Even, and especially, hard experiences. Your past is specifically yours and you can choose to interpret it how you see fit.
They put a hole in the “negative experience” theory psychology today spouts, and ask the simple question, but what if it’s just wrong?
The more I listened, the more I realized how their thoughts actually lined up well with Biblical principles like gratefulness, humility, and surrender.
I decided to give it a shot!
As practice, I started working through the hard moments in my day, and seeing them as wins.
To be honest, this week has been challenging on the ranch.
You see, we recently tripled the goats on the ranch. Which is great! Until everything falls apart..
On Tuesday day they got out. I was an hour and a half away. My wife was 30 minutes away, and had our 1 year old with her. She simply couldn’t bring them in. Right down the road my uncle has huge dogs that I could see killing off my sheep and scattering the herd everywhere.
Thankfully, she was able to call a high school kid who easily got the goats back in with a bit of food. All is well. In fact, we had been training our goats for scenarios like this!
Instead of freaking out because the goats were out on a county road, I focused on the fact that my wife got to love me well. Also, she got to feel supported by her local community as our young friend met a deep, felt need in her life.
I was able to be grateful we had support, and humble enough to let my wife take point in an area that is supposed to be my responsiblity.
This is great, until I let you know they got out…again!
All but 2 were missing this time! The gate was flung wide open after I was sure it was locked. And I had to leave on business…again!
Just to give you a reference, the entire herd is worth over $9,000, so it’s a lot of money to just up and walk off. Despair crept in, and at the very least, I knew I had to prepare myself to grieve if they didn’t come back.
As I counted down the hours waiting for the day to wind down, my mind occupied itself with questions like “What am I learning from this experience?” and “How can I make sure this is never repeated?”
Mistakes can be made, but if we don’t take the time to learn from them, then there isn’t anything to celebrate because the mistake will keep coming at us. Instead of beating myself up, I kept asking what I could learn. As a believer, I was also grateful for the outlet of prayer. Of course I asked the Lord to send my herd back and take care of them!
After I shot up my prayers, I was able to surrender the herd to the Head Shepherd and let my identity as a person separate from my goats, even if we lost them all. I wasn’t worthless even if this mistake turned out to have huge consequences!
What I have learned through many hard experiences and mistakes like this is that the world wants you depressed. It wants you anxious. Shame is at our doorsteps waiting to pounce on us every time we fail. Like I stated in the beginning, the world is a broken place, so letting ourselves go into a place of brokenness is sooo easy!
Instead, I have found it is worth the effort to dig for hope, to dig for learning. This means I have to work through my pain instead of burying it. This means I have to open up to people around me that I am having a hard time.
As paradoxical as it is, sharing our weaknesses and hurts with each other is how we gain strength.
This whole bit can seem off in left field, but consider this:
“He [Jesus] continued: It’s what comes out of a man that defiles him. From within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery….” Mark 7:20-21
The list goes on, but you get my point. One important observation I found there is to look at the beginning of the list. “Within the hearts of men come evil thoughts.” Then he goes on to list a ton of physical actions. Why?
Because Jesus realized everything starts in the mind. Whether it is a grand dream, or your darkest desires. They all start in our minds. It is the primary field of creation. Anything that you do in your life has to first happen in your head.
Your mind is the source of your purest good and your most vile evil. It has the power to tear us down utterly, or to build us to heights we never even dreamed of. The crazy thing though, we get to control what our minds do.
Dr. Caroline Leaf is a neurologist, and a possibly a personal hero of mine! She actually developed the idea of neuroplasticity in the late 1980’s and proved it in the 1990’s. It is 2022, and she is still going strong in her research, andher methods have helped thousands upon thousands.
At its heart, her theory of neuroplasticity simply states that our brains have the capacity to change. To be entirely remade, all of our lives. Our thought patterns actually generate physical changes in our brain that make it easier to repeat those thought patterns in the future!
Practically speaking, this means our brains can be trained to tear us down or to build us up. Which path we choose to take will determine if we tear others down or build them up as well!! The more we do either action, the easier it will be to continue.
This is the crux of regenerative thinking! At its core you can identify regenerative thinking by asking yourself “Is this line of thought bringing me joy and life, or is it tearing me down and leading to death?
None of us are going to be perfect at it, but engaging in thinking that ultimately builds life is as necessary as eating the right foods or getting regular exercise. Our thinking habits spill out into those around us as we start seeing them through a lens of positivity and love.
Of course, the same goes for thinking that tears us down. We not only tear ourselves down, but all the relationships around us get seen through the same lens and we inevitably tear others down right along with us.
So here is the final question: How do you put this to work for you?
If you don’t apply anything then all you did was waste a few minutes of your day reading or listening to me, and your life just stayed the same. That’s dumb man!
If you aren’t going through something hard right now, you can sure bet you will before long.
So let’s come up with an action plan!
Well for starters I know it can sound like an “unmanly” thing to do, but I have found keeping a journal to be very helpful! I like to do mine either 1st thing in the morning or last in the evening. Sometimes both!
Because as men we aren’t normally as in touch with our emotions as women. Journaling gives me a tool to work with my emotions. I have found that if I use this tool I have much more control over how my emotions come out.
Then, I am able to spot lies trying to sway my thinking. It's kind of like stretching for my mind. Journaling gets rid of mental aches and pains when I’m not clear on where they come from.
The more you do it the less pain you feel day in and day out.
Here’s are questions I answer almost every day:
- What were my wins today?
- Why were they wins?
- How did I celebrate them?
- What was the hardest thing about my day today?
- What did I learn from that experience?
- What are the 3 things I need to do to make tomorrow a win? (They should be important)
Do me a favor. Don’t watch TV the last 30 minutes of your day. Don’t look at your phone. Get screen free. Answer these questions.
Normally, I use the morning journal time to address the deeper desires of my heart with God. I will spend approximately 30 praying with my journal and 15 minutes in the Bible. It helps me start my day in a place where I know I will be primed for regenerative thinking.
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on this. If you choose to apply any of this, feel free to shoot me an email and let me know how it goes!
Until Next Week,