Take Back Your Territory
By Dr. William K. Larkin on August 6, 2012
Claiming the Real Estate of the Brain
For Better, Better, and Best
Self-help groups, 12 step groups, and healers of every kind spend a great deal of time focusing our time and attention on character defects and weaknesses. It is an enormous economy of oftentimes poorly focused and poorly spent resources that is a waste of talk, talk, talk. We are a culture obsessed with what we don’t do, can’t do, and fail at doing. And then we eat too much, drink too much, and get too fat and WHINE.
You never give up a negative without defining the positive to replace it. This is the bottom line. If you do have something that you want to change that is negative, figure out first what the positive behavior or action is that you’re going to use to replace it.
1. Define the positive behavior that will replace the negative defect. What do you really want?
2. Practice the positive behavior.
3. Every time you do the negative behavior; go to the emotions of the Emotional Gym (peace, hope, love, joy & gratitude) and pulse a positive emotion. Then do the positive behavior.
4. Find a guide who will hold you accountable to the new, positive behavior and will NOT focus you on “why” you did the old stuff.
The real estate of the brain, in its neuropathways and their connections, will not yield to “nothing.” These extensive neuro-connections in the brain do not yield to “blah, blah, blah” about your character defects. In fact, all that talk reinforces them, keeps them in place, and renews their persistence.
If you want to change, define what you want to do instead of the negative behavior. Then define and find the support system you need to sustain the positive behavior.
Addicts of any flavor do not give up negative behavior without defining what the positive behavior is that will replace it.
The sad and sorry fact is that we have an investment in our negative behavior and our character defects. If we fail at them, we can moan and groan that we did, but the bottom-line is that you’re supposed to fail with your character defects. It’s much safer to fail at not overcoming your “issues” than it is to fail at using your strengths and building new behavior.
Failing at your strengths and the establishment of new behavior seems much more like a real failure with a much more substantial consequence.
Failing at not doing the negative things is more or less expected. It’s been the name of the game for a long time. Failing with the negative is expected because you’re supposed to fail at it.
It seems to us that failing at our strengths and our positive behavior is a much bigger threat than failing at our negatives. Exactly the opposite is true. Strength is garnered from pursuing the positive goal, even if we miss the mark.
It is much more challenging to fail at a good plan than to keep failing at what you can “blah, blah, blah” about each week in a self-help group, analyze why, and rationalize that “at least I’m trying.” No, you’re not trying until you have a plan of positive behavior that replaces the negative behavior.
Don’t waste your time getting over a negative in your life until you have decided what you will do with the time and attention that the negative occupied.
You are claiming new space and new territory in your brain with new habit behavior. Define what that is. You are taking old neuropathic real estate in the brain and replacing it with new real estate. But you have to know what the new real estate is going to be.
STOP talking about what’s wrong with you and what’s wrong with OTHER people. Define what positive real estate you want to build in your brain and find the support system that can HONESTLY help you do it.
CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR COACHES
1) On a personal level, how have you used the 4 step process described in this blog to effect positive change in replacing habituated negative thoughts/behaviors with a more positive plan? What tools from our ANI research and training have most supported you? Tell us your story, with a focus on the positive outcomes for yourself.
2) Comment on the following excerpt from this blog in light of your personal or professional experience: “It seems to us that failing at our strengths and our positive behavior is a much bigger threat than failing at your negatives. Exactly the opposite is true. Strength is garnered from pursuing the positive goal, even if we miss the mark.”
FOR OUR LARGER BLOG COMMUNITY
We invite you to take the challenge posed in this blog:
“STOP talking about what’s wrong with you and what’s wrong with OTHER people. Define what positive real estate you want to build in your brain and find the support system that can HONESTLY help you do it.” Post your thoughts about this experience for you.
Fiat Lux wrote on Mon Aug 6th, 7:32pm:
Wow…This is a very timely and insightful post. So here’s the deal. We’re talking real estate of the brain, right? I’m placing dibs on the Boardwalk & Park Place in my brain. I’m going to the top of the Monopoly food chain in my brain and changing it up.
I’ve got an issue that I thought I had resolved stemming from an early childhood trauma of the death of my 5 year old sister when I was 10. I thought I had made peace with this loss but every so often, the fear of losing someone I love (which happens every year or two) drives me to behave in ways that are a little over the top.
This happened recently and I did go to the Emotional gym but I did not think about steps 1 & 2 which allow me to substitute a positive behavior in order to eliminate the negative one. I am extremely excited to incorporate the 4 steps into my response whenever old patterns & behaviors emerge.
Thanks for this suggestion!
Mary Garvey Horst wrote on Tue Aug 7th, 9:27am:
Wow! I haven’t engaged in the practice of blogging in the past month or more due to so much positive manifestation for my husband and myself. We both have come to rely on our strengths and positive behaviors and have built up a “strengths” reservoir for ourselves. Thankfully, our former “default” system (as described in this article) of focusing on character defects, weaknesses, and historical patterns of behavior have lost their hold on us. We just don’t go there anymore! If one of us lapses into a tug from the past of old thoughts and behaviors, the other holds the mirror of letting go. Just, drop it because it no longer serves.
All of the energy that it takes to continue to cycle the wounds, the hurts, the excuses, the blockages, the weaknesses, etc. can be re-routed toward greater levels of peace, love, gratitude, joy, and hope. This is not just “woo-woo” talk, this change of focus is based in the ever-expanding fields of neuroscience, positive psychology, and quantum physics. This type of change is at the leading edge, the growing edge of what it means to be human. Each of us can continue to drag around the baggage of what isn’t working. Or, we can choose to invest our energy in creating for ourselves a backpack for adventure complete with our personal strengths, positive goals/action steps, and ongoing personal challenges to expand fully into flourishing being. With this type of forward-motion, “missing the mark” or making mistakes become minor blips on one’s radar screen. Joyful living replaces the former way of being….
livestrong81 wrote on Sun Aug 12th, 1:09pm:
I have been practicing this 4 step process for a few years now, ever since I saw the movie, “The Secret.” I believe that what we focus on expands and so since learning this information, I have been very intentional as to what my attention is focused on.
Before learning this way of living, I had worked in a number of areas vocationally that brought out my weaknesses and I felt incompetent, weak and bad about myself. Once I learned what my weaknesses were, for example: data entry, or any job that really was for an introvert, I was able to choose a better and happier environment for myself. The last few years, I have sought out job positions that would utilize my strengths.
Now, in Austin, I have applied only to positions that would bring out and develop my strengths rather than settling for something that I would feel bad about myself doing. Its been enlightening going through this process, using the emotional gym and working on my strengths for class.
I think our culture has focused so much on “developing whats wrong with us,” that we haven’t focused on what we are naturally talented at. Even if we miss the mark a little bit, work on strengths rather than weaknesses and over time, the weaknesses should disipate. Marcus Buckingham defines a strength as, “anything you feel strong doing.” I love this simple and yet profound definition. If we only did the things we felt strong doing, we would be happier, have more peace, clarity and feel more inspired.
Steve D wrote on Mon Aug 13th, 10:19am:
I get energized reading this for it is such a fresh, pistive approach to 12 dtep recovery work. We are told over and over that we must come to terms with our character defects and as addicts having tremendous angst about the character defects that we’ve held so tightly too. We make a list of them and then focus on them over and over until we ask a HIgher Power to take these so called defects away. So addicts sit with the turmoil of being with their character defects with the only action to ask God to remove them as if they magically disappear,
How inspiring it is to be in control of “changing them ourselves” by becoming aware of what we’re doing, what the changed behavior is, Then we take accountability and actually change our behavior, the way we think about ourselves. We release the judgment and make a commitment to honoring our defects for giving us the awareness to change. Sure prayer of a HIgher POwer can help but isn’t it great to know this is something I can do myself!
Great blog Batman!
Jeannine wrote on Wed Aug 15th, 9:57am:
What a great exercise for positive change. This makes more sense than the conventional “therapy” route that focuses on the negative past experiences and behavior. Since starting this workshop, I have so much hope. I now see the possibilities for good as endless and infinite.
Suzanne wrote on Wed Aug 15th, 10:46am:
I have recently been doing a practice called “Spiritual Courtesy” where I have committed myself to abstain from complaining, criticizing or comparing“ , in order to be in alignment with my good - and it isn’t easy!
Lately, all I hear is the complaint about the heat… I just smile and pulse peace while they Blah,blah blah about the injustice of it. One woman even said “This heat is killing me” . peace, peace, peace… I lean in the direction of gratitude that I have air conditioning.
I now find it toxic to do that old thinking and behavior - like living in a dirty old, run down house.
Thankfully, I have moved to a much clearer, open home - my real estate is supportive and expansive. How?
The Emotional Gym and my weekly UpSpiraLife group have been life savers for me. When a negative situation does comes around, I have the awareness to see an opportunity to practice my positivity tools again and with enthusiasm!
I AM claiming new territory in my brain with new habit behavior. THANK YOU ANI.
palmspringsesq wrote on Thu Aug 16th, 3:33pm:
What a wonderful idea. It has helped me quite a bit in my present emotional state. By concentrating on strengths , one seems to get a more accurate perception of ourselves and other people. My emotional default state is now higher than ever. I have concluded that this is due to my practices with the emotional gym and by gaining a better understanding of ones strengths.
These strengths seem to be uplifting to ones spirit and mindset. By concentrating on my strengths instead of my weaknesses I have been able to uplift my spirit and mind.
Katherine wrote on Sat Aug 18th, 9:57am:
There are many tools I have used the support my desire to lean towards positive thoughts replacing the negative thoughts:
Emotional Gym: I work out in the Emotional Gym daily for the purpose of priming my thoughts for the day.
UpSpiral Music CD: I have this in my car and instead of listening to talk radio like I used to I am inspired to stay positive throughout the day listing to the UpSpiral music.
SES technique: This stands for Simple Elegant Solution. It is a great way to get back into a positive state of mind and a position of strength when facing an immediate challenge.
Positivity Ratio: The science shows a Positivity Ration of 5:1 is living in the optimal state. I write on my calendar every day how many positive thoughts I plan on having verses negative thoughts.
Using all of these tools and techniques support my ability to live in “flow” most of every day.
neuromind wrote on Sun Aug 19th, 9:55pm:
On a personal level:
My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. I’m clear this marriage would not have made it this far by focusing on the negative. A tool that is very helpful in our marriage is giving the benefit of the doubt, as well as focusing on our strengths. I also go to the emotional gym, direct my mind, in the a.m. focus on what I want, what I appreciate and how to direct my day, and at night I focus on what I am grateful for.
On a professional level:
I use a neuropositive approach when working with my clients, and with creating positive neuropathways in mind, I doggedly redirect them in ways that can reinforce and build new positive neuropathways.
I am also focused on identifying my strengths in action at work.
gabenza wrote on Sat Aug 25th, 12:30pm:
The positive real estate that I want to build is lots of new neural pathways in my brain that connect with each other. I erase old negative pathways by letting the negative thoughts and feelings remind me to pulse positive emotions. I also practice positive emotions every day using the emotional gym. Lately I have liked doing the emotional gym before getting out of bed in the morning. Then I write in the plans to the universe some goals and ideas about which strengths I plan on using. I think this helps to utilize my strengths more, which also builds new neural pathways. The behavior I have substituted for gossip is to just shut up! This works when there are multiple people in the room. When it is a one on one conversation I get to pulse some positive emotions. This happens allot! Right now my support system is ANI and my fellow students at and our 12 Step Upspiral Group. I also have a friend who understands this and holds me accountable. I think reading/listening to books on positive psychology also helps to inspire me and grow new “real estate” in my brain. It is so inspiring. In short just about any positive thing that happens is building positive “real estate” in my brain. Even (especially?) the fun things such as learning, and dancing build positive “real estate” in our brains.
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