by Suzie Doscher
Just as life is constantly changing, the brain is constantly changing. It is through repetition that thinking patterns, and consequently behaviour patterns can be shifted, tweaked, changed or completely replaced with more positive empowering ones. Through repetition the brain rewires itself. Science has proven the brain can rewire itself. This is fantastic news especially for anybody wishing to improve the quality of their life and engaging the support of a coach for this 'change' process. Making, and more importantly sustaining, any changes in thinking or in behaviour patterns, would be very difficult, if not impossible, without this scientific truth. Knowing this offers coaching clients not only motivation but also confidence to continue on the path to 'change', which sometimes can be a difficult one.
Neuroscience has shown the brain can be rewired
Over the last few decades, studies in neuroscience have shown the 'default network' you were born with can be changed. This happens by creating new neural pathways. The 'default network' ensures your survival by detecting and responding to threats, such as a tiger about to eat you! The 'default network' generates a 'fight or flight' response to increase the odds of survival. However it can become hypersensitive, interfering with your ability to experience the present moment in a more open and relaxed manner. The production of neurochemical and molecular changes in the cells known as neurons is how the changes in the brain occur. While going through the process of learning how to think / do or behave differently new neurons are being produced. Neurons are messengers communicating by transmitting electrical signals.
Creating new neural networks requires actions
Thoughts generate a chemical reaction in the brain. The same chemical reaction takes place every time you think the same thought - be it a negative one or a positive one. A person has trillions of brain cells, resulting in thousands of these chemical reactions. In order to successfully make a change in a thought pattern, and ultimately a behaviour pattern, you have to activate as many of these pathways as possible given that they work synergistically. One pathway alone is not enough to successfully rewire your brain.
Repetitive positive thoughts change your physical brain
The goal of coaching is to align your beliefs, feelings, vision, and actions with who you are and your goals. Allowing time for practice and repetition to re-frame / replace a negative thought with a positive empowering one is essential to the success of creating 'change' with coaching. By stimulating changes in the brain with the coaching process, the client is supported with his or her behavioural changes. In his book, 'The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science', Norman Doidge M.D. states the brain has the capacity to rewire itself and/or form new neural pathways - if we do the work. Just like exercise, the work requires repetition and activity to reinforce new learning. Thoughts and feelings have to align. In other words, you will not succeed to create new pathways by eating lots of sweets while telling yourself you are fit and healthy.
What this means for coaching
A person seeking to work with a coach already shows potential for improvement by having taken the first step and engaging the coach. Successful coaching creates a healthy brain environment promoting positive thought and positive activity. Repetition is one of the keys to the success of the process of 'change'.
Once the goal of the coaching is, not only defined and clear, but also realistic the coach will use a variety of tools to activate the client's internal resources and life skills. Within this phase, the rewiring can already begin. Bad thought patterns and habits are explored, examined and re-framed/replaced. Making sure the goal has a realistic time frame will support the clients feeling of success. Feeling success supports creating positive feedback to the brain, which encourages the client to keep going. The more changes made, the more the brain is rewired, by having formed new neural pathways.