Coping with Change

How do we remain positive and move forwards in these times of great uncertainty? We have to learn to embrace and be comfortable with change whilst recognising that we need to have some stability. Sounds impossible? A few simple tricks and a bit of neuroscience can help.

Think of ourselves as icebergs. There are lots of attributes, skills, knowledge and experience on show, but we have insecurities, biases and other character aspects hidden inside ourselves that we choose not to show others. Those are the thoughts and behaviour patterns that often hijack us and cause us to wobble, become stressed or panic.

We learn by a process called Bayesian Interference. This means that as new information comes in, we relate it to other information and experience that we already hold. We judge it in relation to our internal “model”. If it does not agree with the model we already have, we often discard it, as the brain tends to stick with what it “knows”. This process increases as we become more stressed and change, along with uncertainty, increase the likelihood that we discard new information in favour of the old, long held ideas. 

Now, with the world changing at such a rapid rate, we need to be able to increase our flexibility; take on new thoughts and ideas and move with the times. So how do we help ourselves to do that?

Our conscious mind has a processing speed of about 50 bits per second. Our unconscious mind however, will process at around 10 million bits per second. “mst ppl cn rd ths sntnc prfctly” as the unconscious mind fills in the gaps based on our learning and experience. All the unconscious mind needs to tackle a problem is experience and expertise. This can reduce the ability to rethink an issue or solve a novel problem. We get in our own way! Consequently, we need to distract the mind, so it cannot bring the ideas back to the known and our existing models that are held tightly in our brains.

Set the problem in your mind, by thinking about the issue you need to solve. You then just walk away from it and leave the brain to incubate the idea. Distract the conscious by giving it something else to do – a walk, run or do a different task. By distracting the conscious brain with another unrelated activity, the brain will work on the problem using the whole brain, and not just the experience that appears to make the most sense or solves the task by the easiest route. When you come back to think again, you will have many more ideas and possible solutions to work through. 

This method allows us to work with change in a way that does not lead to stress and worry. It allows us to explore novel solutions and completely different methodologies. It helps us to make behavioural changes that would otherwise happen automatically as we default to the unconscious models we already hold.

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