For the longest time, I would crawl out of bed with dread.

Anxiety about the immediate future would strike me. Fears about my health, my financial state, and the overwhelming amount of things I had to do all besieged me immediately upon waking. Deep down, I knew I could handle life’s challenges, but in the immediate moment upon waking this deep-rooted confidence was silenced by the plethora of autonomous negative thoughts I had.

As I forced myself out from under the covers, I would hurriedly go about my morning routine and leave the house uncomposed. This carried into my work, and although my performance was not bad, I had an overwhelming feeling of “meh.” A feeling of dissatisfaction.

I knew the foods I needed to eat, and I knew the efforts I needed to make. Yet, for some reason, I was always almost good enough. I was always almost there. I felt like I had unlimited potential, but it remained at just that: potential.

I knew that my thinking was not exactly where it needed to be to reach this potential, and my lack of mind-control was really eating at me.

Was it just a moral failing that I had?

Was my lack of peak-performance my fault completely?

Was I destined to be a second place finisher always?

Why did it feel like I did not have control?

I have always been fascinated by this idea of having absolute control of my thoughts. See, in the comforts of your home office, when everything is going according to plan, it’s easy to remain calm, cool, and collected. It’s easy to make the right next move.

It’s in the face of adversity, whether it’s macroscopic, or microscopic, that we are tested, and the autonomous thoughts we have ambush us. When we are a little sleep deprived and our alarm clock goes off is an example of a micro-adversity. How about after a long day, you unexpectedly find junk food on your kitchen counter? What about when you are running late for yoga class, and the decision on whether to go or whether to skip must be made?

Wouldn’t it be great if our thoughts always worked for us? Wouldn’t it be great if you did not hit the snooze button and got straight up out of bed, even when you were sleep deprived, and your automatic thoughts in that situation were inspiring rather than debilitating? Better yet, in the face of cookies, brownies, chips, and wine, if you had the thoughts to say “NO!” without even a second of consideration. How about when you felt lazy, your dominating thoughts made you choose the Yoga class without hesitation.

These questions led me to research how peak-performers, such as Tom Brady, Elon Musk, Michael Jordan and Mark Cuban, had such control of themselves and their performance in scoring points and developing a business.

I realized a few things:

Successful winners, such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, and all the massively successful people that this world has ever seen have gained absolute control of their thoughts.The thinking vessel is the brain, and so the optimization of my brain’s health must yield healthy thoughts. My research and reading proved this to be true, but what was even more fascinating to me was that the opposite was just as true. It is not just a healthy brain that yield’s healthy thoughts, but it is also, and possibly primarily healthy thoughts that are the primary catalysts to healthy brains!

Ultimately you are in absolute control of your life, because you have control of your thoughts, which in turn will impact the structure of your brain. Thoughts actually have a vibrational or electrical energy, and we humans as both biochemical and bioelectric creatures are physically impacted by thoughts. A healthy brain structure then, will yield optimized brain function and it is here that the positive feedback loop between healthy thoughts and a healthy brain is formed.

What is Neuroplasticity?

So what’s this positive feedback loop all about? How can the brain physically change as a result of thoughts?

A concept called Neuroplasticity explains this.  In his 2007 book, The Brain That Changes Itself, neuroscientist Norman Doidge made mainstream the then recent finding that “the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity.” [1]

This concept of a malleable brain is called Neuroplasticity, which Dr. Doige claims is “the most important alteration in our view of the brain since we first sketched out its basic anatomy and the workings of its basic component, the neuron.”

The prevailing view in traditional neuroscience states that the brain is a static processor. This has been discovered to be entirely untrue and instead, the brain should be viewed as a dynamic, flexible process!

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s capacity to change and adapt our thoughts, behavior and environment. It describes the physiological changes in the brain that occur because of our interactions with our environment.

In the book Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being a book by Harvard neurology professor Rudolph E. Tanzi and Deepak Chopra, 5 conclusions about neuroplasticity are discussed:

Your brain is constantly renewing itself.Your brain can heal its wounds from the past.Experience changes your brain every day.The input you give your brain causes it to form new neural pathways.The more positive the input, the better your brain will function.

These implications are POWERFUL, as it puts brain health in your hands. [2]

How your brain processes and structurally adapts to information

In order to take complete control of neuroplasticity and craft a mindset for peak performance, we need to take a deep dive in how exactly our processes and adapts to our thoughts and behaviors

Here is a brief explanation of how it all works. Our neurons must continuously gather information about our internal and external state, evaluate this information, and coordinate activities appropriate to the situation. Thoughts are massive contributors to the internal environment and serve as physical stimuli to our brain.

So how is this information of our internal and external world processed by our neurons? This essentially happens by means of the nerve impulse.  A nerve impulse is the transmission of a coded signal from a given stimulus along the membrane of the neuron, starting in the point where it was applied. Nerve impulses can pass from one cell to another creating a chain of information within a network of neurons.

Two types of phenomena are involved in processing the nerve impulse: electrical and chemical. Electrical events propagate a signal within a neuron, and chemicals called neurotransmitters take these signals from one neuron to another where they are received by receptors. [3]

The thoughts you have will create nerve impulses in appropriate areas of the brain. That’s right, the very thoughts that you have are the catalysts to electrical and biochemical processes!

Because our brains are not rigid structures but instead, malleable and neuroplastic entities, the regions busy with nerve impulses will start making new connections with each other and existing synapses, and the connections between neurons that experience more activity will get stronger and start building more receptors.

To spell this out as clearly as possible: The most dominating thoughts in your mind are the ones that will create the most noticeable and impactful structural changes in your brain. If you consciously take the time to think positive thoughts, the areas in your brain associated with positive thoughts will start to grow larger. As a result, the autonomous thoughts that you have will more likely be positive, as more connections are made in regions associated with the thoughts you have.  Here’s a crazy example.

The London Cab Drivers

An example of this is seen in the popular series of studies done on London Cab drivers. [4]Neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire of University College London first got the idea to study London cab drivers after her intrigue in the research done on some high-functioning, peak-performing animals.

Researchers noticed that a part of the brain called the hippocampus was much larger in animals that stashed their food away and had to remember where it is, as opposed to animals that ate their food upon acquisition.

London taxi drivers are notoriously known for navigating the absurdly tangled and bustling London streets and maneuvering their passengers to their destination. This impressive navigation requires great memory of the streets. In fact, the training of these London cab drivers requires them to memorize the 25,000 streets that are entwined within a 10-kilometer radius of Charing Cross train station, along with various other attractions.

This intentioned thought-process of memorization did indeed align with Maguire’s hypothesis: just like the animals, the London taxi drivers had substantially larger hippocampi. Thoughts created structural change here.

What does this mean for your peak performance?

A revolutionary truth and empowering ideology exists when you truly understand the implications of neuroplasticity. Considering that the brain is the single most important organ in your body, and is the engine to your experience, an optimized brain yields and optimized life, simple and plain. You can very simply change your brain for the better right where you are, right now! By changing your conscious thought patterns right where you are sitting, your physical brain will witness benefits.

Reality becoming a manifestation of thought then, or the Law of Attraction is not some spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but instead truly a law that is rooted in quantum physics and neuroscience. Contrary to what popular neuroscience states, your intellect, mood, memory, focus, creativity, willpower, and all mental faculties can be changed based on the thought-stimuli that you provide your brain!

2 Ways to Harness your thoughts to change your brain

In waking states, your mind is either being intentioned, where you are deliberately placing your awareness on something, or unintentioned in a default mode, where your are not deliberately trying to control where you placing your awareness.

Attaining control of your intentioned thoughts, and optimizing your unintentioned thoughts would make you unstoppable at life.  Here are two simple and powerful practices that require only your deliberate thinking that you can use to change the physical structure of your brain for optimal happiness and performance!

Meditation: One of the most common ways to harness your thinking mind in order to change the structure of your brain is Meditation. Meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual focuses his or her mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. [5]

According to a Yale Study, mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network that is responsible for mind-wandering, and thoughts that are considered self-referential (otherwise known in modern western society as the monkey mind). During periods where our thinking is not deliberate, and we are in default-mode, our mind wanders from thought to thought. People in this mode are generally less happy, because they are ruminating and worrying about the past and future. Meditation reduces the amount of time in this state. In addition, meditation actually changes the structure in the brain so that one can snap out of this mind-wandering state quicker! [6]

In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found [7] that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain. The experiment had participants undergo a process of MBSR, or mindfulness-based stress reduction activities. The result was astounding; significant increases in cortical thickness were found in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that governs learning and memory. Additionally, areas of the brain that contributed to the regulation of emotion and self-referential processing increased. Better yet, not only were areas of the brain that are required for constructive activity and thought enhanced, but MBSR actually proved to decrease brain cell volume of the amygdala, which was responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress. Last, a growing number of studies [8] has shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction.

Visualization: Due to the way neuroplasticity works in creating circuitry in your brain and activating/reactivating dormant circuitry, visualization could be powerful tool in changing your brain structure for optimized performance and happiness. Visualization is the act of deliberately constructing mental imagery.

Most people visualize by closing their eyes, and imagining themselves in the middle of an act, oftentimes something challenging such as a set at the gym. The more clear the imaging becomes, the more the pathways in the brain will change. Through repetitive practice of visualization, desired changes can become powerfully etched into the mind and the physical brain changes correspondingly. Interestingly enough, in some studies, it was found that visualizing playing an instrument or engaging in a behavior produced the same brain change as actually doing the behavior!