Why Is it So Hard to Change Your Life? Blame Myelin

Ever feel stuck?

Like there’s a change in your life you’re trying to make, perhaps to eat less junk food or spend less money, but you just can’t seem to break your bad habit? Or get up enough energy to create a good one?

Well you can blame part of that on myelin.

Now myelin is actually a really awesome thing. It’s an insulating sheath, composed of protein and fat that forms around the nerves in your brain and spinal cord. Myelin helps electrical impulses flow more quickly and efficiently along your nerve cells.

Essentially, it helps you hardwire learnings in your brain. Once neural patterns are wrapped in myelin they become like superhighways – very well built, rapid fire fast and easier to travel.

In general you want more myelin and not less. And I recommend this article here for tips on how to grow yours.

But, the troubling thing with myelin is when we get it.

Before age 8 and during puberty our brains are rich with myelin-producing  potential. Likely this was useful when our life expectancy was 35 years. But now that we’re living to 80 and beyond, how likely is it that the connections we made in puberty are the connections we need to thrive into old age?

I don’t know about you, but I actually can’t think of a worse time then puberty to be myelinating super highways in our brain. Looking back I’ve hardwired the ability to reach for a bag of potato chips in response to social stress, and the ability to say, like, um and whatevs in almost every conversation.

Like, awesome!

Add to that the fact that our prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for planning, solving problems, and making decisions doesn’t get fully wired up until your 20s, and it feels likes a double whammo against us.

We made superhighways out of our pubescent decisions before we even had the full processing power of our adult brain to question them.

At least there is some good news

No matter what you’ve hardwired you can always rewire

Our brain has neuroplasticity and can always wire new connections. Ones that recruit our fully developed prefrontal cortex and the values and priorities we care about now.

If you’re like me and find yourself in a place where your hardwiring could use some tweaking, know that it is always possible to shift.

Coaching helps, but you can do it on your own with a focus on two major elements.

AWARENESS and PRACTICE: You must become aware of what you have hardwired and you must start to practice hardwiring something new.

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