By: Dr. Lana M. Saal, EdD, MCHES, CWP, CTTS
Perhaps one of the strongest expressions of want hails from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, when Veruca Salt bellows out, “I WANT IT NOW!” Whereas she had her rich parents to buy or get her anything in an instant, most of us don’t have that privilege. Ah, but like Veruca, we do have our “wants” in life.
We want cars, clothes, nice homes, and a multitude of other tangibles. We want to lose weight, become healthy, or get more organized. We want people in our lives and our kids to be safe and successful. We want to start a new career (or retire), travel, be in places, to accomplish, or to be happy.
Want, by definition, is a verb and kick-starts thoughts of potential action. When we think or speak that very word, meaning to have a desire to possess or do, in essence, what we are saying to ourselves, or out loud, is, “Yes, this is something I yearn for.”
We think of our wants as something we could achieve, maybe, down the road—eventually perhaps. From the spark of the thought of a want, what happens next in our mind is a mental conversation. Within a matter of a few seconds, the human brain adeptly and quite comfortably goes to a litany of reasons why that want is not possible. We quickly create a mental list of all of the excuses (let’s call them choices) as to why our wants seem unobtainable. Impossibility reigns over possibility.
Did you know humans are actually wired to be more comfortable with the negative? There is actually an increased surge in electrical activity from thoughts that are negative that occur within the brain. This stems back to the fight or flight response, whereas danger (negative) would prepare the human body for what may possibly threaten life and living. The mind and body are more on guard, ensuring survival. The brain has learned to be more comfortable in this state. In modern day life, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by the downbeat, rather than the good.
Understanding the why behind how we react or respond is essential to understanding human nature and creating change.
It’s not that we are unable or incapable of achieving our wants. Not at all. Rather, we need to first start with an awareness of patterning that has occurred throughout life experiences. The “I can’t rant” is a louder voice than the one that compels us to believe in ourselves. We often stay stuck in doubt and fear rather than move sure-footedly toward achieving our wants.
There is a brain-based ability called neuroplasticity, which is an adaptive patterning by the mind. This has historically worked against us through repetitive, old, negative thought patterns. The more we act or behave in a certain way, the more those pathways become imprinted in the brain. Researchers, practitioners, and adapters are finding this brain malleability can actually work in our favor if we simply change the thought processes.
The human mind can change its physical structure and mode of thought processing, based upon our own input of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Gone now is the decades-old belief that the brain was fixed and not capable of learning, changing, or growing past a certain age.
In seeking the hearts’ desire, work toward shifting the thought processes of the mind. Within those first few moments, shift the internal dialogue to replace the tendency toward negatives with more positive and affirming thoughts and statements. It’s akin to flipping a light switch (which provides an excellent visual reminder for all of us). Though this incredibly powerful step starts with small achievables, know you are rewiring the brain. This how we start to go beyond the want.
Lana Saal holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Master’s in Health, and Bachelor’s in Nutrition; Certified Wellness Practitioner (CWP) through the National Wellness Institute and certifications as Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing; and Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist (CTTS).