Before you have finished reading this article, your life can change.
Ack. Gag. Barf. I’m certain this is it: the single cheesiest thing I have ever written. But it doesn’t make it any less true. Anything can happen, if you’re willing to lead with your heart.
OK, now we’re getting into the dry heaves of cheesy writing. Let’s dispense with the fairy dust and switch over to science, because there is weirdly cool stuff going on at the neurological level on how you make decisions that can change your life for the better.
The research shows that heart rules over mind. How we know this is by using technology to take a look inside the brain. I spoke with clinical neuropsychologist Vinay Bharadia about how the brain makes important decisions, and what this means for the average person looking to take a great leap forward in terms of improving their life.
A while ago I wrote about how a sudden flash of insight — call it an epiphany — can change your life in an instant and compel you towards major life change (such as significant weight loss). What’s missing is how to make it happen.
I spoke of important decisions. The above-mentioned epiphany is less decision than it is phenomenon. It’s less something you do than something that happens to you. But can you game the system to get that same rush of compulsion following a momentous decision? The answer could be yes.
If there is something that you’d like to do, or someone you’d like to become, it often starts with a decision to do so. And making that all-important decision, and actually sticking to it, can be better achieved by understanding the process by which such things take place.
Bharadia explained that, when examining the neurology of momentous decisions, we need to look at both fMRI and EEG scanning technology. The former looks at brain changes based on blood flow, and the latter examines the brain’s electrical activity. He explained that “fMRI has really good spatial resolution” and that “EEGs have good temporal sensitivity.” What this means is that fMRIs have the ability to tell you where something is happening in the brain, and the EEG can tell you when it happened. And so, Bharadia says, “We need both to figure out what’s going on.”
So … what’s going on during a momentous decision, or even an epiphany?More In The 110% Project
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First off, “We see increased activity over visual areas and that’s hypothesized to reflect an outward focus of attention,” said Bharadia. What this means is that we’re anticipating the solving of problems by visualizing our new and improved future should we choose to take action. And such anticipation feels good.
During the mulling over period of a decision there is a part of the middle of the brain called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) that sees a lot of activity, Bharadia explained. This is because it’s taking information from the back of the brain and transferring it to the frontal lobes (which are heavily involved in decision-making) over and over until we come to a conclusion about what to do.
Why is the ACG constantly activated, repeatedly taking information from the back of the brain to the front? And why is it that our decisions are often based on emotion? Because otherwise we’d be paralyzed via data analysis.
Vinay Bharadia explained that our working memory, which assists in the decision-making process, can only hold a few bits of information at a time. Any decision can be based on literally hundreds of factors, but our brains just can’t process that much information at once to reach a decision.
As evidence, neurology researchers at the University of Iowa explained in a 2000 paper in “Oxford Journals” that brain damage or lesions that interrupt the flow of emotion into the frontal cortex make it very difficult for people to reach decisions. It’s surmised that, without the emotional basis to make sense of it all, there is just too much information to be able to achieve that decisive moment.