The #1 thing our brains ask of us

In 2015, the engineer and “Smarter Every Day” founder Destin Sandlin discovered something surprising: he could no longer ride a bike. 

He’d grown up bicycling; he hadn’t had any injuries. Physically, he was capable of it. He just couldn’t ride it…because he’d accidentally “unlearned” how.

Destin had spent the year learning to ride something he called a “backwards bicycle” – a bike that had been re-engineered so that when you turn the handlebars to the right, the bike goes left. When he first started, he could ride his normal bike fine, and this bike was impossible. Physically, it’s not any more difficult than riding a regular bike.

Mentally, though? That’s a whole different matter. Basically, to ride the backwards bike, your brain has to rewire itself to understand that the handlebars work in the opposite way that you expect. Everyone who has tried it, many of whom are confidence that they can figure it out, has been completely schooled by this backwards bike.

Destin practiced riding his backwards bike every day for almost a year. Just a few minutes a day – five minutes, he says – and for the first ten months, he saw zero progress. Yet he kept going out to his driveway and getting on the bike – then promptly falling off. Until one fateful morning, ten months later, it “clicked.”

He could ride the Backwards Bike like a pro.

(If you want to see this in action, here’s the video>>> )

That is the power of persistence.

Persistence is key. Even – no, especially – when we’re not seeing progress, we need to be persistent. To keep practicing. To show up every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Why is that?

It’s because our brains go through the process of rewiring themselves long before we see results. Reworking all those infinitely complex neural pathways doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months. Yet so often we give up before we see those results.

If we really knew what our brains were doing “behind the scenes” – if we saw just how hard it’s working to get us to our goals – we would never give up.

This reminds me of when I first started learning Crow pose in yoga – that tricky one where you’re balancing with your knees on your triceps, and your feet hovering above the ground. The first time I tried it, I felt so certain that it would just never happen. It felt about as possible as levitating.

And yet, I was determined. I kept practicing. For weeks, I saw no progress at all. Until one day, I picked one big toe up off the ground, and then the other. And I didn’t fall.

I was in crow pose.

Our brains rewire themselves invisibly, silently, without any fanfare – often without even letting us know they’re doing it. They move neural mountains to help us make our goals a reality – and yet, we’re so quick to believe that we’ve failed. That it’s not working. That it’s no use.

In order to do this amazing work, our brain only asks that we do a couple simple things: that we keep practicing. And that we have patience. That’s all our brains need from us in order to continue the magical, life-changing work they do.

Will you choose to give your brain the time it needs to do its work?

Will you be patient and persistent toward your goal?

If you knew that your brain would rewire itself if you just gave it enough time…what would you do?

One year from now, what daily practice will you wish you'd started today?

Now, it’s also important to point out that this phenomenon works both ways. This patient neural rewiring happens not only when we’re intentionally trying to achieve something. It also happens unintentionally.

Whatever we practice regularly becomes a hardwired part of our brain.

So I ask you: What daily habit are you “practicing” right now that may not be serving you?

Maybe it’s worrying about something you have no control over. Maybe it’s choosing to scroll through Facebook when you could be meditating, or exercising, or working on your goal. Whatever it is, simply notice it. No need to judge or beat yourself up. Just observe.

And then ask:

What daily practice would you rather have, knowing that that will radically rewire your brain?

As any human being knows, staying motivated when you’re not seeing results is hard. Persistence is key – but how do we get it? If you could use some extra help in establishing good habits, staying on task, and staying patient until you get the results you want, contact me to set your next coaching session. I’d love to help you get on track toward that beautiful, brilliant life you’ve always wanted.

Go out, stay persistent, and shine.


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